Newcastle United 1-1 Leeds United - Illan Meslier's reminder, Steve Bruce's bad day and off camera moments

Leeds United are still looking for a first win of the Premier League season after allowing Newcastle United back into Friday night's game at St James' Park.

Saturday, 18th September 2021, 11:40 am
SERIOUS PROSPECT - Leeds United had 21-year-old goalkeeper Illan Meslier to thank on a number of occasions against Newcastle United. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

The 1-1 draw was an entertaining affair, at times resembling the basketball match so many opposition managers claim Leeds desire. For Leeds it can only be seen as a missed opportunity, having taken the lead against a side managed by a man coming under huge pressure from their own crowd, in a toxic atmosphere, but the Whites' injury situation might be more of a concern than the two points they let slip.

Here's the YEP take on who had a good night, who didn't and some moments you may have missed.

Good day

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Illan Meslier

There was little he could do about the goal, scored by his compatriot Allan Saint-Maximin through a crowd of players in a packed penalty area, but he stood up tall as the last line of defence and made some important stops. The 21-year-old is consistently good, so much so that the standard of his performances are perhaps already taken for granted somewhat. Of all the exciting prospects Leeds possess, he is right up there when it comes to a bright future.

Rodrigo

Although there were moments when he could have done a lot better - like the first half giveaway to which his response was to saunter back towards goal - he always wanted the ball and should have ended the night with an assist. His through ball for Patrick Bamford was another glimpse of his obvious talent and it deserved a goal at the end of it. In the first half his crossfield ball presented Raphinha with a good opportunity. There was a moment in the second half when he took up an excellent position in space to give Kalvin Phillips an option but the ball went to the right instead and his frustration was obvious. The overall performance evidently impressed a lot of fans but it needs to be followed up with another even better one.

Allan Saint-Maximin

What a fun player to watch. Pace to burn, skill, patience, intelligence and finishing ability were all on display. Take him out of the Newcastle line-up and Leeds would likely have enjoyed total dominance. His manager

Bad day

Steve Bruce

The sound of tens of thousands not so politely asking for your removal must be painful, to put it lightly. Standing on the touchline watching your side concede the first goal, knowing full well what the response will be from the stands, must have left Bruce in anguish. The sight of a fan attempting to get onto the pitch to express his anger was particularly striking. At least Bruce got the right response from his side and ultimately a share of the spoils, but you have to ask yourself why he continues to put himself through experiences like that. As Bielsa said after the game, it is a difficult task to build something when fans turn against you. Bruce insists he's not going to walk away from the fight but the toll it must be taking simply doesn't seem worth it.

Stuart Dallas

Not a happy return to right full-back for the Northern Irish international. What you always get with Dallas is effort and a serious amount of the pitch covered but you also get a significant impact on both sides of the game. Against Newcastle he was unable to impact the game in a meaningful way defensively or offensively. A poor performance is a rarity from Dallas, which is why it stood out.

Junior Firpo

When he signed for Leeds the analysis of his game from those in the know was that going forward he would suit Bielsa's style of football down to the ground, but there could be some issues, defensively. His one v one defending was highlighted as an issue and it has proven an area of difficulty thus far. What has to be kept in mind is that his Leeds career is still in its infancy but that left flank looks like a problem for Leeds when they don't have the ball, especially when opponents are counter attacking.

Number of the day

Four

The number of centre-backs Leeds had unavailable by the time the game hit 90 minutes. Luke Ayling limping off was a worrying sight, with Koch and Llorente injured and Struijk suspended. Bielsa's preference for a small squad often comes under fire at times like this, especially when you add Jack Harrison's Covid-19 case and the knocks picked up by Raphinha and Patrick Bamford late on, but he went into the season with four senior centre-backs who all have the ability to play at Premier League level. To lose three of them at the same time is rank bad luck. For his fourth choice, Ayling, to suffer an injury is unthinkable. Charlie Cresswell may soon find himself stepping up from the Under 23s, which would at least strengthen the case for the 'pathway' at Leeds. What's more, the teenager looks a real prospect. Fate intervened to give Struijk his breakthrough and Cresswell, while not wanting to see his team-mates injured, must be champing at the bit.

Off camera moments

Raphinha took the opportunity during a break in play to get off the bench, call Crysencio Summerville to him and issue some sage advice on how the youngster should operate on the flank against Newcastle in the late stages.

Leeds' opener was met with furious anger from the home crowd, one of whom attempted to gain entry to the pitch in the far corner behind the Newcastle goal. Stewards managed to grasp hold of him as he clambered over the advertising board and kept the situation in check. Had Leeds scored a second, they might have had a real job on their hands.

Luke Ayling had a face like thunder as he went down the tunnel at the break, clearly fuming at Leeds letting their lead slip and allowing Newcastle back into the game. As he came off injured in the final minutes he was visibly fed up. So too was Raphinha as he came off. The pair wear their hearts on their sleeve and are two of the players most likely to let everyone else know about it when standards are not met. A second half ball from Ayling that went astray, when he ignored Rodrigo who had pulled into space, was one of those moments when Raphinha demanded more from his team-mate. The hope is that both of these players, two of Bielsa's leaders, are quickly back in action.

There was a moment in the second half when Bamford attempted to run through onto a pass down the right channel into the Newcastle area, losing his footing as the ball ran away from him. He hit the deck, thumped the turf in frustration and turned to see Matt Ritchie remonstrating with him over what he must have perceived as a dive. Bamford was quick to defend himself with a wag of his finger and a few words and the pair made up with an attempted hand slap. Their hands never actually met, but it was pleasing to see the issue cleared up so quickly as respect overcame suspicion.