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A just about maybe perhaps sort of deserved win.
Apart from a decent penalty shout when Viduka appeared to be pulled back after doing his twisty turny thing - the first 25 minutes were pretty dire as far as we were concerned. When Merson scored after about 20 minutes with an easy finish after our defence had gone missing and Harte was left with 2 to mark, it looked like we'd repeat our usual trick of losing to another average and supposedly inferior team.
BUT a couple of minutes later with nothing much happening Keane played a lovely reverse pass into Bowyer who finished with the minimum of fuss. Suddenly we looked a different team and started to boss the game in midfield, without making many decent chances.
Second half, Wilcox on for a limping Matteo who'd been playing left midfield with Harte returning at left back. And after a poor game on Saturday Wilcox was heavily involved as we again looked by far the better team for the next 25 minutes or so. Not too many clear chances but we really fought in midfield and apart from a shot that bounced off our bar we largely played the game in their half. Ironically just as Villa looked to be getting back into it, we scored Wilcox won the ball, Viduka crossed and the defender climbed all over Keane for a clear penalty. Harte stepped up to take it though everyone was screaming for Keane to have it, but he put it away comfortable enough.
That should have been enough, but things got a bit worrying. A strange substitution, Smith for Keane was fair enough but everyone was amazed that Batty replaced Dacourt and not Bakke who looked to have been struggling for form allnight. Our confidence totally disappeared and we were suddenly hanging on - in the last 10 minutes Villa nearly scored twice as they hit the post and bar and their were a few other moments that looked scary from our position low down 100 yards away. But we hung on and got a win we deserved for 80 minutes, last 10 were a bit dodgy though.
Villa have a nice new stand - shame there were sod all people in it.
View from 2 rows from the front was too poor for scores but MotM probably Bowyer just in front of Keane and a storming 2nd half from Wilcox.
After a list meet in the back garden of a pub, somewhat truncated by renumbered motorway junctions, swamps and Vermin, sorry Virgin Trains, we arrived at Vile Park to hear the numbers 2 *and* 3 on the team sheet. We lined up like this
Robbo Uncle Gary Woody Riiiii-o Nephew Ian Bow Bakke Ollie Matteo Pies Keano
First half saw some of the best passing I've seen us put together for a while, though the incisive edge wasn't quite there. This was tempered by the fact that Villa's midfield seemed to be able to find space at will, with the annoying Stone forever popping up on the right when Nephew's sense of direction had once again caused him to womble into the middle of the park, and Merson being his usual tormenting self. Luckily Rio and Woody were having solid games at the back, though admittedly they were helped by Villa's lone striker Angel seemingly being unable to jump (or shoot, for that matter). Pies had a useful game, dragging the Villa defence around quite a bit, and had one off target shot after a neat turn and one decent shout for a penalty turned down - before Villa scored.
A long cross from the left was flicked on by Taylor, and with the left-hand-side of the Leeds defence AWOL Merson ambled in to bash it past the unprotected Robbo. Fookin' 'ell here we go again, we thought - but just a few minutes later we were level, a neat bit of interplay finding Keane whose neat through ball was met by the onrushing Bow, his side-footed finish giving 'Calamity' James - more of him later - no chance.
The rest of the half was pretty stolid, livened up by Uncle G's appalling pass to a claret shirt which set Villa up for a chance they made a hash of, and Woody give-and-go pass which ended up with him haring off down the right-wing - real nosebleed stuff, he's been watching Rio. HT 1-1.
Second half saw Wilcox replace Matteo who'd got an earlier knock. We started off brightly, with a couple of decent chances created, both blocked, before Villa started to get at us at the other end. They had three or four decent chances but cunningly put them all into the Holte End, apart from one with Robbo turned away excellently before the rebound was smacked against the post. Meanwhile Calamity provided us with respite and laffs by slicing every kick into touch, into the air, or both. One stonking error provided the best bit of 'refereeing' of the night (the accused, S Bennett, was truly appalling but at least he shared out his incompetency). Cross from the right, James in acres of space goes up to catch, fumbles, ball goes through his hands and out for a corner. On his way down from his leap he crashes into (I think) Bakke who's running in at the far post. The ball's already well into touch. Verdict: Free Kick to Villa. Splendid stuff. Meanwhile, Pies is seen to chase a midfielder all the way back to our own penalty area. Fifty-four Leeds fans are hospitalised with shock.
