Hat-trick hero Roofe raises hopes of life after Wood for Leeds United
Who needs Chris Wood was the question as Leeds United put five past Newport County in the first game since his departure.
Kemar Roofe was the main beneficiary from Wood’s absence as started in the striker role and responded with a 21 minute hat-trick either side of half-time in the second round Carabao Cup tie.
He came within a whisker of a fourth after also hitting the crossbar with an audacious chip, but Samuel Saiz and Ronaldo Vieira did score in the last 12 minutes in a 5-1 success.
All this after Newport scored first through Joss Labadie and had several more chances to embarrass Leeds before the Whites took control after the break.
The Welsh League Two side were a credit to their division and after surviving an early shot from Madger Gomes that fizzed just past the post they carved out a succession of chances and half-chances.
Sean Rigg went through in the eighth minute only for his angled drive to be well saved by home keeper Robert Green - one of nine changes to the United team from last Saturday.
Shawn McCoulsky then saw a header more comfortably saved by Green before Reynolds’ weak shot from the edge of the box was also easily dealt with.
Roofe’s first major contribution came on 21 minutes when he came up with a good run and low cross that was met by a back flick by Gomes, but visiting keeper Joe Day kept the ball out of the net.
The action quickly switched to the other end and McCoulsky saw a close range volley headed off the line by Vurnon Anita. Seconds later a long range shot was deflected wide.
In an open contest it was Leeds’ turn to go close with Luke Ayling’s 30-yard shot flying inches wide and Roofe twisting and turning in the box only to see his near post shot saved by Day.
Newport stunned the home crowd as they went ahead on 33 minutes when Labadie appeared to get away with a foul on Vieira to win the ball, but then let fly with a low shot from 25 yards out. Green seemed to have it covered comfortably, but could only help the ball into his net, ruining his return to the first team.
The lead was only to last 11 minutes with Leeds levelling just before half-time. A corner was met by Conor Shaughnessy and after Day saved the ball was headed back into the middle by Ayling where Roofe was on hand to net from close range.
In injury-time Newport could have scored again when Ben White’s glancing header went wide.
Leeds have been making a habit of improving for the second half of home games and they did it again, going in front within four minutes as Roofe finished smartly after Stuart Dallas’s cross had been palmed out by Day.
Newport almost hit straight back with Reynolds onto a quick break, but he fired his shot wide from the edge of the box.
But Leeds were showing more confidence in their play now and Roofe was agonisingly denied by the woodwork after he attempted a clever chip from distance that caught the keeper out.
Rigg brought a save out of Green at the other end after finding space on the edge of the box, but two minutes later the hosts were 3-1 up and Roofe had his hat-trick with a brilliant overhead kick after Ayling’s cross had been just behind him.
The Whites were rampant now and Dallas played a one-two in the area only to shoot into the side netting.
They made it 4-1 when substitute Saiz produced a smart driven shot into the bottom corner of the net after Cameron Borthwick-Jackson’s low cross had only been half cleared to the edge of the box.
Saiz lit up Elland Road again with some clever touches and it was entertaining stuff for the healthy 17,000 crowd.
Newport briefly threatened a comeback as Joe Quigley, possibly illegally, outmuscled Borthwick-Jackson to get in behind the home defence only to screw his shot wide.
More goals could also have come at both ends in the closing stages as Dallas saw a close range shot saved, Ezgjan Alioski had a free-kick beaten away and Dallas’ goalbound shot was headed clear while Newport’s Frank Nouble turned Ayling inside out before shooting wide from an angle and Ayling headed off his line following a long throw.
But it was Leeds who had the last say when Saiz’s cross was headed down by Liam Cooper and smashed home by Vieira.
United head coach Thomas Christiansen was pleased to make it through to the third round and to have had a look at some players on the fringes of his first team.
He said: “I’m very satisfied with the result and pleased we came from 1-0 down to win 5-1.
“I am a bit disappointed we didn’t play so well in the first half, but we were much better in the second half.
“I’m satisfied with the players who didn’t play in the league or didn’t get many minutes.
“It was important for a player like Stokes to come from the under 23s and get some minutes.
“We know the quality of Kemar Roofe and knew what he could give in his first appearance as a striker. To score three goals were very good.
“They were nice goals, but also they were very important for the team.
“He could be an option up front if you see the way he played today. He gives me other solutions, we can play in behind, or to feet.”
Leeds United 5
(Roofe 44, 49, 65, Saiz 78, Vieira 89)
Newport County 1
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Carabao Cup, round two
Leeds: Green, Anita (Cooper 60), Shaughnessy, Ayling, Borthwick-Jackson, Dallas, Vieira, Klich, Stokes (Saiz 66), Gomes, Roofe (Alioski 75).
Newport: Day, Pipe, O’Brien, Demetriou, White, Willmott, Labadie, Dolan, Rigg (Tozer 71), Reynolds (Quigley 71), McCoulsky (Nouble 54).
Referee: Ross Joyce.