Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch delighted with clean sheet at Newcastle

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A rare clean sheet delighted Leeds United head coach Jesse Marsch as his team came back from high flying Newcastle United with a hard earned point.

Few gave the Whites much chance of ending Newcastle's long unbeaten run at St James' Park, but a battling display, capped by another man of the match performance from goalkeeper Illan Meslier, saw them finish with a goalless draw.

“I think the point is valuable but even more valuable is the clean sheet for us,” said Marsch.

"Since I've been here not been so easy to come by.

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Illan Meslier kept a vital clean sheet in Leeds United's draw with Newcastle.Illan Meslier kept a vital clean sheet in Leeds United's draw with Newcastle.
Illan Meslier kept a vital clean sheet in Leeds United's draw with Newcastle.

"We felt going into the World Cup break and coming out of the pause that we gave goals away too cheaply. And we really wanted to try to do better with that.

"We talked about both the tactics of what that would mean and then also the mentality to do whatever it takes to defend your own goal.

"First half for me, I think we play very, very well. And we're in the game or we're managing to find a few chances. And then second half, they decided to play very direct to then try to pick up some set-pieces and put balls in our box.

"Then it becomes about momentum and energy and then bending but not breaking. And, in general, we thought we did that really well.”Marsch had words of praise for keeper Meslier who has overcome glandular fever to play starring roles in the last two Leeds matches.

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He added: “I'm always challenging him to mature with his presence in the goal, with his belief in himself, with his shrewdness in decision making and with saves and with crosses. And for me, this was by being the last defender at the right time, the choices he made with the ball, the crosses that he caught.

"This is probably his best performance since I've been here, even with Liverpool.

"So I think we're seeing a goalkeeper that's growing right before our eyes and that's going to be really important for us.”

United's side showed three changes from the team that started in the 3-1 defeat to champions Manchester City with Luke Ayling restored to his right-back position, Tyler Adams back after suspension in midfield and fit again Jack Harrison on one of the flanks. Adam Forshaw was preferred to Marc Roca in midfield, but was replaced by him at half-time.

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Leeds had the first chance with Willy Gnonto creating space only to fire over.

Former Leeds striker Chris Wood was off target with a shot at the other end before Meslier made his first save, denying Joelinton low down.

Good goalkeeping from Nick Pope came next as he was fast to come out of his box to clear after Brenden Aaronson was cleverly played in by Gnonto.

The Whites best chance of the first half fell to Brenden Aaronson, but after being played in by Rodrigo he saw his shot well blocked.

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The second half was more one-way with Leeds coming under plenty of pressure.

Meslier was out well to block a Wood shot after the break then the New Zealand striker sent another effort over.

The Whites briefly threatened when Rodrigo cut in from the right to send in a fine curling shot that had to be well saved by Pope.

Meslier's most impressive save came when he spread himself to keep out a Fabian Schar header from a corner.

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Newcastle looked set to clinch victory when Joelinton's run and pass set up Sean Longstaff, but the midfielder fired over from eight yards out.

Leeds held on and after Joelinton fired another shot over the draw was confirmed.

The Whites are quickly back in action when at home to West Ham at Elland Road on Wednesday night.

Newcastle United 0

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Premier League

Attendance: 52,211

Newcastle: Pope; Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn; Longstaff, Guimares, Willock (Saint-Maximim 64); Almiron (Murphy 84’), Wood (Wilson 64), Joelinton.

Leeds: Meslier; Ayling (Kristensen 70), Koch, Cooper, Struijk; Forshaw (Roca 45), Adams; Harrison (Klich 64), Aaronson, Gnonto (Summerville 70); Rodrigo (Gelhardt 82).

Referee: Simon Hooper