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EXCLUSIVE| Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen: "Newport a good candidate for promotion."

23 August 2017

Leeds United manager Thomas Christiansen says he thinks Newport County AFC can “be a good candidate for promotion” if they replicate the performance shown at Elland Road in the Carabao Cup second round tie.

Exiles captain Joss Labadie gave County the lead on 33 minutes, with a fine 25-yard strike that squirmed underneath Leeds goalkeeper Rob Green.

Christiansen’s men ultimately fought back to win the game 5-1, Kemar Roofe getting a hat-trick, along with goals from substitute Samu Saiz and Ronaldo Vieira. 

But Christiansen said he was impressed with the challenge that the Exiles brought to his side, tipping them for success at the end of the season.

“First, I have to be honest and say I don’t know too many teams in League 2,” he said.

“But from what I saw in the Newport team tonight, then it’s clear that it is a strong team with good players and a good manager. If all the teams are like this, then it’s going to be a strong league.

“Having said that, I believe Newport, with the attitude that they showed against us, the way they made it difficult for us, can be one of the good candidates for promotion at the end of the season.

A testament to the Exiles performance was seen in the substitutions that Christiansen brought on in the second half.

Club captain Liam Cooper was brought into the game on the hour, with Samu Saiz and Ezgjan Alioski also taking to the field.

Saiz especially, a £3 million summer addition from Huesca, has been a revelation for the Whites so far this season. His hat-trick in round one of the Carabao Cup against Port Vale was followed up with a goal at Sunderland on the weekend.

Alioski, another summer addition for £3.2 million, is also tipped to star for the Whites this season, especially now with the departure of fellow attacker Chris Wood.

As such, the Exiles can take great credit from his choice of substitutions, something Christiansen also alluded to post-match.  

“Newport didn’t stop fighting so I changed things a little bit,” he added.

“Our players, Alioski and Samu Saiz, enjoy playing and having an impact on every game and you saw when they came on that they try to play nice football.

“I knew it would be effective to bring those two on towards the end of the match with the way the game was going and that is what we needed in a tough game.”

Roofe’s goals came at pivotal points in the game. The 24-year-old, who could also be a replacement for the departed Chris Wood, scored his first just 90 seconds before the break.

He followed that up with another goal on 49 minutes, completing his hat-trick with a fine overhead kick just after the hour.

And Christiansen said he was pleased to have Roofe performing at a high-level in a tough contest.

“I was happy for him, especially for the importance of the goals that he scored,” he added.

“The first one right before half-time was very important and then also in the second-half it made a real difference to the balance of the game, so I was pleased with that.

“He is a great player, good quality, and today we also saw that he had the goals too.

“I believe the third goal was the best of them, but we have scored some nice goals since I have come here to Leeds. I cannot say which is the best, but it was a really good goal and we needed it because Newport were looking dangerous.”

Christiansen admitted post-match that he was nervous about suffering a shock cup-exit following Labadie’s opener, especially as he felt the Exiles matched his team for a large majority of the game.

He was particularly impressed with the battling belief of the team, and was happy to navigate the tough test presented in order to reach the third round draw.

He commented: “Newport made it really tough in the first-half, didn’t give us much spaces. Okay we didn’t play well in that first-half but I want to congratulate them for playing so well in the first-half especially.

“We went down in the score, which made it a little more complicated but we didn’t play well in the first-half, we didn’t do the things that I wanted the team to do.

“In the second half, after speaking to the players and telling them what to do then it changed the game completely, we created more opportunities and scored some good goals.

He continued: “The game showed what this competition can bring. It’s very nice, because things like that can happen and there are always surprises in these competitions.

“No games are easy; you have to do something special if you want to win the game.

“Newport gave everything to the game, which made us give our everything to win the game, especially in the second-half. Credit to them for their performance.”

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