Steve Harper – 6
Would have enjoyed his quiet afternoon having conceded 13 times in his previous 5 games in goal for City. He dealt well with corners underneath his crossbar and made a spectacular save from Bolasie’s fine effort late on. Generally looked calm – sometimes bored.
James Chester – 7
Great to see him back in the starting line-up after an undeserved demotion. Had a solid game with a few hiccups. He was tasked with getting up Bolasie’s arse as soon as he got the ball and stopping him from turning. Their Congolese winger escaped a few times early on but as the game progressed, Chester got the measure of him and cut out any threat at source. His first two passes of the second half were atrocious but generally he helped us keep the ball better than we have recently.
Michael Dawson – 8
Demonstrated the qualities he was signed for with a gritty defensive performance. Things were rarely hairy at the back but when they were, Dawson threw himself into every challenge, made key headers and looked much more comfortable in the back three than he did at Villa. His favourite long diagonal out of defence is still hit and miss but he did have some success with it at times.
Curtis Davies – 6
Still doesn’t look quite himself, I don’t think. I don’t know if he’s had his nose pushed out of joint not being the senior defender or whether he’s apprehensive about protecting Robertson. His pace kept Fraizer Campbell under wraps but he’s not attacking the ball in both boxes with the vigour we’ve seen previously. Hopefully the win and clean sheet will take some of the pressure off and allow him to concentrate on his own game.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 8
Typical marauding Elmo performance that absolutely terrified Joel Ward. The wing-back role suits him so much. It frees up some of the defensive responsibility and allows him space to work without a full back over-lapping. Some better full-backs find ways to snuff him out but against mediocre opposition, he’s dangerous. He produced an array of crosses and cut-backs such as the deep ball Jelavic headed over early on, the early diagonal ball in that Delaney nearly put into his own net and the cut-back from the bye-line that Davies skied in the second half.
The only disappointment is that we become too one dimensional in looking for Elmo. It seems to be an unwritten rule that no-one else crosses from the right if he’s on – they just wait for him to arrive.
Tom Huddlestone – 6
Another below par effort. He kept the ball well well at times but was guilty of lacking ambition too often. As a team we passed sideways and backwards too much in the first half and then resorted to trying to go long in behind them. I think it’s up to Tom to change that mentality, to try and play the ball into the feet off the strikers and the generate some forward momentum. As with most of the calendar year, he’s playing too methodically and isn’t hurting the opposition with his passing.
Jake Livermore – 5
Finished the game strongly and made Jelavic’s goal with a good challenge and an excellent through ball. Before that he’d looked a player lacking in confidence and happy to offload the ball as soon as he got it. He needs to find some belief in himself because he had a decent game against Man City and grew into this one. He’s the fittest guy on the pitch most weeks, he wins the ball back in good areas and he can carry it or pass it well. He’s just not playing his game – he looks like someone who’s just caught a hand grenade without a pin.
Mo Diame – 6
His least impressive game for us so far but still showed everyone what we’ve been missing from midfield. As guilty as the rest of the midfield of not taking the game to them enough in the first half. He was always looking to link up with Robertson which worked well but when it wasn’t on, he just slowed attacks down. What he does bring is a willingness to get into box and a fantastic sense of timing. For his goal, he laid the ball off just before Hernandez shot was blocked and then as Robertson lined up a cross, he made a tremendous run towards the six yard box and was rewarded for it.
Andy Robertson – 8
Another fantastic display from the young man. His pace takes him into excellent attacking positions and he’s single minded once he gets there. He wants to put the ball into an area where strikers can attack it. Like Elmo, he produced a variety of crosses mixing it up with balls fired hard and low. He’s not afraid to take a shot on either and confidence exudes from every pore. Defensively he can be naïve and the majority of the opposing threat still comes down his side but that’s improving with each game.
Nikica Jelavic – 7
It’s great to see his hard work being rewarded with goals. He doesn’t always look the most technically gifted player but he has an incredible work ethic and defends from the front. With or without the ball he’s constantly on the move. I’d like to see us play to his feet more often because our best moments in the game came when we played off him rather than giving him 60 yards balls to fight for. Took his goal with real aplomb.
Abel Hernandez – 5
We need to be patient with him because he’s short of fitness and adapting to a new club in a new league. He looked lost in the game and was rarely any help to Jelavic. He didn’t win headers or get hold of the ball. Most surprisingly he looked really slow. He got outpaced by Damien Delaney in the first half and then had the chance to run the ball into their empty half on the break from a counter but was caught really quickly. We’ve seen enough to suggest he’s dangerous around the box and hopefully the rest of his game will come with fitness.
Gaston Ramirez – n/a
Stylish player with a lovely left foot but you can see why he’s not made an impression in English football. He’s lightweight and doesn’t play with a lot of urgency. An ideal substitute in the game though as he helped hold on to the ball when in a winning position.
Liam Rosenior – n/a
Smart decision to take off Robertson, who still tires late in games, for a solid defender like Rosenior. He kept Puncheon quiet and helped ensure they didn’t create any momentum.
Alex Bruce - n/a
Steve Bruce – 8
Finally went back to the 3-5-2 which has seemed an obvious move for a few weeks. I’m not sure why he dispersed with it really. Strangely went back to it on the back of a very good performance last week. In fact I’d go as far as to say we played better last week and got nothing than we did this when we won. The difference being the standard of the opposition.
He made good substitutions at key times. We were perhaps lucky to nick the second goal. We certainly weren’t going for one. Several attacks prior had fizzed out as we chose to keep hold of the ball and slow the game down rather than commit anyone. We also had two set-pieces were all three centre-halves stayed back. I suspect Bruce feels we’ve been naïve in games were we’ve led and wanted to ensure that we maintained defensive shape at the expense of attacking intent.
When it works, credit is due.