Jonjo Shelvey’s free-kick proved to be the difference as Newcastle secured a morale-boosting 1-0 win over Leeds at Elland Road to keep their survival hopes alive.

Jonjo Shelvey’s free-kick goal on the 75-minute mark handed Eddie Howe’s side their second victory of the season at Leeds and pushed them ahead of relegation rivals Watford to 18th place in the Premier League standings. The game had a lively opening, with the hosts imposing their tempo on Newcastle and having better goalscoring opportunities.

The visitors were undoubtedly grateful to Martin Dubravka, whose close-range save from Daniel James kept the game level as Newcastle battled to get out of their own half, unsure of possession and intent. Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession after the interval, Leeds could not find a breakthrough, with Raphinha, Jack Harrison and James all having chances.

Their inability to make the pressure count ultimately proved costly at the end, as Newcastle rallied in the second half, with Allan Saint-Maximin and Joe Willock the protagonists making their exciting lung-busting runs, while the tandem of Kieran Trippier and Ryan Fraser were continuously putting in quality crosses from the right. The winning goal was a moment to savour for Shelvey, who lined up the shot and curled it around the wall past a hapless Illan Meslier as Newcastle recorded their first victory of 2022.

Newcastle United had lost three players to injury by the conclusion of a gruelling afternoon at Elland Road, with Fraser suffering an ankle injury and Willock appearing to struggle to sprint. Still the Magpies showed determination, grit, team spirit and stood firm to keep their lead intact. The Hard Tackle will now run the rule over both sets of players.

Leeds United

Illan Meslier: 6/10 

Did not have a lot of work to do in between the sticks, but his stop to prevent a Jonjo Shelvey volley in the first half was spectacular. He made a flurry of comfortable saves but should have done better with Shelvey’s free-kick, although a couple of onrushing players could have blocked his view.

Luke Ayling: 6.5/10

Ayling pushed himself forward to support attacks, but he did not find himself in a position to create anything noteworthy. He handled the threat of Saint-Maximin quite nicely. Overall, the stand-in captain did well on both ends of the pitch.

Diego Llorente: 6/10

Diego Llorente’s return brought composure to the Whites’ defence as he read the danger well and snuffed it out. The Spaniard kept good spells of possession and his distribution was superb as Leeds often forayed forward with his switches of play. He battled with the physicality of Chris Wood but hauled back Javier Manquillo to give away a cheap free-kick in a dangerous position which led to the decisive goal. Big mistake.

Pascal Struijk: 7/10

Not as eye-catching as Llorente, but similar to his defensive partner, Struijk had a tidy display. He stood up strong against the aerial and physical potency of Wood. He forms a very reliable pairing alongside Llorente for Marcelo Bielsa’s side.

Stuart Dallas: 6/10

Dallas put in another strong defensive showing, giving Ryan Fraser very little space and room to work with. Although at times he was too strong on the Scotsman and got a needless booking. He did not have much joy in the final third since Trippier pinned him back.

Mateusz Klich: 6/10

Klich had his standout moments, with some nice passing and interplays, but could not make a big influence on the game. He was brilliant in the first half, providing attacking support from deep, but could not link defence and attack in the second half and was fairly anonymous.

Robin Koch: 6/10

Koch was deployed in a slightly more advanced position and had 3 shots, of which 1 was on target. At times looked out of position and was not mobile enough for the holding role, but was solid overall.

Jack Harrison: 6/10

Harrison seemed very quiet except for a few good crosses in the first half. He enjoyed some nice possession down the left flank in the opening half whenever the Whites switched the play as Trippier struggled to keep up with the bustling winger. However, Harrison did drift out of the match in the second half and could not provide an outlet.

Rodrigo: 4/10

Deployed in the No. 10 role, Rodrigo struggled to get to the grips with the game and looked rusty on his return to the starting XI. Many a time, he delayed a pass or took an extra touch. He failed to combine with James effectively and could not produce the goods in the attacking third.

Raphinha: 7/10

Leeds’ best player on the pitch by miles, he was at the centre of everything good for the Whites and created all sorts of problems for Newcastle’s left-back Paul Dummett. However, his end product and final ball were missing as he could not test Martin Dubravka’s goal well enough. He could not make a bigger impact in the latter stages of the game and was  kept relatively quiet by Newcastle.

