Newcastle 1 Leeds 1
How the scoreline failed to emulate something more akin to the outcome of a basketball match will remain one of this season’s enduring mysteries. There was no case for either defence at St James’ Park.
In mitigation, Leeds were missing three of their four centre-backs. What Newcastle’s excuse was for such regular dereliction of defensive duties, goodness only knows.
Both sides were often irresistible when they went forward, only to go from the sublime to the ridiculous when it came to applying the finishing touch. Leeds were, well, Leeds - probing and pulsating in purple patches. By way of balance, Allan Saint Maximin put on the latest in a long line of simply breath-taking displays that are in danger of ending the career of an unsuspecting centre-back.
A share of the spoils did little to improve either side’s mood should they care to look at the Premier League standings. Both remain winless, in the visitors’ case the first time they have gone five league games without a victory under Marcelo Bielsa.
They remain a point above Newcastle, however, after a rollercoaster of a night which saw home supporters acclaim their heroes while also mercilessly berating Steve Bruce in equal measure.
The second-half could never hope to live up to the sheer spectacle of the first, but it still had its moments. Karl Darlow tipped over Dan James’ goal-bound cross as the Welshman want close to marking his debut with a goal, while Illan Meslier saved brilliantly at his near post from the seemingly ubiquitous Saint-Maximin.
Calls for the manager’s head had begun to cascade well before the deadlock was broken in the 13th minute as the Elland Road club took the lead for the first time this season.
Their goal merely helped to cranked up the volume from the stands at the beleaguered boss as his predictably porous defence shipped another eminently preventable goal.
Accepting a pass from Patrick Bamford wide on the right, Raphinha’s deep curling cross should have been easily intercepted. However, skipper Jamaal Lascelles simply watched as Rodrigo cleverly dummied the innocuous centre on its way to finding the corner of the net past an equally unreactive Darlow.
Newcastle responded positively, and Miguel Almiron ought to have done better when firing a shot across the face of goal before a scrambling Illan Meslier saved well with his feet when Joelinton, met a Maximin cross which somehow managed to make it all the way to the far post.
A striker of any standing would have given the Leeds goalkeeper no chance and it looked to be the kind of opening the hosts would regret failing to take as they were immediately harried and hassled once again onto the backfoot.
A second Leeds goal appeared nailed on, but Rodrigo passed the ball the wrong side of the post from 18 yards after more defensive uncertainty.
There was an air of desperation about Darlow’s save from Mateusz Klich at the culmination of Leeds being allowed to manoeuvre the ball 80 yards in the blink of an eye, but for all their attacking prowess, Bielsa’s side remain more than charitable themselves in their inability to shut the back door.
With Isaac Hayden increasingly influential after being pushed forward into midfield, Matt Ritchie was desperately unfortunate not to restore parity when Luke Ayling deflected his low 18 yarder onto the inside of Meslier’s right-hand upright, but Leeds’ luck eventually ran out a minute before the interval.
Joe Willock and Joelinton combined down the left to tee-up Saint-Maximin, who provided the almost obligatory double shimmy to ward-off would-be challenges as he shuffled stealthily across the edge of the area before beating Meslier with a rapier-like angled drive into the bottom corner.
NEWCASTLE (5-4-1): Darlow 6; Manquillo 6 (Krafth 81, 6), Hayden 7, Lascelles 6, Clark 6, Ritchie 7; Almiron 6 (Fraser 62, 6), Willock 6, S Longstaff 5, Joelinton 6 (Murphy 90, 5); Saint-Maximin 8.
LEEDS (4-1-4-1): Meslier 8; Dallas 7, Ayling 7 (Shackleton 89, 6), Cooper 6, Firpo 7; Phillips 7; Raphinha 8 (Summerville 68, 6), Klich 7, Rodrigo 7, James 5 (Roberts 61, 6); Bamford 6.
Referee: M Dean.