Newcastle: Longstaff stole the show today

Newcastle United moved to within just a point of champions Manchester City in second after sealing a vital 1-0 win over Fulham on Sunday afternoon, with the returning Alexander Isak proving the hero off the bench in what was a dramatic finale at St James’ Park.

Having been unable to make their first-half dominance count as Callum Wilson notably failed to convert just before the break, the Magpies then looked to set pay for that profligacy as the visitors were awarded a spot-kick with just over 20 minutes left to play, as Kieran Trippier was deemed to have fouled Bobby Decordova-Reid inside the area.

The home side – and the home crowd – may well be feeling that justice was done as the Cottagers subsequently failed to capitalise on that rather contentious VAR call, with Aleksandar Mitrovic fluffing his lines from the penalty spot against his former club.

Having been given a reprieve by that blunder, the hosts went on to rub further salt into the wounds of the Serbian striker by securing all three points at the death, with that man Isak scoring his third goal in only four Premier League outings this term.

Although the Swede may well grab the headlines, there was another figure among the Tynesiders’ ranks who particularly the eye on the day, with academy graduate Sean Longstaff having stolen the show following what was an “excellent” display at the heart of the midfield, as per Statman Dave.

The towering 25-year-old was a truly combative presence in the centre of the park as he won 83% of his ground duels, with his overall match rating of 7.6, as per Sofascore, only matched by Fabian Schar among his teammates.

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What was most impressive about the £50k-per-week man’s performance, however, was his brilliance in an attacking sense, with the Englishman completing two of his three crosses and three of his five long balls, while also recording a remarkable haul of four key passes from just 64 touches of the ball.

That latter tally – which was the joint-most of any player for either side – included a vital involvement in the game’s winning moment, with the 5 foot 11 machine clipping the ball in beautifully to find Wilson at the back post, with the striker then subsequently teeing up Isak to header home.

Such a “sumptuous” cross – as lauded by journalist Mark Carruthers – may well have served as a reminder that Longstaff can offer more than just a steady and solid presence in midfield, with it perhaps no surprise that he has now started 15 of his side’s 19 top-flight games this season.

On the basis of what was arguably a Man of the Match display – according to club legend Alan Shearer – it looks as if the North Shields native will continue to remain a mainstay of the side moving forward.