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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Leeds Utd v Newcastle Utd. 20th Nov 2016.

The miserable weather swirling around LS11 nor the prospect of watching the game on Sky Sports Leeds could deter 36,000 dyed in the wool fans heading eagerly to Elland Road for the match of the season so far. Rafa Benitez’s team of millionaires gorged on the obscene parachute payments from last season’s relegation arrive in West Yorkshire with a swagger looking for an 8th win on the bounce. Leeds themselves are in a rich vein of form though that has seen them climb the table steadily to the heady heights of 7th. Benitez might have been chosen as Manager of the month but the way Monk has moulded his bargain basement buys, loans and academy talent into a team challenging for the top 6 is a miracle in it’s self.

With Elland Road packed to the rafters for the first time since 2011 the atmosphere was crackling with anticipation and many pre match questions. Would Jansson blow away the threat from Newcastle’s toothless Gayle?, could Phillips snuff out the threat of Shelvey, Uncle Festa to his friends, in midfield? Would Wood add to his 6 goals in his last 7 games at Elland Road? The one thing guaranteed was that Gary Speed would get a fitting tribute from both sets of fans on the anniversary of his untimely death. This started with the warm up as both teams wore Gary Speed No 11 shirts during their pre match rituals. Class.

As expected Hernandez wasn’t fit enough to play so Vieira came in as the only change from the team who triumphed at Norwich. Newcastle’s team sheet was dripping with Premier League experience as Leeds faced up to their sternest test yet. The game kicked off with the baying home fans urging their side on at a decibel level not heard at Elland Road for a long time. It was Newcastle who settled first though as Shelvey and Colback dictated play exposing the young Leeds midfield to a chastening examination in the first 20 minutes. The lightening quick Gayle latched onto a quick Shelvey free kick on 7 minutes only for Green to save the day as he hurtled out from his line to block the prolific Toon striker’s shot.

Newcastle were dominating play but the Leeds back five held firm restricting Newcastle to shots from long range that gave Green little trouble. On 11 minutes the emotional tribute to Gary Speed saw all 4 corners of the ground stand in unison to remember their troubled ex player.

Then just when Leeds seemed to have weathered the storm disaster struck. A cross cum shot floated towards Green’s goal. What should have been a standard catch for the Leeds keeper suddenly became a horrible howler as he dropped the ball on the line right in front of Gayle who was hopefully following up. 1.0 to the Toon. The travelling army celebrated whilst the home fans rubbed their eyes in disbelief. All the initial good defending ruined with one fumble. The goal did wake Leeds up and they decided to go looking for the equaliser. Wood skewed a Doukara cross wide quickly followed by another header going over the top from a Phillips free kick. Next Ayling popped up with a looping header that the keeper tipped over. Jansson then met the corner full on but unfortunately the header went straight at the keeper. This was better.

Leeds continued to apply pressure with Vieira, Roofe, Doukara and Phillips all finding space to test the Toon goalie all to no avail though. With a minute to go to half time Leeds were denied what looked like a clear penalty for handball. So much so that Jansson earned a yellow card for his protests to the ref. He will now miss the Rotherham game. From the resultant corner Bartley headed wide as Leeds finished the half on the front foot. HT 0.1 Newcastle.

The urinal philosophers were on good form. “What an earth was Green doing? Bring back Silvestri” one unforgiving fan thought. “Absolute stonewall penalty. Bastards” screamed another fan while another admitted “You can see why they’re top of the league” One thing was for sure. Leeds needed to score quick in the 2nd half if they were going to get anything out of this game.

On 46 minutes Leeds so nearly got the goal they craved as O’Kane finished off a tenacious attack with a stinging drive that the Newcastle goalie only just tipped around the post. This was better and sparked off a huge chant of WACCOE accompanied by twirling scarves all round the ground. Problem was this was soon silenced by a goal that if the first one was downright lucky this one had class written all over it. Newcastle swept down field like a well oiled machine attacking the Leeds left flank. A bewildering exchange of passes on the edge of the box freed Anita who swung the ball into Gayle’s path on the 6 yard box…..there was no way he was going to miss from there. 2.0 Newcastle.
It was a long, long way back for Leeds from here although there was still over half an hour to go. 

Newcastle smothered the Leeds midfield reducing chances to a minimum. Phillips, O’Kane and Vieira all struggled with the well drilled pressing game Benitez has instilled in the Magpies and when Newcastle got the ball Shelvey and Colback just seemed to drift into space and pick Leeds apart at will. Sacko replaced Vieira as Leeds looked to break the stranglehold with little success. Antonsson replaced Doukara with just over ten minutes to go but the League leaders saw the game out comfortably. Final score 2.0 Newcastle. On this form it’s difficult to see them dropping out of the top two all season.

The result was disappointing but Newcastle are a class act and Leeds young side struggled to make an impression on them today. Understandably so given the vast difference in resources at the two clubs. Ayling was the best Leeds player with his fellow full back Taylor also showing good form on the other flank.Hopefully Leeds can learn from today’s game and move on. Bottom club Rotherham are next on the agenda for Garry Monk’s charges. Should be another intriguing game.

Can’t wait.


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