Leeds United went into this match without its first win of the season. Leeds United beat Newcastle FC twice last season. But they go into this match without three first team defenders – Struijk, Llorente and Koch.
The season start is worrying. The defeats against Manchester United and Liverpool FC suggests other teams have either sussed Leeds United or improved whilst Leeds have not.
The lack of shots on goal are a concern – Rodrigo is simply not delivering. Yet Bielsa keeps starting him. Rodrigo was on fire at the end of last season. So there is no doubt in my mind he can deliver, but Bielsa needs to find that sweet spot in the formation for him to do this. Maybe tonight with Koch next to he can.
Bielsa was honest that Klopp beat him on tactics last Sunday. But Beilsa is not a man for turning. His style will remain – a higher-risk, possession-based brand as opposed to the percentages format of the long ball. “To change it would be like forgetting all the praise we received in the three years prior,” added Bielsa. We shall see.
Leeds made changes for this match. Ayling and Dallas drop into centre halves. Klich returns from COVID. James started his match with Harrison ill. This left a young subs bench with the exception of Roberts. Nonetheless there is a talent we want to see given a run out.
This is also the first run out for the new Leeds United lilac third kit a pale colour that I will not miss.
Some early link up play showed that Raphinha, Rodrigo and Bamford playing as a unit is critical to goals being scored. And that is what happened on 13 minutes with Bamford passing to Raphinha who makes an innocuous cross into the Newcastle box by Raphinha had enough power and direction that Rodrigo,, unmarked, simply needed to jump over it for it to bypass the keeper in to the back of the net.
Leeds’ confident start with 70% possession and their first lead of the season so far.
The game then opened up with chaos in the Newcastle box. But Leeds could not connect hard enough with the ball. Then Newcastle tried to open Leeds’ makeshift defence. Saint-Maximin running Cooper ragged and only Meslier stopped Leeds conceding.
At the other end James is barged to the ground in the penalty box and how that was not a penalty.
A magic moment on the half hour when Rodrigo slipped defence and tee’d up Phillips outside the box whose shot was inches away from scoring.
From a Newcastle free kick Leeds rampage through Newcastle midfield with Raphinha teeing up Klich with a shot on target but saved.
Newcastle replied with a shot passed Meslier that pings off the post. Leeds are lucky with their lead. And then the shots kept coming.
After all the domination and shots Leeds are undone by Newcastle’s best player Saint Maximin who Leeds cannot get the ball off and, after a cut back he nets the ball. All the work to be done in the second half.
On the stroke of half time Firpo took the ball up the Newcastle and, despite Raphinha James and Firpo all shooting the opportunity was ruined.
Roberts replaced James in the second half, the latter very involved but not setting the world on fire; his last effort a chip in to the penalty box with a Newcastle defender almost heading into his own net with the keeper forced to make a desperate save.
The key moment for Leeds fans was to see Somerville making his first , first team appearance for Leeds, replacing Raphinha, possibly still carrying an injury.
Leeds’ poor finishing continues with Rodrigo again making another incisive pass to Bamford but the latter’s touch is too light. Saint Maximin stayed ever present with shots in the second half but Cooper began to suss him out.
An injury to Ayling gives Shackleton a couple of minutes at the end of the match.
Leeds ended with dominating possession. A much improved display tonight. But still not yet firing on all cylinders with the lack of firepower on goal. So slightly disappointing to see Leeds not put the game to bed. Leeds who usually push on in the second half lacked discipline and the game largely dragged.
Man of the match: Rodrigo