Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer has praised the Magpies current number nine Salomon Rondon for his performance against Watford on Saturday.
The Venezuelan scored the Toon Army’s only goal in a 1-1 draw, bringing is tally for the season to five in 12 matches.
Speaking on Match of the Day (Saturday December 29th, BBC One, 10.30pm), Shearer emphasised just how much Rafa Benitez’s side miss the 29-year-old when he doesn’t feature.
He said: “He left him out or rested him at Anfield [in the 4-0 Boxing Day defeat to Liverpool] and Ritchie put two or three brilliant balls in at Anfield and didn’t have anyone to get on the end of them. Joselu was there and didn’t score them.
“It was a brilliant cross and a very, very good header [for the Newcastle goal]. He’s got a presence because you know he can do that.
“You know that he can get on the end of things and he brings people into the game. You know he can hold up the play and you can start your build-up with him. They’re a better team with him in there because he gives them options. It was another good performance from him – five goals in 12 games is a good return.”
Rondon is quickly becoming a crucial part of Newcastle’s bid to stay in the Premier League. Without him in the side, the Magpies look blunted, and lack a genuine goal threat. Goals will make the difference between relegation and survival, and nine times out of ten, the sides that have a decent centre forward with a nose for the back of the net will avoid the drop. The Magpies are at an immediate advantage as so many of their relegation rivals don’t have a Rondon-style figure, and when it comes down to the wire, he could really make a difference. Rafa was criticised for resting him against Liverpool, and if the Toon Army had failed to get anything from the trip to Watford that criticism might have intensified. As it is, with a vital away point picked up against an in-form side, Benitez’s decision looks to have been more than vindicated.