Jacob Murphy was Steve Bruce’s only positive against Leeds on Wednesday night with the Newcastle United midfielder offering a solid display in a makeshift defensive role.
The Toon were tormented in West Yorkshire with goals from Patrick Bamford, Rodrigo, Stuart Dallas, Ezgjan Alioski and Jack Harrison sealing Marcelo Bielsa’s men only their second win at home since returning to the Premier League this summer.
Bruce was fuming at the performance seen from his players after the game, more so than the scoreline itself, feeling the Magpies’ defending was akin to the level of defending “you see on a park on a Sunday”.
Newcastle were dominated throughout the affair yet found themselves level at 2-2 and within reach of stealing a win, yet were blasted on the break by three quickfire goals as Leeds set about picking the Toon off on the counter.
The Magpies had no answer for the pace at which Leeds broke in the closing stages, with Harrison’s 25-yeard screamer only rubbing salt in the wounds of a sorry Newcastle side.
“Leeds are always going to ask you questions the way they play, they do it very well, but we’ve gifted them the two or three goals at the end. Unfortunately, they’re something which you see on a park on a Sunday,” Bruce said after the game, via quotes by BBC Sport.
“We can’t make those mistakes we’ve made here. At the wrong time we’ve given away poor goals, not defended well enough and got punished. It’s unacceptable.”
Murphy is by no means a natural defender yet was called on to go man-to-man with Harrison on Wednesday night after stepping onto the stage and delivering a sublime inch-perfect cross for Dwight Gayle to score the winner over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
The 25-year-old, who Bruce believes has “improved enormously”, had started just four of Newcastle’s opening Premier League fixtures before visiting Elland Road, where he was given the first minutes of his senior career as a right-back.
Harrison had his way with Murphy as a result of his inexperience, yet there were many positives Bruce could take from his overall display.
Murphy was able to register two key balls at Elland Road, just one fewer than the Toon’s most creative players Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson, despite only completing five of his 15 passes, per SofaScore.
He further connected with a Magpies teammate with two of his four crosses, created a big chance to score, registered a shot on Illan Meslier’s goal, completed six of his eight dribbles and came out on top in eight of his 12 ground duels.
The £3.15m-rated winger did his best to help defensively with one successful tackle and three interceptions – the second-most by a Newcastle player to Isaac Hayden (4) – and Bruce should see reason to take positives away from Murphy’s display in what was rather a baptism of fire for an attack-minded player to be asked to turn defender against Leeds.