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29th Apr 2019

Player ratings for Game of Thrones: Battle of Winterfell

Kyle Picknell

Winterfell United 1 (Stark 90+5) White Walker Wanderers 0

Not since Manchester United’s dramatic comeback against Bayern in the 1999 Champions League final has a game of this magnitude been turned on its head at the very death, with United wonderkid Arya Stark pouncing on some sloppy defending by the White Walker rearguard late on to fire a winner into the despairing Wanderers captain and talisman, the Night King.

Questions will now be asked of this White Walker side who, like PSG, have failed to live up to expectations once again despite astronomical investment in the playing squad.

It’s all well and good dominating the farmers beyond the wall week in week out but when push comes to shove and you’re playing the very best Westeros has to offer away at Winterfell, you expect more mental fortitude to be shown from the big money signings such as zombie Wun Wun and the ice dragon. Yet another huge recruitment effort will be needed in the summer if they are to challenge for the title next season but it appears unlikely.

Despite less than ideal playing conditions, including heavy spells of dragon fire coming down from the sky and generally poor visibility which made the contest difficult to follow at times for those in attendance, Winterfell United held firm under immense pressure for what felt like the full 90 minutes before Stark struck late to put them through to the final, where they will face Cersei Lannister’s dangerous King’s Landing side.

Here’s how the players performed.

Winterfell United

Ser Jorah Mormont – 

The 44-year-old veteran journeyman opened the game with a promising-looking attack down the middle but it was quickly swallowed up by the White Walker backline. Appeared to lose himself a bit physically and mentally during the contest and was probably fortunate not to be substituted but did manage to gather himself in time for a heroic final 10. Showed his experience and class when it was needed most, despite his body failing him. 7.

Jon Snow (c) – 

Questions will be asked of the Winterfell captain’s temperament and decision-making after he almost cost his team in a big game, and not for the first time. When these sides met in the reverse fixture he was fortunate to stay on the field and had to be bailed out by Winterfell legend Benjen Stark. Yet again his selfish desire to try and be the hero, rather than play in other better-positioned members of his attack, is hindering the team. It is clear he has a very poor tactical understanding of the game and has it all to prove going into the final. Literally tried to roar at a dragon. 1.

Grey Worm – 

One of the most consistent performers over the last few seasons, Grey Worm had a solid if unspectacular game but was clearly hindered by Winterfell’s defensive approach. The Summer Isles native was often left isolated on his own and, starved of service, there was only so much he could do. Even so, a few nice touches and some link-up play helped bring the Red Priestess Melisandre into the action as well as silence the commentators who rather embarrassingly insisted his game was just all about pace and power. 6.

The Hound – 

Like Ser Jorah, it was clear the big target man fell victim to the occasion and nerves got the better of him for a large portion of the contest. However, he did manage to snap out of it and was crucial in the build-up to Arya Stark’s late goal, rekindling the ‘big man/little man’ forward partnership chemistry they’ve developed over the years like a Winterfell Emile Heskey and Michael Owen. Used his body well to create the space for Stark’s all-important strike. 7.

Arya Stark – 

Man of the match. A breakout performance by the diminutive frontwoman who appears to thrive playing on the counter. Always a threat offensively, Stark did it all for her team last night, including some stellar defensive work on the walls and a great solo run past some extremely static defending in the library. Never afraid of the ball and showed up when her other more experienced teammates were flailing.

Has responded superbly to the initial doubts about her talent when she returned to the club after a prolific loan spell in the Essos second tier – not a league known for producing quality players. There are no question marks now. Took the biggest chance of her career to date in a difficult one on one with the Night King but finished with aplomb. 10.

Melisandre –

The Red Priestess has endured heaps of criticism since her controversial free transfer move to Winterfell but was absolutely decisive in this victory after producing a couple of moments of magic that swung the game for United. She has had a more controversial career than most (gave birth to a shadow demon and burned a small child at the stake, but particularly after attempting to seduce teammate Jon Snow during preseason – something to which fans have attributed his poor run of form) but never gave up and her composure proved vital.

Shocked the crowd by retiring immediately after the game rather than play on to the final but given her age, you can’t blame her. A fitting send-off for the flamboyant sorceress. 8.

