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English Premier League

‘Matt Ritchie is in great form’ – Three things learnt from Newcastle United 2-1 Stoke City

Newcastle United delivered a confident performance to win their third successive Premier League match against Stoke City. The three points have lifted them to 4th position and they have recovered impressively after losing their opening two matches. They were good value for the win on Saturday, but the visitors did have their chances with Xherdan Shaqiri offering a threat throughout. Here are three things that we learnt from the game:

Matt Ritchie is in great form

The Scottish international decided to join Newcastle last summer and dropped down a league from Bournemouth. His motives were questioned, but he saw the potential in what was being built by Benitez and he is now a key figure in their Premier League team. Ritchie was full of running on Saturday and delivered another great performance to help his side to three points.

Although he didn’t score, he got both of the assists and caused problems whenever the ball was at his feet. Ritchie has great vision and the ability to pick out passes that few others in the Newcastle team are capable of. The first goal came as a result of an incredible lofted pass over the defence, which gave Christian Atsu an easy task of finding the net. Last weekend, he showed his ability from the dead ball and that was on show again on Saturday as he found Jamaal Lascelles again from a corner. It was a great team display, but the 28-year-old was the standout performer.

Xherdan Shaqiri showed signs of improvement

The Swiss international arrived with a huge reputation and it was a surprise that Stoke City were able to sign him, but he has failed to live up to the hype so far. There have been a few good performances, but the consistency hasn’t been there. Mark Hughes will be hoping that Saturday signified a change as he was very impressive and caused Newcastle a lot of problems.

During the match, he was the most dangerous player for the visitors as his movement and trickery allowed him to find space in the final third. He attempted five shots and scored a great goal to equalise as the start of the second half. On another day, he would have scored more than one as Rob Elliot made great saves to deny him on more than one occasion. Stoke will be hoping that this is the start of a resurgence for the 25-year-old.

Jamaal Lascelles is proving why he is Newcastle captain

The centre-back started the season out of the first-team and he has now been the match-winner in the last two matches. It has been a drastic change in fortunes for the captain and it underlines his impressive mentality. There is a reason Rafa Benitez chose to make him skipper at a young age and he is showing why on a consistent basis. He is a calming presence on the team, leading from the front with his determination and aggression.

Newcastle have a real talent in Lascelles and the promotion to the Premier League appears to have taken his game to a whole new level. His goal will capture the headlines, but his defensive effort was equally as impressive. He completed two ball recoveries, won five aerial duels and made seven clearances. One criticism from last season was his lack of composure in possession, but that is steadily improving. The 23-year-old is surely a future England international.