It might have been a nerve-wracking win for Leeds United, but it was a win nonetheless.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side clung onto a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United in the Premier League on Tuesday night, courtesy of strikes from Raphinha and Jack Harrison.
Raphinha in particular looked dangerous, scoring one and then setting up Harrison’s winner with a delightful ball in behind the Magpies defence.
But whilst the Brazilian showed why Leeds spent big money to bring him in from Ligue 1 side Rennes in the summer, it was Illan Meslier who really produced a match-winning display for the Whites.
The Frenchman, who joined on a permanent basis last summer, was in inspired form in between the sticks, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that particularly in the second-half, he was the sole reason why Leeds kept a hold of all three points.
The £10.8m-rated ace made a number of crucial stops, not least an acrobatic stop to tip over a thumping Jonjo Shelvey header from an inswinging corner.
And then, with just ten minutes to go, he made a sprawling one-handed save to deny Fabian Schar from equalising and snatching a point for the home side.
It was a credit to the giant French stopper that he took a couple of hefty blows to the face – including a really painful looking knee to the jaw from Jacob Murphy – and still kept strong.
Writing for The Yorkshire Evening Post, Graham Smyth gave Meslier a match rating of 8, saying: “One or two dicey moments but he made some really important saves to keep Leeds ahead in the game. The one from Shelvey was top class”.
Smyth said: “He’s been great, hasn’t he? For a 20-year-old, for £5m, I mean Victor Orta – it feels almost illegal what he’s done getting a player of that quality at that age for £5m, remarkable business.”
Orta must be absolutely buzzing with how his bargain signing continues to fare. Leeds struck a dream deal in bringing Meslier in permanently in the summer, given how cheap they got him for. And after he came back into the line-up against Newcastle, and produced some match-winning saves, it’s so clear that he seems to be worth every penny.
So whilst Raphinha may take a lot of the headlines for being involved in both of Leeds’ goals, but it was Bielsa’s titan at the back that really sealed the Whites three points.