Newcastle United analysis: Bargain basement defensive trio steal the show at star-studded Everton
Federico Fernandez, Martin Dubravka and Fabian Schar cost Newcastle United less than Â£15million combined.
To put that into perspective you could only get one of Jordan Pickford’s gloves for that fee in the current market.And while the former Sunderland man was back to his very best at Goodison Park, he was outshone by the continental United trio on a night in which the Magpies put in a defensive masterclass.Eyebrows were raised when the team was announced with Rafa Benitez making three changes to the side given a home humbling by West Ham - Jacob Murphy, Christian Atsu and Jamaal Lascelles earning recalls. Kenedy missed the game with an injury while Matt Ritchie was suspended.Setting up in a tight looking 5-4-1, United soaked up some early pressure from the hosts while looking a threat, particularly down the flanks. And it was down the left-hand side where the opener came.Mo Diame worked hard to win the ball back in the middle and despite calls from the home crowd, the referee waved play on. From that the midfielder fed the ball wide to Murphy, who broke with purpose before whipping in an inch-perfect left-footed cross for Rondon, who had the simplest of finishes for 1-0.A masterclass from Dubravka and Fernandez kept United in front. The defender stopping a certain goal with an acrobatic block from Gylfi Sigurdsson before Dubravka had to be at full stretch to deny the hosts a leveller.But with the Toffees turning the screw, United’s resolve eventually broke. Richarlison popped up at the back post to tap home when a Sigurdsson corner was not cleared. In fairness, it was no less than Marco Silva’s men deserved.As the clock ticked over to half-time United’s flying Slovak stopper produced another world class save, this time keeping out Cenk Tosun to keep Newcastle on terms at the break.The half-time whistle came just as the hosts were getting up a head of steam - United came out for the second 45 with renewed vigour.A well-worked set piece routine between Ki and Atsu, allowed the winger to whip in a cross which first missed Fabian Schar, then evaded Fernandez at the back post.On the front foot, United took the game to the opposition - a raking 40-yard pass from Fernandez found DeAndre Yedlin out wide, who played in Atsu, but his shot on the turn is straight at Pickford.At the other end the England number one almost turned provider for substitute Theo Walcott as his incredible pass out of hand caught United on the hop at the back, but the former Arsenal man’s attempts to break through were smothered.The Magpies had to withstand a late onslaught from Everton as they peppered the box with set-pieces but, hold they did to earn their seventh away point of the campaign.In fact, they had a chance to win it at the death. A rare foray forward saw sub Ayoze Perez slip in Atsu but the winger, impressive on the day, couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet and his shot was saved easily by Pickford.Benitez’s tactical tweaks and personnel changes worked perfectly on a day where United managed to frustrate their much more expensively assembled opponents.The ability to pick up points and look solid in the process is a canny trait to pick up. This United side has mastered that approach, no matter the opposition. And that is down to the tactical nous of Benitez, and the effort and application of this grounded, humble bunch of players.