Football Features

Newcastle Utd 1-0 Crystal Palace: Winners & losers as an Almiron first takes Magpies above Arsenal

By Ollie Thomas

Published: 17:23, 21 December 2019

We witnessed a Christmas miracle at St. James’ Park.

Just when it seemed as if Miguel Almiron had scored his final ever club goal across the Atlantic, the winger popped up with a crucial goal to lift Steve Bruce’s team to 9th place ahead of Christmas.

They had goalkeeper Martin Dubravka to thank for keeping them in the game as he made a string of saves, notably denying James McArthur and Christian Benteke after the interval.

Here are the winners and losers from the clash on Tyneside.

Winner: Florian Lejeune

Injury lay-offs are never nice.

Lejeune’s last appearance for Newcastle was in this fixture way back in April – a knee injury ended his 2018/19 season prematurely and delayed his 2019/20 season until this weekend. However, it was like he had never been gone.

The Frenchman was extremely assured in the Newcastle back three – having more touches than anyone else and, more importantly, being part of a crucial clean sheet to win his side three points.

Welcome back, Florian.

Loser: Joelinton

Much was expected of Joelinton when Newcastle smashed their transfer record to sign him, but he has flattered to deceive to say the least.

Palace hardly have a forgiving defence, but the Brazilian offered very little and was fairly easily dealt with James Tomkins and Cheikhou Kouyate, who impressed again as makeshift defender.

The return of Andy Carroll to Tyneside may not have concerned Joelinton too much when the signing was announced on deadline day, but he should certainly be worried now. It’s hard to see who else will make way once Allan Saint-Maximin returns to full fitness.

Winner: Patrick van Aanholt

Many fans don’t appreciate the importance of a specialist full-back but, after the past few weeks, Palace fans certainly should.

Patrick van Aanholt has often been the brunt of criticism from those who follow the Eagles but proved again today just how important he is. Not only does he offer genuine pace down the left, but his eagerness to help out a blunt Palace attack also frees up Wilfried Zaha to drift inside.

He frequently has more touches than any of his team-mates when he plays and that was the case again today. Simply put: Hodgson’s side are infinitely better when he is on the pitch.

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Winner and loser: Christian Benteke

“Another game, another blank” would be the easy thing to say about Benteke. However, there’s far more to it than that.

In the second half against Brighton and again today against Newcastle, Christian Benteke started to look like his old self: far more competitive, stronger, leaner and something resembling an instinct for goal.

His link-up play was good and he was at the heart of everything Palace created. However, again, he failed to bag.

In games where his side loses by the odd goal, eyebrows will automatically be raised at your centre-forward who seems incapable of scoring. In reality, however, Benteke is not the problem.

Winner: Miguel Almiron

He’s waited far too long for that.

Finally, on his 27th Premier League appearance, Miguel Almiron is off the mark. And what a way to do it. The winner at St. James’ Park in a game which sees the Magpies leapfrog Arsenal into the top half of the table.

Almiron deserves massive, massive credit for his persistence. Despite struggling to turn good performances into tangible output, not once has the Paraguayan stopped running, stopped trying or stopped caring. The whole of Newcastle exploded when the winger scored and we’re sure the Toon will be lively tonight.

Loser: Roy Hodgson

Despite a strong start to the season on paper, Palace fans continue to question Roy Hodgson and today was a good example of why they have every right to.

85 minutes into the game, Hodgson had still not made a sub despite their injury-hit team playing on Monday night. It was only after Almiron scored that Max Meyer, who was fantastic against Brighton, was thrust on in order to somehow have an impact with five minutes to go.

His inability to manage a game is something which has been a problem for a few years now – the games against Watford and Newcastle were both winnable had the right changes been made at the right time. One must question his decision to play three defensive-minded midfielders in a game such as this.

He’s capable of showcasing tactical masterclasses at times, but he let his side down once again today. Two points from Watford, Brighton and Newcastle is not good enough.