FA Carling Premiership
Leeds United 2 - 0 Sheffield Wednesday
(Half-time: 0 - 0)
|« Blackburn Rovers||Lokomotiv Moscow »|
|Leeds United||Martyn, Mills, Woodgate, Radebe, Kelly, Batty, Bowyer, McPhail, Kewell, Bridges (Huckerby 62), Smith||Robinson, Haaland, Hopkin, Bakke|
|Sheffield Wednesday||Srnicek, Atherton, Walker, Thome, Hinchcliffe, Alexandersson, Sonner, Jonk, Rudi, Booth, De Bilde||Sibon, Cresswell, Nolan, Briscoe, Pressman|
|Leeds United||Smith 72, 78|
|Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Leeds United||Bridges, Kewell|
|Sheffield Wednesday||Atherton, Rudi, Sonner|
|Leeds United||Sheffield Wednesday|
|Shirt numbers of goalscorers||17, 17||0|
|Jabba||You make your own luck|
|Nick Allen||vs Sheffield Wednesday|
|The Observer||Smith's great late show|
|The Guardian||Srnicek's slip helps O'Leary's whites look dazzling|
|The Electronic Telegraph||Srnicek's blunder helps Leeds equal club record|
|The Times||Leeds weather Wednesday storm|
|The Sunday Times||Leeds lucky to win|
|Express Sport||Smith's finish puts false gloss on lucky Leeds|
|Yorkshire Evening Post||Smith poaches win for "lucky" O'Leary|
|BBC||Leeds 2 - 0 Sheffield Wednesday|
|Soccernet||O'Leary upstarts still learning|
|Carlingnet||Leeds United 2 - 0 Sheffield Wednesday|
This was our sixth Premiership win in a row and as a result we're still top. Do we deserve to be there? Of course we do! What has characterised the season to date has been (a) playing well and scoring goals, (b) not playing well and scoring enough goals and (c) getting 3 points in games where we'd have ended up with just 1 a couple of seasons ago. And that's why we're top. I don't think we've got the strength in depth to stay there over the whole season, but a Champions League place looks a distinct possibility if we continue in this vein.
A bit of lenient refereeing helped: Michael Bridges very late challenge on Srnicek was a bad one and we couldn't have complained if he'd been shown a red - but that was after Peter Atherton had been equally lucky when the ref decided not to give him his second yellow card in five minutes when he scythed Harry Kewell - a challenge that was arguably worse than the one that brought him his booking.
For Wednesday Gilles de Bilde stood out, leaving the Leeds defence looking more than a bit stupid on several occasions, but poor finishing and a couple of good saves by Nigel Martyn kept things even in the first half. At half-time Peter Ridsdale presented the car to the lad who had bagged the prize with his penalty shooting in the Newcastle game and it turns out he can't drive! Looks like his girlfriend's got a nice new car!
Leeds showed a lot more determination in the second half and Michael Bridges and Alan Smith both had decent chances, but the best one fell to Lee Bowyer, but he couldn't get enough downward force on a bouncing ball and his header went over the bar. Huckerby replaced Bridges and Leeds started to find some holes in the Wednesday defence. The best chance of the game then fell for Wednesday: Leeds defence was opened up and Nigel Martyn did well to save the initial shot, Wednesday followed up and the ball was heading towards the goal, but Gary Kelly and Jon Woodgate between them managed to divert the shot for a corner. From the corner, Andy Booth - who has had a lot of success at Elland Road in the past - got a sharp header on target, but again Nigel Martyn was equal to it.
Both Leeds goals owed a lot to Pavel Srnicek's uncertainty and inability to hold onto the ball - and the first one owed even more to the linesman not noticing that Alan Smith was half a yard offside from the initial shot. The flag stayed down, Smith latched on to the rebound and we were into an undeserved one goal lead. Huckerby did a lot of damage running at the Owls defence, and in the 78th minute he got behind them and cut back a good ball from the goalline. A Wednesday boot directed the ball onto the post and Smith just managed to untangle his feet long enough to make the game safe.
Man of the match by a country mile was David Batty - superb crossfield passes and the usual high work-rate dominated the midfield. Good saves from Nigel Martyn kept us in the game, and Darren Huckerby's appearance won it for us. Lee Bowyer wasn't as effective as normal, but since he was an injury doubt and probably under instructions not to put himself in danger of missing Thursday's UEFA tie that's understandable. Stephen McPhail was really anonymous, and it was probably only the fact that we don't have another true left-sided midfielder that meant that he completed the game: Eirik Bakke or David Hopkin would almost certainly have done something more to quell Wednesday's attacks.
Still, we're top of the league with some very winnable games coming up over the next month or so: all we need to do is stay in contention for the moment and by Easter we should know if we're good enough to win something this year or if it will take another season.
...Or the one in which David O'Leary plays his Get Out Of Jail Free card.
Played off the pitch, chasing shadows, second to every ball, lack of spirit, lack of invention, unable to keep the ball when we had it, and yes, as they so rightly sung at us "outclassed" - and yet despite all that we got the 3 points, pretty funny you've got to admit.
