Marcelo Bielsa rues inability to convert as Leeds United take a big step back with defeat to Newcastle

After Leeds United missed a great opportunity to pull completely clear of the Premier League relegation zone Marcelo Bielsa was left to rue his side's inability to turn promising positions into clear chances and goals against Newcastle United at Elland Road.

By Tony Harber
Sunday, 23rd January 2022, 10:57 am
Rodrigo was back in the Leeds United starting line-up and fires in a shot against Newcastle.
Rodrigo was back in the Leeds United starting line-up and fires in a shot against Newcastle.

The Whites could not take advantage of Newcastle having three players go off injured as they huffed and puffed without supplying the killer finish to their good approach play and became the first team to lose a home game against the Geordies this season.

A single goal on 75 minutes proved enough for the visitors to take home all the points as Jonjo Shelvey's free-kick from the edge of the box appeared to go into the net via a deflection off defender Fabian Schar.

It obviously left head coach Bielsa unhappy as he said after the game: "We had many moments to unbalance the game.

Dan James runs at two Newcastle defenders.

“We could unbalance them a lot, but we couldn't convert.

“Normally, in the games where you could score and you don't, some detail unbalances the game against you, I have the sensation that's what happened.

“Even if in the last 15 minutes we failed to create enough danger. Prior to that, in the rest of the game we had done enough to be ahead.

“We always got to the final third with ease. We could pick the final pass, whether it be from out wide or through the centre.

Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier is beaten for the only goal of the game against Newcastle.

“But, in the closing of the game we were lacking clarity. We lost the capacity to go on the outside."

Bielsa rued his decision to switch sides with his wingers.

He added: “We changed Raphinha and Harrison's sides because I saw all the play was going down the left and Raphinha is our most unbalancing player. And from there on, the opposite happened.

“From there on, the ball started going down the right where Raphinha was playing initially. That prevented us from getting in behind on both sides.

The clear foul by Diego Llorente that led to Newcastle's winning penalty at Elland Road.

“Up until that moment we had it down the right but with less balls available and we had it down the left because Harrison was making contributions. After I thought that with Tyler, Rodrigo and Gelhardt we would find passes inside the box but it didn't happen.

“That's why I think in the moment when we had the major offensive from the team because we had Harrison, Roberts, Gelhardt Rodrigo and Raphinha, plus the company of Ayling and Dallas, we didn't create sufficient danger.”

Newcastle came to win - even if was mixed with time wasting tactics that did not make them any friends in the home crowd - as they showed with the attacking line-up selected by manager Eddie Howe and their early play.

In the first six minutes Joelinton sent a chip over following a first run by danger man Allan Saint-Maximin and recent signing Chris Wood saw his near post effort deflected wide.

But Leeds settled to play some exciting football that followed on from their display and win at West Ham and got in behind their opponents countless times without being able to finish off the moves.

Their best chance came in the tenth minute when Rodrigo's clever ball in behind the Newcastle defence was met by Raphinha at the back post and his pull back gave Dan James a great opportunity, but his close range shot was well saved by Martin Dubravka.

Mateusz Klich latched onto Luke Ayling's backheel in the box only to shoot wide from a tight angle.

Jack Harrison then played in two great crosses, but the first somehow evaded everyone in the area and the second was brought down by James, but was well defended.

A minute later Raphinha's attempted curler from the edge of the box went over.

The Brazilian was in the thick of the action again when his header was blocked by Jamaal Lascelles' arm after Harrison's ball in had been deflected. No penalty was forthcoming as the defender had been close to Raphinha.

Newcastle reminded the hosts that they could be dangerous as Ryan Fraser had a shot deflected wide and when the resulting corner was only cleared to the edge of the area Shelvey sent in a superb volley that was equally well saved by Illan Meslier.

But it was Leeds looking dangerous again just after the half-hour as a brilliant run by Raphinha saw him beat two defenders with some high class dribbling skills, but his pull back was not read by his two teammates in the box and the ball was cleared.

The equally lively Rodrigo was next to go on a good run only for his angled shot to be blocked.

More promising attacks fizzled out and it was frustrating for Leeds that they were still level at the break.

Into the second half James went on a good run into the box only for his cross-cum-shot to go wide. Robin Koch then saw his angled volley easily saved.

Newcastle successfully broke the game up for a spell, however, with a succession of players going down, some genuinely injured, and it seemed to break the Whites' rhythm.

They did have a great chance to break the deadlock, though, when Harrison's shot was deflected and fell for James at the back post, but he could only direct the ball straight at Dubravka

Sean Longstaff went close with a shot from the edge of the box as the visitors finally mounted an attack in the second half before Rodrigo ran at their defence at the other end only for his shot to be deflected to be easily saved.

Leeds were happy to keep the game open and paid for it when Javier Manquillo went past Diego Llorente on the edge of the home box and was pulled to the ground by the defender. A free-kick and a booking was rightly given and from it Shelvey's strike found the net to give the Geordies a precious goal.

They defended it well in the closing stages. Ayling did get a header in that was easily saved and Rodrigo had a shot deflected wide, but after playing so well earlier on Leeds now suddenly ran out of ideas.

It was Newcastle who came closest to scoring more with Saint-Maximin causing problems every time he touched the ball and setting up good chances for Fraser and Joe Willock that were not taken, the latter as a result of a fine save by Meslier.

For Leeds it was a big step backwards after the boost of back to back wins in their previous two Premier League games and a reminder that they are not out of the woods yet in their fight to stay in the division.

Newcastle United 1

(Shelvey 75)

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Premier League

Attendance: 36,405

Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Struijk, Dallas; Koch; Raphinha, Klich (Gelhardt 80), Rodrigo, Harrison; James (Roberts 71).

Newcastle: Dubravka; Trippier, Lascelles (Clark 69), Schar, Dummett (Manquillo 63); Shelvey, Willock, Joelinton (Longstaff 41); Fraser, Saint-Maximin; Wood.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh