FA Carling Premiership
Sunderland 1 - 2 Leeds United
(Half-time: 0 - 1)
|« Manchester City||Aston Villa »|
|Leeds United||Martyn, Kelly, Duberry, Woodgate, Harte, Bakke, Bowyer, McPhail, Wilcox, Kewell, Bridges (Huckerby 75)||Robinson, Jones, Haaland, Mills|
|Sunderland||Sorensen, Williams, Butler, Bould (Craddock 76), Gray (Holloway HT), Kilbane, Rae, Roy (Reddy 63), McCann, Schwarz, Phillips||Marriott, Oster|
|Leeds United||Wilcox 24, Bridges 51|
|Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Attempts on goal||11||12|
|Attempts on target||4||5|
|Shirt numbers of goalscorers||16, 8||10|
|Jabba||After all the talk....||Matt G||Thank you very much for Michael Bridges|
|The Guardian||Leeds throw down the gauntlet|
|The Electronic Telegraph||O'Leary's faith pays off as Leeds see the light|
|The Times||Victory gives Leeds a little light relief|
|Express Sport||Sunderland 1 - 2 Leeds United|
|The Independent||Bridges lands blow for united Leeds|
|Yorkshire Evening Post||Jase the ace helps lift the leaders|
|BBC||Victory for no-win Leeds|
|Soccernet||Sunderland 1 - 2 Leeds United|
This game was supposed to be all about Woodgate and Bowyer. Would they play or would DOL bow to the pressure from those highly moral folks who matter at News International? Would the Leeds fans abuse them, glory in their alleged crimes, or just get behind them and support two men who remain innocent until proven guilty?
By the end, it was the football that we were talking about. It was (cliché alert) a game of two halves. Leeds had by far the best of the first, Sunderland dominated the second. Leeds opened up well, and the first decent chance fell to Lee Bowyer just inside the area - but it was blasted over the bar. Jason Wilcox was finding loads of space down the left - no doubt helped by the fact that Chris Makin and Nicky Summerbee - Sunderland's normal right back and right-sided midfielder - had been dropped due to a disagreement with Peter Reid.
Even so, we nearly gave ourselves a more difficult job to do than was absolutely necessary. Wilcox and Harte tried to pass the ball out of danger in the left back area, but managed to give it away. The cross came in and Kevin Phillips cracked a shot towards the goal. Nigel Martyn again proved - in front of Kevin Keegan - that he is clearly the best keeper in the country and stretched to keep the ball out. Almost immediately the ball moved upfield. Stephen McPhail had the best 45 minutes I've seen from him so far, and it was his vision that saw the ball finding Jason Wilcox in acres of space. Wilcox took the ball in his stride and cracked home an absolute belter - Sorensen dived, but the ball was past him before he got anywhere near it.
With the first half nearly over, another break down the left and a great cross found the head of Harry Kewell - unmarked in the 6-yard box - but he got too much on the ball, and the score remained 1-0 at half-time.
Sunderland were much better in the second half, showing greater determination to win the ball and cover the ground. Even so, Leeds extended the lead with Jason Wilcox again providing the cross from the left wing. Michael Bridges attacked the ball at the near post and got a glancing touch to send it beyond Sorensen, and we were rubbing our hands and looking forward to a relaxing 30 minutes as we cruised towards 3 points.
48 seconds later, Kevin Phillips showed why he's the top scorer in the league at the moment. A back pass to Jon Woodgate bounced awkwardly, Woody hesitated and Phillips pounced. He muscled his was past the defender, took a look up and cracked the ball across the face of goal and in off the post - Nige had no chance. The final half hour produced the odd Leeds chance, with Bowyer again missing an opportunity you'd normally expect him to take, but otherwise it was real rearguard stuff. Michael Duberry was superb (but can still look a bit Carltonesque when coming forward with the ball at his feet), and Nige made some more good saves. A deflection and a scramble nearly gave Sunderland the equaliser, but we held out well and probably just about deserved the three points.