I was never particularly convinced by their back five, I mean Pavel and Atherton are bad jokes, but they dominated the midfield with Jonk, Sommer, and Rudi passing their way through us at will and de Bilde, looking a tasty little buy, gave Lucas the run around all afternoon up front.
I don't know what happened to us but we just weren't there all day, Mills was once again culpable at the back - and watching the replays on MOTD it wasn't just the mistakes, but his attitude as well, several times the camera catches him jogging back into the penalty area as a cross comes in, he's way too late to mark anyone. Radebe didn't get near De Bilde, in the first half,and while it got a little better in the second, his distribution and clearances were woeful all afternoon. Its a good job that Kelly - playing out of position again - Woodgate, and especially Martin had storming games.
Its hard to say what went wrong in midfield - Batty did all his usual stuff, although even he was guilty of giving the ball away a few times in the first half - Bowyer looked marginal and unhappy playing wide on the right to accomodate McPhail in the middle - but it would be harsh to say that McPhail had a bad game, he was quietish at times, but always got stuck in, tackled back etc.and when he did have the ball in space he used it well. Kewell never tackles back. Should he be expected to? Is he a genuine midfielder?
The problem with Bowyer in the middle of the field where he seems happiest, and where we miss him when he's not there, is one that O'Leary will have to sort out, and its complicated by the fact that McPhail, who is worth his place, plays leftish of centre, but if he's made out and out left midfield then what happens to Harry? Do we play with Harry and A.N.Other up front? Who do you drop?
Bridges was playing reasonably well, and had just scuffed two chances when he was taken off - the crowd booed this decision for a moment - folk around us fully expected Smith, who'd been very quiet to go off - shows how much your average punter knows, eh? The general concensus around us was also that after the first goal we should get McPhail (and maybe Bowyer too) off and put Hopkin and Alfie on to shore up the midfield, which was being overrun.
The match was won by two brilliant saves by Martin - the first standing up to the forward bursting through, this was helped by a combination of Kelly and Woody blocking the attempt off the rebound - and the second a storming header from the resulting corner, from Booth which Martin managed to spring back and flick away with his finger tips.
1-0 Huckerby on another apparently fruitless sortie across the top of the box coming in from the right, hits a low grubber of a left foot shot - Smith is half a yard offside at this point in the box - Srnicek fumbles it, Smith pounces on the 6 yard box, one touch to control another to tap it home.
2-0 Huckerby again, down the left round the outside of their lumbering Brazilian, to the by-line pulls it back to the edge of the 6 yard box, Rudi gets there first pushes it against the post, Smith is first to the rebound.
Final point - was it just me or did anyone else think that Lucas, Woody and Bowyer (at least) weren't fit at the start of play - they spent long spells limping.
MARTYN -8- Match winner.
MILLS -3- potential matchy loser
RADEBE -5- not a great deal better - something is amiss here
WOODGATE -7- superb
KELLY -7- It is really really good to have him back
BOWYER -5- out of position, out of sorts
BATTY -6- did his best to stem the tide, but it was 1v3
MCPHAIL -6- quiet, effective, great passing.
KEWELL -5- It says something if we got more useful balls in from the wing from Huckerby in the 20 minutes that he was on than we did from Harry all game.
BRIDGES -6- unlucky to be subbed.
SMITH -6- did nothing - scored two - but really what more do you want from your striker?
HUCKERBY -7- head down and run - made a big difference though.
Crowd outsung by the visitors...
Copy from Football Unlimited of 17/10/1999.
For 70 minutes at Elland Road the league looked upside down. Sluggish Leeds looked as if they would rather have been somewhere else. Wednesday created a glut of chances. Then as if by magic the status quo was restored as Leeds rediscovered their rhythm and Wednesday combusted. David O'Leary's side duly equalled an admirable club record stretching back to 1931, but what an odd game this was.
The tables suggested a whitewash, and sure enough one of the teams on show began confidently, adventurously, vigorously. Leeds, on the other hand, were curiously out of sorts. The Premiership pacesetters looked strangely preoccupied. Records, Moscow, heaven knows what was on their minds as misplaced passes and miscued possession made a mockery of their lofty ambitions.
The team 30 miles south and 19 places below played like a team feeling the blessed release from a recent bout of depression. The bold and breezy Gilles De Bilde ignited his side once again, just as he had two weeks ago as Wednesday collected their first win of the season. The ease with which he skipped past Lucas Radebe was a real cause for Leeds concern, compounded when he steered cleverly towards the bottom corner. To Nigel Martyn's relief it spun fractionally wide of his left hand upright.
© Guardian Media Group plc
Copy from Football Unlimited of 17/10/1999.
Pavel Srnicek failed to seize the moment on Saturday. In full view of nearly 40,000 people he fumbled badly to present Leeds with their first goal. About an hour later, Sheffield Wednesday's goalkeeper dropped a pen proffered by a young autograph hunter. It was the stuff of comic's dreams.
Srnicek and Wednesday must quickly write this off to experience, as surely will Leeds. After all, David O'Leary sees everything as a learning curve for his young team, even if they remain at the summit of English football and have now equalled a club record beyond even Don Revie's more accomplished championship sides.
© Guardian Media Group plc