Leeds frustrated by Shearer's late strike

Leeds United 2 Newcastle United 2
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The Independent Football

Alan Shearer maintained his remarkable scoring vendetta against Leeds and the Yorkshire club preserved an unbeaten record on the opening day since Newcastle thumped them 5-2 in 1989. Yet there was no question of both sides being equally satisfied with the outcome of yesterday's richly entertaining encounter at Elland Road.

A scoreline beyond the pre-match hopes of all but the most optimistic of Leeds followers eventually came as a bitter anticlimax. Peter Reid's makeshift side, who had failed to win any of their six pre-season friendlies, were two minutes away from defeating Newcastle when Shearer struck for a second time.

Frustratingly for Reid, a mix-up between his central defenders allowed the former England captain an easy equaliser. Shearer has now scored 19 times for Blackburn and Newcastle against Leeds, more than any other club.

The point was no less than Newcastle, the more fluid outfit, deserved. After going ahead with a Shearer penalty in the first half, they were pegged back by Mark Viduka and fell behind early in the second period to an Alan Smith goal. But Sir Bobby Robson rang the changes, the black shirts attacked in waves and the pressure finally told on Leeds

In truth, there was much to please both managers. In the French-Senegalese newcomer Lamine Sakho, signed on a year's loan from Marseilles, Reid looks to have unearthed a forward of pace and flair. Leeds also expect to land Jermaine Pennant, the Arsenal and England Under-21 winger, on a two-month loan in the next 24 hours.

Jody Morris, recruited on a free transfer from Chelsea, was industry personified in midfield, while Dominic Matteo was outstanding at left-back and the front two carried a significant threat.

Just as well for Robson, then, that Jonathan Woodgate played with such authority at the heart of Newcastle's defence on his first return to Leeds. Woodgate, having made plain his reluctance to leave Elland Road, was cheered by his former fans.

Lee Bowyer received an altogether more hostile reception after joining West Ham rather than re-sign for Leeds. Ironically, Bowyer's substitution was the signal for Newcastle's late surge.

Robson was heartened, too, by the pace and vitality demonstrated by the likes of Kieron Dyer and Craig Bellamy after their Champions' League haul to Partizan Belgrade in midweek. Bellamy and Gary Speed, the third of Newcastle's ex-Leeds contingent, fly back to the Serbian capital with Wales today, part of a taxing schedule that continues with Manchester United's visit on Saturday lunchtime.

Bowyer at least played a part in Newcastle's opener. Taking Speed's long cross-field pass, he swiftly fed Bellamy, who instantaneously picked out Dyer's penetrating run. Lucas Radebe pulled down the England player, his relief at not being cautioned giving way to anguish as Shearer beat Paul Robinson from the spot.

Leeds were not behind long enough for gloom to descend. Speed gifted possession to Morris, whose pass was neatly laid off by Sakho to Viduka. The centre-forward, second favourite behind the discarded Danny Mills to be the next player sold, fired unerringly into the corner of the net from just inside the area for his 14th goal in 10 matches.

Another, more serious, error led to Leeds' second. Without looking to see where Shay Given was, Olivier Bernard headed the ball back in the keeper's direction. Smith, who collected only three Premiership goals last season, stole in between them and scored with a low shot.

Leeds, showing a spirit seldom evident under Terry Venables last winter, switched to 4-5-1 and tried to hold out. They had survived more probing crosses than the one swung in by Aaron Hughes, but Radebe mis-headed a ball looked set to be dealt with by Zoumana Camara. The ball fell obligingly for Shearer, who prodded the ball in from four yards.

Robson claimed he was "quite happy with a point" though he was "looking for three" even in stoppage time. As for Reid, he admitted he had been worried about facing a team that had won their three previous games at Leeds. Until, that is, he saw his players training on Saturday. "There was a real spark about them," he said, doubtless wondering where it had been hiding all summer.

Goals: Shearer pen (19) 0-1; Viduka (24) 1-1; Smith (57) 2-1; Shearer (88) 2-2.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Robinson 7; Kelly 6, Camara 5, Radebe 6, Matteo 8; Wilcox 5 (Batty 5, 74), Morris 7, Seth Johnson 5, Sakho 7 (Domi 5, 60); Smith 7, Viduka 7. Substitutes not used: Lennon, Milner, Martyn (gk).

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given 7; Hughes 7, O'Brien 6, Woodgate 8, Bernard 4 (Jenas 6, 74); Bowyer 5 (Ameobi 6, 73), Dyer 8, Speed 7, Robert 5 (Solano, 84); Bellamy 6, Shearer 6. Substitutes not used: Griffin, Harper (gk).

Referee: A Wiley (Burntwood, Staffs) 6.

Bookings: Leeds: Wilcox, Johnson, Morris, Domi. Newcastle: Woodgate, Bellamy.

Man of the match: Matteo.

Attendance: 36,766.