With a quarter of an hour left though, some nice work down the right ends up with Bow's pinpoint cross and Keane's on the end of it .. but Barry, with his arm round him in 'you're my besssht mate you are (hic)' fashion, hauls him down and handballs it for good measure as they crash to the floor. Given a choice of two penalties, at least Bertie Bassett decides to give us one of them. Nephew coolly sends Calamity the wrong way from the spot before heading to the Leeds fans, turning his back and running his finger along his name on the back of his shirt. "Yes, that's your name Ian" comments a nearby comedian.
DO'L oddly takes off Keane for Smiffy and replaces Ollie with Batts (to big cheers for Batts) and Villa bring on Mr. L'Oreal, who immediately belies his 33-odd years by making an utter arse of Uncle G twice before banging in crosses that are scrambled away. From one, Merson hits the post. Aaaaarrrrgggh blow the f**kin' whistle ref ... With about a minute left, Merson gets it again and coolly chips Robbo, who watches the ball hit the underside of the bar and bounce down the right side of the line, before catching it as it comes down a second time. Eighty-four more Leeds fans faint with relief. A Villa player barges Robbo into the Holte End in frustration. Ref blows the whistle. Cheers all round - quite a few clenched fists from the boys as they leave the pitch - good win against the sort of mediocre side that've been turning us over recently.
Scores on the doors
Ref S Bassett gets 1 for (correctly) giving us the penalty. Otherwise atrocious.
Top man - David James who can still laugh at himself. Along with us :-)
Shakespeare said "By this leek, I will most horribly revenge"
Well Leeds did exactly what Villa, and many teams have done to us at Elland Road this season. We ground out a result, we rode our luck, we soaked up pressure and we broke well. About fcking time too God!
Leek ? what's the twat on about ?
Dont be fooled into thinking we have turned the corner. We are peering around it, slightly dazzled by the bright lights on view, but also checking the pavement for dog shit.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 25/01/2001.
Aston Villa last night did their best to make Sven-Goran Eriksson feel at home. That is to say they lost their fifth successive Premiership match in a manner which, when practised by Lazio, saw England's new coach take up his post six months early.
In five weeks' time Eriksson's reign will open with a friendly against Spain at Villa Park. Last night he satisfied himself that pitch and stadium were suitable for international football but in terms of individual performances the match posed the Swede more questions than it answered.
If Eriksson wants to use the Spain game to look at younger players he will have been puzzled by Villa's 19-year-old Gareth Barry, whose good moments in attack were outweighed by bad ones in defence. Barry's was the slip that allowed Leeds to draw level and his the offence which led to the penalty from which Ian Harte won the game for David O'Leary's side.
Copy from The Independent of 24/01/2001.
Watched by the man whose exit from Lazio they helped to hasten, Sven Goran Eriksson, Leeds regained winning form in the battle of the Premiership's major under-achievers and in so doing condemned Aston Villa to a fifth successive Premiership defeat last night.
Paul Merson's early goal for Villa provided food for thought for the new England coach. However, after Lee Bowyer's swift riposte, Eriksson saw one of the squad he has inherited, Gareth Barry, concede the penalty from which Ian Harte struck Leeds' 75th-minute winner. Leeds, beaten four times by Villa during 2000, were under mounting pressure when they broke out to break the spell. Mark Viduka's cross found Barry impeding Robbie Keane, enabling Harte to send David James the wrong way from the spot.
If Villa sensed then that their recent dominance over Leeds was not to be maintained, the feeling was confirmed when Merson twice beat Paul Robinson in the space of 20 seconds only to hit both post and bar with three minutes left.