Lyanna Mormont – 

Called up due to an injury crisis, the academy prospect appeared to be hopelessly out of her depth but did well to halt a midfield surge from zombie Wun Wun just when he looked like he might break through the Winterfell backline. Regardless, it was a poor decision from the manager to rush her into the starting lineup as she struggled to cope with the immense physicality of the league. Winterfell have now lost her for the rest of the season, and also forever. She is dead, but her tenacity can’t be faulted. 7.

Beric Dondarrion –

Not the most glamorous player in a starting lineup of household names, Beric nonetheless proved why he was there with a gritty display at the heart of the Winterfell midfield. Kept his head despite the relentless White Walker pressure and his lung-busting sacrificial run, which drew several defenders away and left Arya unmarked to score the winner, should not be overlooked. 8.

Daenerys Targaryen – 

Typically the danger-woman in the Winterfell side, ‘Dany’ struggled to make any kind of significant breakthrough and was pinned back by the furious press of the White Walker attacking unit that didn’t allow her to operate with her usual creative freedom. There was good work on the dragon early on but not enough of it to really trouble the Night King. Took a knock and was quite clearly struggling towards the end. 6.

Samwell Tarly – 

A complete passenger and defensive liability for his side. Has had his moments this season but simply could not get to grips with the intensity the White Walkers played at and was found hopelessly out of position time and time again. Questions about weight and conditioning remain. 2. 

Theon Greyjoy – 

A brave performance from a player who has long been written off by supporters and teammates alike. Clearly had something to prove to his coach, Bran Stark, who had nothing but praise for Greyjoy’s work rate in the post-match presser. Kept his side in the game with a few wonderful saves before Arya’s winner. 8.

Did not play long enough to earn a rating: Jaime Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, Tormund Giantsbane

Unused substitutes: Tyrion Lannister

White Walker Wanderers

The Night King – 

Must wonder what more he can do for his side as he was yet again let down by the poor finishing of his teammates. Was dominant in his usual role of sweeper and back-pocketed both of Winterfell’s biggest threats – Jon Snow and Daenerys. As ever led the White Walker gegenpress well but switched off at the crucial moment, as did the entire Walker backline, when Arya arrived unmarked at the back post to send Winterfell through. That’s what happens when you play a zonal rather than man-marking system and he is the only player willing to take responsibility of picking up players.

Likely his last game for the club and a bitterly disappointing end to an otherwise glittering career. 9.

Zombie Wun Wun – 

Put in some heavy challenges and looked set to be the man to break the deadlock before losing an embarrassing 50/50 to the much smaller Lyanna Mormont that, just like Paul Pogba’s dismal aerial duel with Raheem Sterling during last week’s Manchester Derby, has since been ridiculed by the tabloids, who are now also attacking his body language and most recent haircuts.

Was billed as the player to tip the White Walkers over the edge when they signed him but flattered to deceive on the big occasion. 5.

Everyone else –

Inconsistent energy levels and a lack of desire let down the rest of the White Walkers despite an initially spirited performance. Hassled and harried from the opening whistle but struggled to make a decisive breakthrough despite big chances falling to the likes of zombie Wun Wun, the ice dragon and even the Night King himself, who seemed to hesitate at the vital moment instead of pulling the trigger. It is difficult, however, to criticise their star man too much as he shoulders so much of their defensive burden and it was, ultimately, the lack of a clinical forward line that stopped them progressing to the final. 4.

The Officiating

As ever, the work rate of this Wanderers team dropped off dramatically at extremely convenient moments and the sceptics amongst us will be quick to point to the impact of the inconsistent officiating of the referee David Benioff and his assistant D.B. Weiss, who frequently like to stop play in favour of Winterfell, as a key factor in the result.

For the most part, they did manage to let an extremely physical, niggly game go but doubts about their impartiality remain after Stark’s winner, which looked onside from the camera angle we were given but has since come under scrutiny through replays shown after the game and has been called ‘complete and utter fucking bullshit’ by some lads on Reddit.

The officials chose not to review the decision as VAR has yet to be introduced in the Westerosi Champions League. Winterfell United are through to the final with it all still to play for.