Phil Hay’s Verdict: Leeds United deliver on coach’s promise in Carabao Cup win over Newport

Kemar Roofe, scoring his third goal against Newport County with an overhead kick. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
Kemar Roofe, scoring his third goal against Newport County with an overhead kick. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
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“We’ll go for everything,” promised Thomas Christiansen and, after nine goals in the opening two rounds, Leeds United are attacking the Carabao Cup in the manner of a club who aim to stay in the hat no matter how weird the competition gets.

A Samuel Saiz hat-trick saw Leeds past Port Vale two weeks ago and Kemar Roofe emulated the Spaniard with three goals of his own last night, taking responsibility for a raw team whose appearance in round three was touch and go until Roofe stamped his foot on a finely-balanced game against Newport County.

Samuel Saiz thumps Leeds United's fourth goal past Joe Day. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Samuel Saiz thumps Leeds United's fourth goal past Joe Day. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Those in Leeds who remember the winter of 1949 will remember a cup upset involving Newport, and there were moments at Elland Road when lightning looked like striking twice.

Roofe scored in the 45th, 50th and 65th minutes – the last of his goals an instinctive overhead kick – but Leeds were flattered by scoreline on an evening when County arrived with an attitude to match the side who knocked United out of the FA Cup 68 years earlier.

Leeds were trailing to a bizarre Joss Labadie strike when Roofe dispatched the scraps from a Stuart Dallas corner and restored parity in the final minute of the first half.

Newport had barely settled into the second when Dallas set up another chance which Roofe volleyed into Newport’s net.

Ronaldo Viera made it 5-1. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Ronaldo Viera made it 5-1. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Having had enough of the tie before then, County’s enthusiasm sagged and Leeds’ quality told.

Roofe was a fraction away from completing his hat-trick in the 63rd minute, striking the crossbar with a wonderful lob from 25 yards, but Newport buckled again soon after as his acrobatics put away another Dallas cross.

With a 3-1 advantage, Leeds were able to forget a strange moment in the first half in which a Labadie shot squirmed over Rob Green and into their net.

A much-changed line-up were susceptible to wobbles like that but Leeds flexed their muscles eventually and had the fallback of Saiz among their substitutes, who came on and increased the lead to 4-1 with a goal which Christiansen did not need.

Ronaldo Vieira completed a rout with a fifth on 90 minutes.

All eyes now on Thursday morning and Beijing, where the EFL will stage the third-round draw at the nonsensical time of 4.15am. Two previous draws, one held in Bangkok, did not gone well.

“Perhaps I will set a wake-up call,” Christiansen joked.

Injuries are piling up at Leeds and Christiansen reached into the depths of his resources for Newport’s visit, giving senior debuts to Eoghan Stokes and Madger Gomes and padding out his bench with two other development-squad players, Mallik Wilks and Paudie O’Connor.

The United boss would have made changes regardless of a lengthy absentee list but his choice of team deliberately avoided compromising his plans for Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

In case of trouble, which duly came, Saiz and Gianni Alioski were waiting on the bench.

Christiansen needed Alioski and Saiz to see off Port Vale in round one and Newport showed no intention of rolling over tamely.

The tie was 10 minutes old when Green, the hitherto forgotten goalkeeper in United’s ranks, asserted himself with an excellent save, tipping Sean Rigg’s goalbound shot inches wide of his far post after Rigg danced away from Conor Shaughnessy inside the box.

Gomes had given Newport’s keeper, Joe Day, something to think about moments earlier with a cleanly hit shot from 20 yards and the winger’s direct running compensated slightly for a forward line which took a long time to click. Stokes, in behind Roofe, operated at number 10 but was shadowed by Matt Dolan and Labadie. Roofe received an early straightener from the heavy frame of centre-back Mark O’Brien.

On the front foot, Newport looked more dangerous. Vurnon Anita appeared in the right place on 23 minutes to head clear from Green’s goalline after a Newport corner was volleyed goalwards by Shawn McCoulsky at close range.

As Leeds attempted to force the visitors back, Labadie whipped a shot into the side netting. Christiansen’s animated instructions were those of a coach who knew the tie would not be a cakewalk.

Having been drawn at home and forced to switch the game to Elland Road due to the relaying of their Rodney Parade pitch, County looked less and less like the away side.

Luke Ayling came closest to redressing the balance when, in a worthwhile loss of patience, he cracked a rising 30-yard shot inches wide of Day’s net after the half-hour but an error by Green handed Newport the goal they deserved on 34 minutes.

The keeper dived to cover his near post as Labadie lashed a shot at him from 20 yards but the ball spun up off his arms, bouncing in before the former England international could reach it. On his first outing since being usurped by Felix Wiedwald, a concession like that was not in the plan.

Leeds needed inspiration and it came in the last minute of the half. Shaughnessy met Dallas’ corner with a free header which Day punched away nervously and, as Newport struggled to clear the rebound, Roofe pounced from close range with a low finish.

From there, the night became simple. Roofe scored again four minutes into the second half when Dallas left David Pipe on his face and drove in a cross which deflected into the air. Roofe applied the finishing touch with a careful volley.

Newport continued to threaten on the break and, after Roofe shook the bar with a glorious lob, Robbie Willmott wasted a chance to level the tie by shooting weakly at Green with Leeds on the run.

Roofe, however, was unerring with a fine overhead finish and, after Christiansen threw Saiz on for good measure, the playmaker came up with a sharp effort from close range 12 minutes from time.

Vieira then rounded off the scoring by driving a corner in off a post with 89 played.

Spirited though they had been in spells, a near-equal share of the gate receipts from a crowd of 17,000 began to strike Newport as a good return for their work.