Rafa Benitez hailed Matt Ritchie for giving Newcastle United a new attacking dimension – from defence.
Ritchie stunned Bournemouth, his former club, with a 94th-minute equaliser at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.
He always has a feeling for the game, and has passion all the time. In training sessions and in games, he always shows this character and passion.Rafa Benitez
The 29-year-old’s first-time volley saw Newcastle hold Eddie Howe’s side to a 2-2 draw.
Benitez has fielded Ritchie, a winger, as a wing-back this season –and the Scotland international has been even more of a threat.
“I think he’s a player who has the commitment and the workrate, and then when he plays in this position he has the stamina to go up and down all the time,” said United’s manager.
“Then he can get into the box and defend and help his defenders at the back.
“It’s a good position for him right now, but obviously he can play higher and he can make also the difference with his shots and crosses. But, in this position, he’s doing well, and he’s giving us the width that we’re looking for.”
Ritchie, signed from Bournemouth in the summer of 2016, is also a leader on the field.
“He always has a feeling for the game, and has passion all the time,” said Benitez. “In training sessions and in games, he always shows this character and passion.”
Ritchie hadn’t scored a Premier League goal from open play up to his strike against Bournemouth.
DeAndre Yedlin delivered a deep cross from the right which he struck first time with his left foot.
“It hung in the air for a long time, and I was just thinking ‘just try and get a good connection’ as it was in the air, and I certainly did that,” said Ritchie. “It was really pleasing to get the goal, not just for the team but myself as well selfishly, because I’ve not scored many this season. Hopefully, that can kick start a little run for me.”
On the game, he added: “I’m glad we got a point and hung on in there. I’m really pleased with the first-half performance. In the second half, we lost our way a bit. “We managed to stay in the game, and I managed to get that chance in the end.”