For the first time for as long as I can remember, the game wasn't a war. Another strange thing is that I've got to offer the ref some praise. Peter Jones wasn't picky, didn't blow up for everything and applied his punishments evenly and sensibly. Eirik Bakke was a little unlucky to be booked, but since his was the only booking of a free-flowing game, we can't really complain. The last time we had Peter Jones, we lost at Wimbledon, but again there were only 2 bookings in that game, and I don't recall having any complaints then - I'd be happy to see him in charge every week.
A long long day, over 14 hours from leaving home til getting back there again, thank god we won. When we eventually got there, the ground turned out to be slightly disappointing given all the fuss that's been made about it. Basically just one tier all the way round at the same height (except one slightly bigger stand) it big but boring. Even the supposed atmosphere wasn't that great, it's surprising just how quiet 40,000 people can be at times.
Getting off the coach it was immediately obvious where the Leeds end was - just follow the LeeBowya chant. Chants for Bowyer and Woodgate broke out at pretty regular intervals throughout the game, sometimes spontaneously though often provoked by boos from the Mackems. Although some might try to argue the "supporting our lads in their hour of need" line, I think most of our fans cheered as they didn't really think they've done anything wrong and unfortunately most to just regard it as a bit of a laugh. Racist chants from the Sunderland fans didn't really help the atmosphere either. Whatever happened (and there were loads of people around the ground and in Chester-Le-Street before the game who claimed to know exactly what happened, shame they all had different stories), being involved in an incident where someone has been beaten unconscious is nothing to be proud of. So I didn't think much of Woody applauding (behind his back) when the crowd sung his name - an ashamed low profile would have been more appropriate.
The game, we started OK, Bowyer shot just wide when put in space wide and Martyn made a fabulous save from Phillips near the start. Sunderland's plan seemed to be to try and get as many players as possible into centre-midfield so despite them having 5 midfielders Wilcox was still able to find plenty of space out wide. This soon paid dividends as whilst everyone else played schoolboy all chase the ball football, Wilcox had half the pitch to himself and finished with a great shot from the edge of the area when noticed by McPhail. Another Wilcox cross led to a header just wide and by half-time we were looking reasonably comfortable.
Half-time brought a scuffle underneath the stand, as far as I can work out this was due to the Police taking exception to the beer-throwing party and closing the bars and then trying to clear the area by wading in truncheons first.
We started the 2nd half well, a Wilcox cross fizzing across the area before Bridges bundled in the 2nd to silence the "One Greedy Bastard" chants to be replaced with "Thankyou very much for Michael Bridges". At this point I thought we'd go on to win easily, but Woodgate made a mess of a long ball and Phillips nipped in behind him to score. From then on the game got bogged down and scrappy, they had plenty of the ball without making many chances and though there were a couple of goalmouth scambles that we couldn't see that well from low down 100 yards away, for the most part we held on comfortably. Not the greatest performance, but a very important win.
At the end of the game we were surprisingly let straight out, to where the majority of the Sunderland fans were walking past on their way home. Initially the Police seemed to make no attempt to keep the fans apart and there were a few scuffles and an uneasy stand-off with only a few police dogs stopping some serious trouble. Luckily the Mackems disappeared reasonably quickly and by half 6 we were on our way, with only 4 hours on the A1 ahead of us.
Man of the Match was probably Wilcox with honourable mentions for Kelly and Bakke, must say I couldn't see the point of signing Wilcox, but he holds his position well on the left and gets in some good early crosses for the strikers to attack. An added bonus has been releasing Kewell into a more central position where he sees more of the ball and is more dangerous. It'll be interesting to see if DOL sticks with this formation if we ever get round to having a home game.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 24/01/2000.
The burgeoning aspirations of Leeds United proved too much for Sunderland's present limitations here yesterday, ensuring Manchester United will have to wait at least another six days before they get a chance to remove David O'Leary's side from the lead of the Premiership, which they have held since late November.
Jason Wilcox's first goal for the club followed by a second from Michael Bridges, who kept faith with tradition by scoring against his former team, set Leeds up for a victory which would have been rather more comfortable had Kevin Phillips not immediately brought Sunderland back into the contest at 2-1.
The Stadium of Light huffed and puffed and the closing minutes found Leeds clearing their lines with increasing desperation. Yet there was no doubting either the winners' worth or the losers' lack of attacking options in the absence of the suspended Niall Quinn.
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