Top class Leeds and Newcastle

Published: Monday, 22 August 2022

I can’t remember enjoying a day of PL football quite as much. What a day (Sunday) - and fair play to both Leeds and Newcastle for taking lead roles in making it so.

Let’s start with the Toon. They were terrific. I said on beINSPORTS at half time that they’d played as well as any team I could think of over 40 minutes against the champions.

I say 40 minutes because City were a goal up in five of course. Newcastle could easily have folded. The game plan could very easily have gone out of the window. But no - they shook themselves down and caused City all sorts of problems for the rest of the half. And they went in deservedly leading.

West Ham had a really good go at City at the back end of last season. They led 2-0 at ht - but I made Newcastle’s near-half more impressive because they’d already conceded. And they should’ve had a penalty. Anywhere else on the pitch John Stones clumsy challenge on Schar is a free-kick. So why isn’t it when that sort of thing happens on the box? Refs will tell you ‘because there’s got to be a higher threshold in the box’ Why? It doesn’t say that in the laws of the game. It was a foul. It should’ve been a pen.

If I’m being picky there’s no way Ederson should let Trippier’s free-kick in. It’s his side. The ball didn’t go round - or over the wall. It went adjacent to it. Ederson’s positioning was awful.

Having said that I’m glad Trippier scored. The atmosphere was terrific inside the ground - just as it used to be - and it gave City a big problem.

But the one thing you know is that the Champions will come back at you. I’m sure they’ll face similar - perhaps worse situations in the CL this season - so it was a good challenge for them. And I think they’d have won it if Trippier had rightly been sent-off. There was no need for VAR to get involved. Jarred Gillet got it right. Did he make a ‘clear and obvious’ error? No. Ok, so Trippier’s lunge turned into a trip - but it was wild and it was excessive. He was definitely threatening the well being of an opponent. So stay out of it VAR. And, of course, we all know the outcome when a ref goes to the monitor, because Mike Riley has instructed everybody that VAR makes the final decision. I just wish Gillet had had the bollocks to stay with his original call - but he knows full well that he wouldn’t be involved next weekend had he done so. It’s all so wrong.

Btw - the ‘tactical’ foul is the curse of the modern game - and something has got to be done about it. That’s another reason why Trippier should’ve gone.

In the end - honours were even and probably rightly so. The next step Newcastle have got to make is to be able to do that when the likes Bournemouth come to town and the atmosphere isn’t anywhere near as electric, but Eddie Howe appears to be making genuine progress at the club.

For some the fact that Leeds ran 11k further than Chelsea explained why they won. Nonsense. I get it - so much emphasis is placed on stats and sports science these days that it’s inevitable these measures will keep coming up. Ten Months had United running all last Sunday to get near to the figures Brentford produced. But not covering kms wasn’t why United lost to them.

I’m with Tuchel.  ‘it was nothing to do with pressing,’ he said. ‘Nothing to do with running less kms and nothing to do with the style of Leeds. I don’t see that an own goal and a set-piece are anything to do with style’. Spot on. And let’s not forget Chelsea should’ve been two up before Leeds had barely had a sniff of the ball. Leeds wouldn’t have covered anything like the distance that they did then.

But it was a great win. And Elland Road is a brilliant arena when it’s full and jumping like it was. Marsch might just have started to win Leeds’ fans over. I certainly hope so. I said before the season started that I like the guy - but I know I’m in the minority with that view.

I think it’s his slavish belief in stats that puts ‘football’ people off. He loves talking about a players’ HMLD. High metabolic load distance. Nope. Nor me!

But good luck to him. The PL needs teams like Leeds and Newcastle - and the excitement they can generate on days like Sunday.

And so we wait with baited breath. What will Monday evening bring us? Are a United fans expecting anything other than a good hiding from Liverpool again? What if that happens? Will we even get a game? I’ll tell you this - if we don’t - Klopp is right - Liverpool should be awarded the points. Fine - United fans can demonstrate if they like - but if they force the game off there should be a price to pay for that. I hope those that were responsible for last seasons disgraceful scenes are aware of the consequences their words can have.