Despite an improved second half performance, Newcastle United slumped to another defeat in the Premier League, as they lost 1-2 to Leeds United.
1976 was the last time Leeds did the double over Newcastle, and many fans will feel that letting a newly promoted side get 6 points out of 6 is an ominous sign of things to come.
Steve Bruce went with a 5-at-the-back formation; a bizarre choice considering Bruce himself said he hoped to exploit the holes present in the Leeds defence.
The game began with both sides suffering some injury scares. Fabian Schar went to ground clutching his shoulder after a heavy challenge from Stuart Dallas. Whilst Schar was able to continue, Diego Llorente was subbed off by the visitors inside the opening 10 minutes.
Brazilian winger Raphinha opened the scoring for Leeds in the 16th minute. After a terrible mistake from Jacob Murphy lost Newcastle possession in their own half, a blistering Leeds attack soon found Raphinha, and his low driven shot beat Karl Darlow.
Newcastle fans at home began to get frustrated as the Toon squandered the very few opportunities falling to them. Jonjo Shelvey and Ryan Fraser in particular both sending the ball into the stands without troubling Illan Meslier.
Zero shots on target for the Magpies, and being dominated in possession (37% to 63%) at St James’ Park. A poor half of football played by Newcastle.
After half time however, Newcastle seemed resurged and ready to fight for a result. Miguel Almiron was moved further up the pitch to support Callum Wilson, the Paraguayan soon inspired Newcastle to finally attack Leeds.
Recording his team’s first shot on target in the 53rd minute, Almiron grabbed Newcastle’s equaliser mere minutes later. A well worked team goal saw Wilson find Almiron in the box, enabling him to fire the ball into the net at the Gallowgate End.
The lead was short lived however, as Jack Harrison, who came close in the first half, scored a great goal to restore Leeds’ lead. Questions will be asked of the Newcastle defence, in particular of Isaac Hayden and the aforementioned Murphy, as to why Harrison was allowed so much space on Newcastle’s right flank.
Newcastle pushed harder for another equaliser, with Allan Saint-Maximin being subbed on showed signs that the Magpies would not accept defeat just yet. A rare occasion that all four of ASM, Fraser, Wilson, and Almiron comprised the Newcastle attack at the same time.
No equaliser came however, despite close efforts from Schar (doing his best Ronald Koeman impression) and Jamaal Lascelles in the closing moments of the game. The home slide slumping to their 11th game in a row without victory.
For moments in the second half, viewers got to see the Newcastle side that fans had demanded to see all season long: properly utilising the attacking potential they had, and not choosing to keel over the moment they went behind to a more attacking side.
Tactics let Newcastle down however, with Bruce’s substitution of Murphy for Saint-Maximin arguably coming too late, sticking with the hit-or-miss defensive shape, and having Wilson completely isolated as a lone striker. Bruce has the building blocks for success at Newcastle United, but if he can’t put the pieces together, the only outcome will be relegation for the North East side.
Newcastle’s run of games doesn’t get any easier either. In order, the Magpies will face Everton, Crystal Palace, Southampton, Chelsea, and then Manchester United in their next 5 league games. One wouldn’t expect Bruce to scrape a total of 3 points out of these games combined, could Newcastle be resigning themselves to a similar fate they suffered back in the 2015/16 season? Too little, too late in their decision making and dropping vital points, things are looking gloomy on Tyneside to say the least.