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Newcastle United 1 v 1 Leeds United
Barclays Premier League
Friday, 17th September 2021 Kick-off 20:00
Leeds rue missed chances after Newcastle draw
Sunday, 19th Sep 2021 17:26 by Tim Whelan

For much of the game at Newcastle United it looked like the fluency of the Leeds of last season had returned, but we failed to make our early dominance count and it’s frustrating that the result leaves us still looking for our first win of the season.

The neutral pundits on Match of the Day and Sky thought that a draw was a fair reflection of a hard fought and entertaining game, but for the first half an hour or so I thought we were heading for a fairly comfortable win. And both Marcello Bielsa and Liam Cooper shared similar thoughts when they spoke to LUTV.

Bielsa said “It was a game that according to what happened, we should have won. We had a lot of opportunities to score and there were also a lot of options where they didn’t end up in danger, but it would have been easy to convert to danger. It is true that the opponent also had chances. We dominated the game and they counter attacked. But, I insist, given the chances we had we should have won the game.”

And Liam Cooper “It’s frustration. We got the early goal which is what we wanted and what we needed, then conceded a sloppy goal on our behalf. After that I felt we reacted well, we were going for the win and unfortunately we couldn’t get the goal. I don’t know how many chances we created but it felt like a lot and we just need to start putting them in.”

“We all know how important it is in this league to put chances in and keep them out at the other end as well. Newcastle defended well, they sat deep and filled the box which made the spaces a lot shorter which was difficult for us to get in behind. We’ve dealt with that a lot, we need to improve on that and I am sure we will.”

There were two enforced changes for Leeds, with Harrisson unwell and Llorente out with his latest injury setback. So we had a makeshift defence, with Ayling moving into the centre and Dallas dropping to right back and Klich coming back into midfield and Dan James getting a start on the left wing.

Despite the changes Leeds began with a fluency we haven’t seen so far this season, though against a distinctly average Newcastle side. Rodrigo was having an excellent game and getting back to looking like the player we paid a big transfer fee and substantial wages to get. He was close to getting an early goal he could have done with to boost his confidence, but unfortunately dragged his shot just wide when Raphinha picked him out with a pull-back from the touchline.

But it only took 13 minutes for the same to players to combine to put Leeds in front. Raphinha swung the ball into the box from the right hand touchline, and Rodrigo realised it was curling in on target, so he just had to jump over the ball without getting a touch. This was enough to deceive Darlow, who couldn’t start moving towards the ball until it had passed Rodrigo, and by then it was too late to get across before it nestled in the far corner of the net.

The goal produced the first murmurings of discontent in the home crowd, and the hostility towards Steve Bruce would have got a few notches if we’d managed to score a second. This could have come to pass when James seemed to have been felled inside the area after the ball had gone with referee Mike Dean only a few yards away, but the official waved play on.

Apparently VAR looked at the incident, but didn’t decide to ask Dean to go and have another look on the monitor. Which seems completely inconsistent, bearing in mind the penalty we conceded from Cooper’s challenge against Everton, which the referee hadn’t seen. Cue for a lot of “the Premier League’s against us” type moaning on social media.

The injustice was nearly compounded as Newcastle broke downfield, but Meslier was on hand to make an excellent save from Joelinton. Leeds continued to dominate, but Klich failed to generate the power he needed when a good chance fell to him at close range. Then Raphinha had another opportunity after the home side took far too long to clear the ball, but Darlow denied him with a fine save.

At this stage we looked likely to win the game comfortably, but after a defensive reorganisation Newcastle got back into the contest as half time approached. First Ritchie was give plenty of time and space to shoot from distance, with the defenders in front of him all in a line on the edge of the area. His powerful strike beat the lot of them but came back off the foot of the post.

And the Geordies managed to grab the equaliser just before half time. Saint-Maximin picked up the ball on the edge of the area and when he jinked his way past several defenders he seemed to have taken it too far to the right. But he managed to turn and send a powerful shot past Meslier right into the bottom right-hand corner.

Yet we still could have gone in front at the break when a cross found Raphinha in the clear inside the area, but he took too long to set up the shot as he came inside. By the time he did let fly, there were Newcastle bodies in front of him to block the shot. But the ball came back to Raphinha and he squared for Dan James, and when the Welshman’s shot was blocked it sat up for Firpo, but he could only get right under the ball and put it well over the bar from close range.

Both teams continued to look to attack in the second half, but it didn’t quite manage to provide the same end-to-end entertainment value of the first. But we were nearly presented with a second goal when across came off the head of Lascelles towards his own goal, but Darlow was alert enough to tip it over the bar.

Just after the hour Bielsa made his first change, with the obligatory introduction of Tyler Roberts, though for once Rodrigo had done enough to avoid being the player taken off. It was Dan James who was removed, which seemed a little odd when James had been very lively, including getting back for some timely interceptions. Perhaps he just hasn’t reached Bielsa levels of fitness yet.

The change left us a little unbalanced, with Roberts having to play on the right wing, and I wouldn’t say the quality of his crossing justified putting him in that position. The second change was enforced, with Raphinha limping off and Summerville coming on for his much anticipated debut. Opinion is divided about how effective the young Dutchman was, but he was lively without having a huge impact.

At the other end Newcastle’s one decent player was still giving us problems, as Saint-Maximin had a shot blocked and had the opportunity to try another one from a narrow angle when it came back to him. This time Meslier did well to get down to and turn his powerful drive round the post, and that wasn’t the last time that our keeper had to make a save from his fellow Frenchman.

As we moved into the final 20 minutes Bamford had his clearest chance of the night when Rodrigo played him through and he turned to shoot with his right, but never got the power he needed and could only send the ball straight into Darlow’s arms. Towards the end Ayling took a knock and tried to continue, but was forced to hobble off and allow Shackleton to take his place, though it was Phillips who dropped into central defence.

Despite being light at the back we kept pressing forwards into injury time and could have stolen the win right at the end, but Summerville’s shot didn’t quite curl as much as it needed to and passed the far post rather than giving him the debut goal he would have dreamed of. And so we ended up with a draw from a game that we really should have won, though the defeats for Burnley and Norwich ensured that finished the weekend outside the bottom three.

Marcello Bielsa acknowledged in his post-match interview that three points from five games isn’t really good enough, and we have now gathered four points fewer than we did from the same fixtures last season. We started to look like the Bielsa side of the last few seasons, but with the same inability to kill teams off that we have occasionally seen during his time in charge.

It’s also concerning that Raphinha and Ayling limped off during this game, and while we can assume that they will be allowed to recover rather than facing Fulham on Tuesday (with Summerville and Cresswell possibly getting a start in that game) we hope that they will be back for West Ham on Saturday.

Whilst it’s too soon to start panicking yet, we could really do with at least one win from that match or the Watford game the week after to start to move away from the foot of the table.


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