Leeds United 3 - 0 Slavia Prague
(Half-time: 1 - 0)
|« Bradford City||Wimbledon »|
|Leeds United||Martyn, Kelly, Radebe, Haaland, Harte, Bowyer, Bakke, McPhail (Huckerby 76), Wilcox, Bridges (Smith 86), Kewell||Hopkin, Robinson, Mills, Jones, Duberry|
|Slavia Prague||Radek, Vlcek (Vagner 55), Rada, Koller, Dosek, Kulchar, Dostalek (Hysky 64), Horvath, Petrous, Dosek||Lerch, Kozel, Skala, Vaclavik, Vozabal|
|Leeds United||Wilcox 39, Kewell 54, Bowyer 59|
|Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Slavia Prague||Petrous, Rada, Ulich||Rada 76|
|Leeds United||Slavia Prague|
|Shirt numbers of goalscorers||16, 10, 11||0|
|Nick Allen||vs Prague|
|Martyn Brown||B & W|
|The Guardian||Bowyer repays O'Leary's faith|
|The Electronic Telegraph||Leeds engineer healthy lead|
|The Times||Leeds cash in to bounce Czechs out of contention|
|Express Sport||Bowyer enjoys centre stage in night of glory|
|The Independent||Wilcox sparks Leeds assault on stilted Slavia|
|Yorkshire Evening Post||United turn up heat to keep Euro fire burning|
|BBC||Leeds close in on last four|
|Soccernet||Bowyer puts his troubles aside|
This ended up being a surprisingly comfortable win - and we should have had many more - after quite a cagy first twenty minutes, when I was impressed by Prague's close passing, movement, and tackling. They had the look of a hard working, decent team - one that had got where it is by being a team rather than a collection of individuals. They looked like an army team - or a team of Lee Bowyer's - small wiry and short of hair - except the CHalfs who were bigger versions of the same model.
Harry made a complete balls up of a one-on-one with the keeper in the second minute, after a great ball from Bridges. Another shot through the crowded box was well saved - albeit at a comfortable height - and a cross that fizzed in low and hard from Kelly, was missed at the front post, and knocked goalwards on the half volley from 6 yards out by Bowyer - straight into the keeper's arms.
Bowyer went down under a heavy challenge, went off for treatment, came back on after a while and spent the next 15 minutes hobbling around, ducking out of tackles - all around us people were saying "get him off.. let's have Jones/Hopkin on". What happens? He wins the ball on half way and threads it through for Wilcox to finish with his right foot high into the roof of the net. From then on Leeds and Bowyer never looked back.
Prague had a couple of chances, a couple of their lads ran half the length of the pitch unchallenged to have a pot shot that just skimmed wide - but in truth Nigel had another quiet night. The defence - particularly Lucas and Harte were superb.
Up front Bridges worked tirelessly and caused them all sorts of problems - you can always tell who's playing well up front cos the defenders are constantly fouling them - well, unless its Smithy that's different. Kewell hardly seemed to break out of a jog last night. I hardly noticed him at all.
In the middle Bakke was superb again, McPhail was largely anonymous, Wilcox had much more impact than previously, and Bowyer had a better game - although I'm worried by the "championing" of him by the crowd. We were loose with a lot of passing, and there were bloody great holes in the middle at times.
The second and third goals were again good goals because of the build up involved. 2-0 Bridges nice control from a long ball, out to Bakke going down the right, he beats two or three men after twice looking like he's lost the ball, throws in a low cross to the back post where Harry is standing unmarked, and slots home. Cue silly (and not very cool) jumping up and down on the spot from H.
3-0 Long punt down the left, Bridges tries to control on the half way, with huge defender climbing on his back for the umpteenth time, looses him slips off up the wing, long low ball across the box, round the backs of 2 defenders, Bowyer finishes well under the keeper.
Bridges later misses another one-on-one with the keeper.
Smith should have been on earlier, cos they were really rattled by then.
MARTYN - Goodish, but flapped at a few crosses.
KELLY - excellent at the back, got forward well
HARTE - one of his best all round displays - apart from the corners which were crap.
HAALAND - pretty good again, one or two reckless challenges, but a great crowd winning moment in front of the Kop when he gives the Leeds salute as he's waiting for a corner.
RADEBE - the king of Elland Road has reclaimed his crown - peerless.
BOWYER - all action, good goal. Suspension for the next leg could work in our favour.
BAKKE - immense in the middle - Bakke for Norway
McPHAIL - the least effectual of the midfield yesterday
WILCOX - very threatening presence on the wing.
