We left it late, but we responded to consecutive defeats with a 0-2 win of our own last night as Callum Wilson and Joelinton combined twice to sink Crystal Palace.
Here’s an assessment of each player’s performance along with ours marks out of 10:
Darlow – 8 – Yet another superb display from the stand-in stopper who’s now becoming our star man for 2020/21. He stopped powerful efforts from Eze and Schlupp in the first half, claimed a few corners, was quick off his line to close the angle for Ayew’s chance and did well to stop Benteke’s downward header late on.
Manquillo – 7 – Both his passing and defending was iffy against Chelsea last weekend, but the Spaniard was much more solid tonight. Didn’t allow the double-threat of Eze and Van Aanholt to get much joy, looked after the ball well, tried to get forward to give us an outlet and put in the odd decent cross.
Fernandez – 7.5 – Booked early on for a bodycheck on Schlupp and was beaten for pace when the same player got in behind in the first half, but a commanding response followed. Without his heroic 84th minute block to deny a goal-bound Kouyate shot, the game could’ve been VERY different!
Clark – 8 – It’s always the sign of a classy centre-back display when you barely notice them – and that was Clark here. He read the game well, won some important headers and brought a calming influence to the back four, swatting away danger with no fuss and picking out some nice passes, too.
Lewis – 6 – Not a bad game by any means, with him keeping ex-Mag Andros Townsend quiet, however I still feel he goes back too often when he gets the ball in decent positions, looking a shadow of the attacking full-back who bombed on and burst past players at Norwich. A decent display, but looks timid compared to the marauding left-back we saw last season.
Hendrick – 5 – In his defence, he did do a decent job in helping Manquillo deal with Eze and Van Aanholt, but the fact someone text me at half time asking “what does Hendrick actually do?” probably says a lot. Did OK defensively but offered very little on the ball, doing little else than track back and play sidewards passes.
Shelvey – 7 – He faded a little the second half, but his ability to play cutting passes into the final third and keep the ball moving was evident in a much improved first 45. Stuck to his task defensively and kept going, even when Palace had an extra man in midfield in Riedewald. One awful corner but almost made up for it via a free-kick well saved by Guiata late on. He can be a luxury when he’s not at it, but we look far more likely to keep the ball and create chances from nowhere when he’s playing.
S Longstaff – 7 – A few sloppy moments to gift Palace the ball in dangerous areas early on, but his hard work and energy played a big part in the end, with him making plenty of timely interceptions and going on a brilliant run in the second half to force a dangerous free-kick.
Almiron – 5 – For all his pace and energy, I thought the Paraguay was pretty anonymous and a peripheral figure throughout. Rushed a few passes into the box from decent positions and didn’t really get anything going with Lewis, looking a little lost down our left. Hooked with 25 minutes left on the clock.
Joelinton – 9* – A big night for the Brazilian, where he never gave up and responded to a few missed chances with a brilliant assist and well deserved goal of his own. Yes, he should’ve buried one of those first half chances, however he was a thorn in their side all night and looked much more comfortable in a second striker role. He worked his socks off, linked the play nicely, almost put it on a plate for Wilson early on via a good run and cross, then went one better with a brilliant burst and clever reverse pass to put his striker partner in behind for the all important opener. An impressive all round display that ended with a huge part in both our goals. My man of the match!
Wilson – 8 – He was on the fringes of the game at times, with Joelinton creating most of the chances for himself, however he did not disappoint when presented with his one BIG chance late on and also bagged an assist just 90 seconds later! The ruthless talisman we’ve lacked for so long, but also a handful who’ll battle, press and run the channels when things aren’t going his way.
Ritchie – 6 – Whipped in a brilliant ball soon after coming on, only for Joelinton to glance wide. Didn’t have the pace to hurt them but worked hard and put a few good deliveries into the box.