FROM ELLAND ROAD – Rasmus Kristensen’s deflected late effort earned Leeds United a vital 2-2 draw with Newcastle in Sam Allardyce’s first home game in charge.
Leeds made a brilliant start as Luke Ayling swept the ball home after just seven minutes and they should have doubled their lead through Patrick Bamford from the penalty spot before the half-hour mark. But Nick Pope had other ideas, diving down low to his right to keep the former Middlesbrough striker’s effort at bay.
Newcastle then converted two penalties either side of the break to go 2-1 up – Callum Wilson coolly dispatching both – but with just over ten minutes remaining, Kristensen’s deflected shot arrowed past Pope to give the home side what could be a crucial point in their battle to stay in the Premier League.
Allardyce had stuck with the 4-5-1 formation he picked for his first game against Manchester City, but did make personnel changes. One of the players to come in, Rodrigo, helped Leeds make the early breakthrough.
Bamford did well on the left and his cross found the Spaniard unmarked in the penalty area. His downward header was clawed away well by Pope but straight into the path of Ayling, who smashed home from close range.
Just before the half-hour mark, Leeds had the perfect opportunity to double their lead. Sam Greenwood played in Junior Firpo, whose run in the box was brought to and end by a clumsy Joelinton challenge. Bamford stepped up to take the spot kick, but Pope diving to his right was equal to it.
A minute later, Leeds’ optimism turned to despair as Alexander Isak exchanged passes with Bruno Guimaraes before being chopped down by a terribly ill-judged Max Wober lunge. Referee Simon Hooper awarded the penalty and Wilson showed Bamford how it’s done from 12 yards to make it 1-1.
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Leeds made a change at half-time with Adam Forshaw coming on for Greenwood, but it was Newcastle looking the more dangerous early on, forcing a couple of corners and seeing a Wilson effort fly just wide.
Leeds also threw on Willy Gnonto as they went looking for the winner, but before he could get himself into the game, the home side fell behind.
Defending a long ball into the penalty area, Junior Firpo inexplicably threw his arm up into the air, fingertipping it away from Isak. Hooper initially didn’t spot the indiscretion but after intervention from VAR, he awarded the penalty and Wilson made it 2-1.
Newcastle brought on Allan Saint-Maximin and Anthony Gordon to try and see out the game, and the Frenchman soon had the ball in the back of the net before Isak was flagged for being offside in the build-up.
But Newcastle, looking to secure third place, could not hold on as Leeds managed to level with just over ten minutes to go. The Magpies failed to clear their lines from a corner and Kristensen hammered the ball beyond Pope, via Trippier’s head, to give Allardyce’s side a vital lifeline.
Firpo saw red for a second bookable offence in the dying stages but Newcastle couldn’t break down Leeds for the all-important winner.
GK: Joel Robles – 6/10 – Solid enough and only beaten by two good penalties from Wilson.
RB: Luke Ayling (C) – 7/10 – Got the goal and did well in defence. Very solid.
CB: Max Wober – 5/10 – Normally so reliable but a shocking challenge on Isak gave away a needless penalty.
CB: Rasmus Kristensen – 8/10 – Starting to look the part at centre-half, with another solid display culminating in a late equaliser.
LB: Junior Firpo – 2/10 – Another week, another shocking defensive performance from the Brazilian. Won Leeds a penalty but then gave away one at the other end and got himself sent off.
DM: Robin Koch – 6/10 – Worked hard and gave another line of protection in front of the defence.
CM: Sam Greenwood – 6/10 – Looked bright with some nice touches, but taken off at half-time.
CM: Weston McKennie – 7/10 – Worked his socks off and wanted the ball throughout.
RW: Rodrigo – 6/10 – Created the opening goal and worked hard, but tired in the second 45 minutes.
CF: Patrick Bamford – 5/10 – Helped create the opening goal, but his missed penalty might prove to be a turning point in Leeds’ season.
LW: Jack Harrison – 5/10 – Not a bad first half but struggled to impact the second and was taken off just after the hour.
Adam Forshaw (46′ for Greenwood) – 5/10 – Not able to impact the game enough.
Willy Gnonto (64′ for Harrison) – 6/10
Brenden Aaronson (89′ for Rodrigo) – N/A
Pascal Struijk (90′ for Bamford) – N/A
Subs not used: Meslier (GK), Roca, Summerville, Rutter, Gray
Sam Allardyce – 7/10 – Made changes and they started well. Player errors let him down.
GK: Nick Pope – 7/10 – Won’t be too happy with how he palmed out Leeds’ opener but showed his class with a brilliant penalty save.
RB: Kieran Trippier (C) – 3/10 – Another poor day the office. Was at fault for Leeds opener and then deflected home the second. Passing sloppy throughout.
CB: Sven Botman – 6/10 – Solid and made some crucial blocks, not helped by his full-back.
CB: Fabian Schar – 6/10 – Like Botman, wasn’t helped by Trippier’s sloppiness. Didn’t make any real errors.
LB: Dan Burn – 5/10 – Some decent tackles but distribution was woeful at times.
CM: Joelinton – 6/10 – Always hard to pick up and made some good runs.
CM: Bruno Guimaraes – 7/10 – Not at his best but anything good Newcastle did came through him.
CM: Joe Willock – 4/10 – A passenger for much of the game, offered nothing coming back and very little going forward.
RW: Miguel Almiron – 6/10 – Always works hard for the team but not much came of it today.
CF: Callum Wilson – 7/10 – Took both of his penalties superbly.
LW: Alexander Isak – 7/10 – A real threat coming in on the left, posed a problem whenever he got the ball.
Anthony Gordon (72′ for Almiron) – N/A
Allan Saint-Maximin (72′ for Wilson) – N/A
Eliot Anderson (87′ for Willock) – N/A
Subs not used: Dubravka, Dummett, Lewis, Targett, Manquillo, Murphy,
Eddie Howe – 6/10 – Will be wondering why his side could not see out the game, given the gulf in overall quality.