BRIDGES - superb leading of the line - he is really getting on well with these European games. deserved a goal
KEWELL - almost non-existent.
Ref - appallingly slack at times and yet unbearably fussy at others.
Crowd was noisy around us.
Mention of the night however goes to whoever instructed the steward to go round and round the Kop insisting that we sit down!!!! They either want "the special atmosphere of a European evening at ER" or they don't. Ridsdale has said he thought we made the difference vs Roma, the Prague coach said his lot were intimidated last night - and somebody wants us to sit down GET IT SORTED.
Well, Roma it wasn't. The crowd was a bit mixed, little patches of singing and stuff, but on the whole, the atmosphere was one of quiet optimism, maybe even complacency that 'we should win'. After we'd missed a few chances by the 20min mark, it was just a question of when we'd score - and I think the crowd responded as such - although it got much better after the break. The first goal really put people at rest I think. I said to my mate "this is like the crowd for Ipswich at home in the cup or something" which I don't think was too far from the mark.
The team played very well, rarely getting out of 3rd gear (as opposed to our 2nd gear in the league on some occasions) and despite a 10min 2nd half spell where we contrived to let Prague back in it (via our methology of giving the ball away at every opportunity) - we never looked out of control. The defence were excellent, all four of them and they, as much as anyone guaranteed a safe passage.
The goals were inevitable and i really thought we'd go on to get 5 or more, the chances warranted it and some frustrating finishing (and a couple of reasonable saves) meant it stopped at 3 and gave Prague a glimmer of hope (only a glimmer, mind). I'd heard reports about them being a big, forceful, physical side, but they left gaps all over the park (they marshalled Bridges very tightly) and with them coming at us in Prague, I reckon we'll get at least 1 goal which means they'll need 5 to beat us - they are not going to do that.
40mins - Great playby bowyer, winning posession from a Prague throw, beating 2 players and passing to the outside of the 'D' for Wilcox to snaffle from Kewell, run through and plant confidently into the net.
53mins - In a period of constant pressure, Bakke works an opening on the right and fires the ball across the area, Kewell (looking suspiciously offside to me) taps it in and proceeds to do quite frankly the worst goal celebration ever (jumps up and down like a kangeroo)
57mins - Following an excellent fast break, Bridges delivers a *peach* of a ball through to Bowyer who for once cooly slots home from just inside the area.
Martyn - Not too much to do, was a bit dodgy on a couple of back-passes but had his feet up most of the time. 7/10
Kelly - Excellent, almost wing-back play, got forward a lot, looked comfortable all night. 8/10
Haaland - The best he's played imho, very solid, surged forward, got stuck in (Woodgate/Batty combined?) 9/10
Radabe - Sublime, unruffled, solid. 9/10
Harte - Excellent coming forward, lots of space. 8/10
Bakke - Another good game although faded a bit for me. 7/10
McPhail - Some good through balls, but he needs a few more games I think. 6/10
Wilcox - Worked hard, some good breaks, great finish for the goal. 7/10
Bowyer - Back to his best and what we all know he's capable of doing. Hope he doesnt get sent down. 8/10
Bridges - Despite having a czech up his arse all night, did well, fantastic pass for Bowyers goal. 8/10
Kewell - Quiet game, ought to have had a hat-trick. Came into it more later on. 7/10
Huckerby - Tormented them, usual stuff. 6/10
Smith - Too late for any impact 6/10
Fussy german who let a lot of stuff go then pulled up for silly, petty things. Not massively bad on the whole. 6/10
Started ok, got shite mid-way through the first half, much better 2nd half. Excellent at the end, although not quite eclipsing the after-match exertion of the Roma game, still it *is* the 1st leg after all.
Packed to the rafters since no beer in the ground, plenty of Czechs in there and Mr Walker, none got bounced ;)
A depressing stench has engulfed Leeds United this week, given that the Yorkshire club are enjoying their finest run in Europe for 25 years. Last night the sense of despondency was replaced by a wave of euphoria.
Only the most spectacular of capitulations can now deny David O'Leary's blossoming side from guaranteeing a safe passage to the semi-finals when these two sides renew their acquaintance in the Czech Republic next Thursday. Leeds were a cut above a side incorporating seven full internationals and O'Leary's players have already proved they are intrepid travellers.
Inevitably, Lee Bowyer was heavily involved from start to finish, scoring a fine goal and making another as well as picking up a booking which means he will be suspended from the second leg.
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