It was not a vintage performance from the Spaniard, but Ayoze Perez was the match winner as Newcastle beat Huddersfield 1-0.
The 24-year-old attacker scored the only goal of the game 10 minutes from time, handing Rafa Benitez a victory that will go a long way to securing the Magpies’ Premier League survival.
Perez has been a polarising figure on Tyneside for most of the season, with his performances often lacking the cutting edge needed from a creative player in the Premier League.
So far, Perez has only scored three Premier League goals this season, although each one of his strikes have had some worth, also netting a winner against Stoke City, as well as scoring Newcastle’s second in the 2-2 draw at Southampton.
Benitez has often deployed Perez in a secondary striker/attacking midfield role, playing behind either Dwight Gayle or Joselu, and the former Tenerife man is expected to create opportunities and chip in with goals.
Instead, Perez’s impact in the final third has been minimal, instead often having to play a defensive role, putting in tireless performances as he chases and harries the opposition defenders. This was the case again on Saturday, as Perez was far from vintage in possession, but put it another battling performance where his work off the ball was crucial.
Unlike always, Perez got his reward by bagging the winner, receiving the plaudits that have somewhat eluded him this season. His role in Benitez’s team has not been glamorous, but essential, and it was great to see his hard work pay off at St James’ Park on Saturday.