Nick Pope solidified his claim for an England spot was as he went from ZERO to HERO vs Leeds

The Magpies shot-stopper was imperious once again…

Newcastle United ceded ground for the second successive week in the Premier League but avoided defeat at a raucous Elland Road and preserved their advantage in the race for Champions League qualification.

Advancing to 66 points after 35 matches, Newcastle retain their place in third and perch four points above fifth-placed Liverpool; effectively, two wins from the remaining three matches would be enough to secure a top-four place.

Eddie Howe’s side were uncharacteristically stagnant in their defensive duties early on and allowed a slick Leeds manoeuvre to result in Luke Ayling thumping into the net from close range despite a fine save from shot-stopper Nick Pope to prevent the initial headed effort from Rodrigo.

It was a frenetic affair that saw the Magpies clamber back to lead through the in-form Callum Wilson’s brace from the penalty spot, after Whites striker Patrick Bamford saw his effort saved in the first half, squandering the sterling opportunity to double his outfit’s lead.

Defeat certainly could have been on the cards, but Pope once more cut an imperious figure between the sticks, commanding and composed, and secured what could prove to be an invaluable point on the road.

How did Pope perform against Leeds?

Pope has been nothing short of a revelation since his summer arrival from Burnley for just£10m. Unflappable between the sticks, the 31-year-old has made35appearances in the Premier League and kept 13 clean sheets.

Against Leeds, he was integral once again, recording a match rating of 6.9 – as perSofascore– and making two saves, three clearances, winning both his high claims and succeeding on both occasions when running out, with reporter Dominic Scurr stating he came “to the rescue” for his side with his massive penalty save.

The£60k-per-weektitan’s ball-playing aptitude was also vital to ensuring the Tyneside outfit swiftly found success on the transition, making 22 touches, completing 91% of his passes and succeeding with three of his four attempted long balls.

Theten-capEngland international was given an 8/10 match rating byNewcastle World, who said: “Beaten by Ayling and a deflected Kristensen shot but can’t be faulted. A vital save from Bamford’s penalty before reacting to the rebound.”

Over the past year, Pope ranks among the top 7% of goalkeepers across Europe’s top five leagues over the past 365 days for save percentage and the top 14% for crosses stopped per 90, as perFBref, with such metrics underscored yet again by his confident display at the foot of Howe’s team.

The importance of the next three games cannot be understated for the success of Newcastle’s season, but with Pope exuding confidence in abundance, that coveted goal of returning to Champions League football might just be achieved.

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