Football Features

Allan Saint-Maximin: Sheffield United’s punisher, Newcastle’s great entertainer

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 16:15, 21 June 2020

Newcastle United ran out 3-0 winners against Sheffield United in the Premier League this afternoon.

Steve Bruce’s men subsequently ended a two-match winless streak at St James’ Park which edges them further away from the relegation zone. As for the visitors, it was an opportunity missed in the race to secure Champions League football next term.

The showdown on Tyneside really came alive in the second half after the opening 45 minutes yielded little goalmouth action. Magpies marksman Joelinton had one effort, but more significantly both he and Blades centre-back John Egan received a booking after altercation early into the second half. Less than five minutes after the interval, Egan picked up another booking after holding the Brazilian striker back.

Up until that moment, Chris Wilder’s team were never under any serious pressure. If anything, it was their match to win. But not when they went down to ten men. Instead, Allan Saint-Maximin, Matt Ritchie (with his first of the season) and Joelinton all slotted past the impressive Dean Henderson.

Man of the Match: Allan Saint-Maximin

If anyone was going to profit from Sheffield United going a man down it was Newcastle’s speedster Allan Saint-Maximin, who before the recent enforced break started to hit his stride in the black-and-white jersey. The France U21 international demonstrated his spatial awareness in anticipating Enda Stevens mistake (which came less than 300 seconds after Egan’s sending off) to put the hosts in front. It was reminiscent of the previous matchday when he also profited after Southampton went down to 10 men following Moussa Djenepo’s straight red.

Saint-Maximin’s celebration was more animated than his previous two after scoring for Newcastle, whom he joined from Nice last summer, as this happened to be his first home goal which came on his 19th attempt. He was simply inspired today. No one completed more take-ons than him (seven across 79 minutes of play).

It’s easy to forget Saint-Maximin, who turned 23 in March, is still at the beginning of his professional career, one that he will be hoping (and perhaps confident) is long and prosperous. Consistency, though, is what he must obtain. Days like this are few and far between. He scored with his only effort on goal, which no doubt pleased boss Steve Bruce, but equally the French winger should be getting in these scoring positions more often.

Playing from the left flank, Saint-Maximin created one chance for his teammates whilst touching the ball 47 times and completed 19 of his 24 attempted passes. being said, his pace, quickness of thought and close ball control are effective assets for Newcastle, who in their battle to stave off relegation will be playing a more counterattacking-based game.

Spare a thought for: Enda Stevens

As touched upon, the moment that changed everything was Stevens getting his footing all wrong as Ritchie played a speculative ball into Sheffield United’s penalty area. It was a rare mistake from a centre-back, whose stock has risen this season. Egan being forced to enjoy an early shower minutes earlier didn’t help, but thinking outside the box and problem-solving have become Blades boss Wilder’s calling cards. Even when they reverted to a 4-3-2 the Yorkshire side remained a threat and could have pulled a goal back through Stevens, who saw a 72nd minute strike fly over Martin Dubravka’s goal.