Daniel James: 5/10

James was again very ineffective in the striker role and did not look dangerous inside the penalty box. Although he showed glimpses of good link-up play, pressed intensely and ran his socks off to track back, he failed to lead the line with poise. Picked up a silly booking for a nasty challenge on Dubravka.

Substitutes

Tyler Roberts: 5/10

Subbed on just before Newcastle’s goal and failed to impact the game’s flow. He tried to combine with his teammates, but to no avail.

Joe Gelhardt: NA/10

A late replacement for Klich.

Newcastle United

Martin Dubravka: 7/10

Dubravka was scarcely put into action in the opening half apart from making a superb block to deny Klich. The Slovakian was a commanding presence in and around the Newcastle box and came up strong to claim his catches late in the game as Newcastle withstood Leeds’ pressure.

Kieran Trippier: 7/10

Trippier put in another very impressive display and has made a huge difference to shore up this leaky backline. The right-back made some excellent forward passes and carried the ball nicely. His off-the-ball intelligence, defensive abilities and vocal presence are particularly noteworthy. He fought hard defensively and ended the game with 3 tackles, 3 interceptions and 4 clearances.

Jamaal Lascelles: 5/10

Leeds’ buzzing attackers proved too much for Lascelles, as he looked nervous in possession. Despite this, he made some vital blocks and five clearances before being forced off due to injury.

Fabian Schär: 9/10

Man of the Match. The Swiss centre-back was a rock in the Magpies’ defensive line, making several decent blocks and interceptions. One of his underrated qualities is his superb reading of the game, as he was always in the right position at the right time to sweep the threat clear. Though he struggled at times against a swift Leeds attack, he held firm in the game’s final stages. He completed a match-high 9 clearances.

Paul Dummett: 5/10

He appeared to be weary in the second half and limped off with an injury. Undoubtedly, Dummett offers more defensive solidity than other left-back options. However, he struggled a bit to contain Raphinha and was quite easily beaten on several occasions.

Jonjo Shelvey: 8/10

Shelvey anchored the midfield very well, especially in the second half. He was another player who put in a real shift to hang onto three points. Overall, he was a significant threat on the other end and almost scored with a volley before hammering home the decisive free-kick. He possesses undeniable quality on the ball but needs to be more consistent with his passing to dominate games.

Joe Willock: 7.5/10

Willock was completely lacking in confidence in the first half, squandering a bunch of half-chances when the ball went his way in promising areas. Still, his ability to keep running, carry the ball, and move box-to-box was a huge asset as he showed glimpses of the player he was last season. His energy and powerful running proved vital in releasing pressure on the backline.

Joelinton: 6/10

Joelinton has a handful of shots on goal and good recoveries of possession before being forced to leave due to a knee injury. He looked decent up to that point.

Ryan Fraser: 6.5/10

Fraser put up a warrior-like performance as, at one moment, he looked shattered to bits in the second half due to fatigue but battled through the pain barrier. His diminutive size and agile nature helped him attract fouls, and he utilized it quite well to release pressure on his side. He combines quite well with Trippier on the right flank and put in a teasing low cross into the box for Chris Wood.

Allan Saint-Maximin: 7/10

The Frenchman put up another electric performance as he always looked dangerous when he was on the ball, running at the defenders with pace and power and trying to create something out of nothing. He just lacks that end product and killer instincts to get lethal shots on goal. He completed 4 key passes on the evening but would be disappointed to get no shots on target.

Chris Wood: 6/10

Wood was marshalled by the Leeds defenders and was not involved much in general play. Despite a lacklustre return to Elland Road, the New Zealander literally won everything in the air, resulting in flick-ons for Saint-Maximin and Fraser to pounce upon. His hold up play was inconsistent, and it never looked like he was going to score, but he kept plugging away and helped his team defend corners. Won a massive 14 aerial balls overall.

Substitutes

Sean Longstaff: 7/10

Longstaff put in a great effort and dug deep to hold onto the lead. He ran like a maniac and covered every inch of grass for his team’s benefit. He completed 2 tackles and 2 interceptions.

Javier Manquillo: 7.5/10

Manquillo filled in at left-back after coming on as a substitute for Paul Dummett, and he never looked uncomfortable on his unfavoured flank. A superb cameo as he kept Raphinha in his back pocket during the final quarter of the game. He also won the all-important free-kick for the goal with a bursting forward run.

Ciaran Clark: 6.5/10

Clark looked steady at the back after coming on for the injured captain for the last 20 minutes and helped protect the clean sheet.

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