Newcastle United 1 (Almiron 57)
Leeds United 2 (Raphinha 17, Harrison 61)
Phew… I enjoyed the tension of that game and, at the end of the day, three points is a terrific outcome from a trip to a Newcastle United side now realising they have to start fighting for their survival. But it was a real Curate’s Egg of a performance from Leeds! At times in the first half we looked back to our passing chasing controlling best but in that second half, the “Cool Boot Harrison” moment aside we looked shaky in the extreme with our game management almost non-existent and ball retention sloppier than you would like sir!
The three points was vital and we got them so it’s hard to criticise too much and, in the first half at least there wasn’t much to complain about. The defence, despite losing the unfortunate Diego Llorente so early, looked assured and Meslier was untroubled. The resettlement of Luke Ayling back on the right of defence sorted that issue again and we constantly looked a threat down that flank with Raphinha looking sharp and grabbing himself another fine goal. I think we may now put to bed that experiment of shoving him out on the left!!!Leave ‘Cool Boot Harrison” out there!
It was inevitable to an extent that the second half would see the Toon make a better fist of it for the reason mentioned above; they will be fearing for their very Premier League lives at the moment. Quite why their revised approach meant we suddenly went so poor on the ball I’m not sure but strong as the Toon were in the second period, we helped them out no end. Time after time we’d give away the ball and we really struggled to get a grip In the middle. The appearance of Allan Saint-Maximin and the way we failed to deal with him reminded me very much of the way Adama Traore ripped through us every second minute up at the Riverside that night Paddy Bamford got a hat-trick against us! We’ll have to be a bit better at dealing with such pace and control when the Wolves game comes around soon! It wasn’t just Maximin though, it was ourselves and, for the umpteenth time we were short of someone in the middle third to find space and take a pass – the job Pablo has done for us so often. Rodrigo was slightly better at it today I thought but he never quite seems to find those spaces Pablo does. His set up for the Raphinha goal though was very Pabloesque; very aware and made a poor Bamford pass into a great set-up.
The same issues remain for Leeds, we somehow survived the ten corners we gave away but I only counted one that we won with a header, the rest all had Magpies flying to win the ball . But let’s not focus on the negatives – it was a thoroughly enjoyable game, what we want to see from a game of football. Always in the balance, plenty of feisty challenges and 31 attempts at goal. That we allowed them to have 22 of them is the danger for the future. Boy would it have been a night to remember had we been up their, high above the pitch looking over the City.
We’ve maintained our record of managing to beat the sides below us (and by implication, teams worse than us) and that was always the important factor this season. As long as we continue to do that we’ll be fine and another three points today gets us ever closer to our goal.
We must improve our defending of set pieces and I’m convinced we still need to find a solution to the lack of a Pablo out there but hey ho, two great finishes, three points and two fingers to the football pundits… to paraphrase a famous piece of commentary!
Newcastle Utd Leeds Utd
Possession 42% 58%
Shots 22 9
On Target 5 2
Corners 9 5
Fouls Committed 10 15