Still lingering in the relegation zone ahead of this fixture, Leeds United welcomed Newcastle United to Elland Road. With the visitors maintaining a push for European football, this was a game that could have a significant impact at both ends of the Premier League table.
LEE: Robles; Firpo, Weber, Kristensen, Ayling; Greenwood, Koch, McKennie; Harrison, Bamford, Rodrigo
NEW: Pope; Burn, Botman, Schar, Trippier; Willock, Guimaraes, Joelinton; Isak, Wilson, Almiron
In a surprise turn of events, it was Leeds that took the lead after seven minutes. Great linkup play on the left saw Jack Harrison play in Patrick Bamford, who dashed down the flank before firing a cross into the area. Rodrigo’s headed effort was parried away by Nick Pope, but only as far as Luke Ayling – and his strike nestled nicely in the top corner.
That early opener seemed to settle the Leeds defence, who defended resolutely to deny Newcastle any opportunities to test Joel Robles. Eddie Howe’s side struggled to maintain any momentum, and their best chance in the opening twenty minutes or so was Isak’s effort from the edge of the box – but that deflected away from goal after striking Callum Wilson.
Sam Allardyce’s side could have their lead with 28 minutes on the clock, as Firpo was hauled to the ground inside the penalty area. Bamford’s effort from the spot wasn’t perfect though, and Pope was able to push it away – before sending a rebounded effort out for a corner.
There was action from the spot at the other end of the pitch soon after, as a mistake from Firpo allowed Isak to make the run into the box – but Max Wober shoved him to the deck. Callum Wilson made no mistake, directing his effort into the bottom left corner past the outstretched arm of Robles.
In the final minutes before half-time, both sides would have another chance – but Greenwood’s shot from the edge of the box was sent over the crossbar shortly before Almiron curled an effort wide of the far post. There was nothing to separate the two sides at the break, but Leeds would feel that they could take something from this tie.
Newcastle were quickest out of the blocks though, as a great ball from Guimaraes found Wilson. The Englishman looked destined to score and propel Eddie Howe’s side into the lead for the first time, but a vital deflection from Kristensen sent it over the bar.
Kieran Trippier’s corner deliveries looked to pose a threat too, as the right-back picked out Fabian Schar at the back post. The Swiss international nodded a header towards goal, though Rodrigo was positioned well to clear it off the line.
The visitors were awarded yet another penalty, as Isak’s header inside the box struck the arm of Firpo. A lengthy VAR intervention confirmed the decision, and Callum Wilson would be given an opportunity to double his tally from the penalty spot once more. The striker’s effort was directed straight down the middle, while Robles dived the same way as before. The Magpies had taken the lead!
They thought they’d made it three with fifteen minutes left to play, as Gordon played in Isak before squaring to Saint-Maximin. The Frenchman slotted past Robles, but the offside flag was soon raised against Isak and the goal was disallowed.
Leeds brought themselves level in the 79th minute though, ensuring the final ten minutes would be chaotic. Newcastle failed to deal with a corner, and Kristensen was given space on the edge of the box – firing an effort past Pope with the help of a deflection off Trippier.
The drama would intensify in stoppage time though, as Firpo was sent off for a straight red card offence. Gordon was running onto a fine ball over the top from Schar, but the Spanish defender clipped his heel – removing his boot in the process. With six minutes added on, the Yorkshire side would have to hold on with ten men.
Looking to make full use of their newfound numerical advantage, Newcastle had one final opportunity in the 97th minute – as Fabian Schar opted to take on the shot himself. His spectacular half-volleyed effort was sent wide of the post by Robles though.
Leeds did well to hold on for a point against a spirited Newcastle side. It’s certainly done Eddie Howe’s side no favours in their bid for Champions League football, but Sam Allardyce will be relieved that his team have moved one step closer to ensuring Elland Road hosts top-flight football again next season.