David O'Leary admitted his team had ridden their luck but felt they were "always in control". Leeds had won just three of the previous 20 meetings with Villa, making victory all the sweeter for their manager.
"We've always been done by Villa, here and at Elland Road, even when we've been flying," O'Leary reflected. "But football's an amazing game like that." His counterpart, John Gregory, said: "We're not having any luck and if we didn't deserve to win it, we certainly didn't deserve to lose."
Harte and Gary Kelly had been restored to Leeds' defence in the wake of Saturday's surrender to Newcastle. Gregory, meanwhile, had dropped his top scorer, Dion Dublin, with Merson thrust forward in support of Juan Pablo Angel on the Colombian's home debut.
Angel showed some skilful touches but needs time to adjust to the pace of English football. That was never more evident than after Alpay Ozalan's long pass sent him clear with the game goalless. The £9.5m striker wanted two touches when one was required and Jonathan Woodgate nicked the ball away like a latter-day Jack Charlton.
Merson, untypically, was betrayed by a poor touch when Lee Hendrie's pass left him with only Robinson to beat. Given a similar chance when Ian Taylor flicked on Barry's 24th-minute cross, he atoned with a drilled shot that gave Villa their first goal in 386 minutes of Premiership action.
By then, Leeds might have been ahead themselves, the referee having wrongly ignored Alpay's foul on Viduka, but they trailed for only four minutes. A long-range one-two between Bowyer and Keane sliced through the defence after Steve Staunton had sloppily conceded possession, allowing the former to move into double figures this season with a deft finish.
Robinson, James' rival for the England jersey against Spain here next month, had few opportunities to impress Eriksson before the interval. That changed a minute into the second half when George Boateng's 25-yard drive sent the young goalkeeper sprawling to parry. The ball broke to Steve Stone whose hurriedly taken shot clipped the bar on its way over.
Robinson later dived to palm behind a wayward defensive header by the otherwise imperious Rio Ferdinand. But a Villa rearguard lacking Gareth Southgate's leadership was always vulnerable to the kind of counter-attack which ultimately rewarded Leeds' resilience.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 25/01/2001.
LIKE flowers need rain, skiers need snow and a gin and tonic needs ice, my word how Leeds needed this.
The tiger's got its teeth back.
And here in the most unlikely of settings, given recent history, for the pieces from recent mishaps to be picked up, it snarled.
United's Irish contingent take much of the credit. Gary Kelly, sporting the captain's armband in the absence of Lucas Radebe, was positively brimming with ambition and ran riot down the right and Ian Harte scored the winner from the penalty spot after Robbie Keane's vision laid on the opener for Lee Bowyer.
And some plaudits were earned by manager David O'Leary for his positive actions with team selection and success in an area which has sometimes revealed a blind spot, the diligent use of his substitutes.
O'Leary rang the changes following Saturday's grim home defeat by Newcastle, with full-backs Kelly and Harte winning back their places, Rio Ferdinand in for international-tied Radebe and Dominic Matteo pushed into midfield at the expense of Jason Wilcox.
Kelly, absent for three matches, skippered the side despite pre-match hints by O'Leary that he had already recognised Ferdinand's potential leadership qualities.
Villa, reeling from four successive Premiership defeats since their pre-Christmas triumph at Elland Road, had £9.5m Colombian signing Juan Pablo Angel making his home debut up front, though such was his disorientation that there was a question afterwards whether the fee had in fact been £9.50.
Bowyer's seventh minute corner found Bakke, but his shot from distance was optimistic and flew well wide.
And when Bowyer found Viduka in the next minute his shot on the swivel was much closer to the target.
Kelly won a corner on the right as United seized the initiative but this time Wright booted clear Harte's inswinger.
A spectacular crossfield pass from Merson to Stone set up Villa's first real attack and this was followed by a Hendrie drive which cleared the bar. But neither keeper had yet been tested.
Angel looked all set to break the deadlock on 17 minutes when a through ball by Taylor put him clean through, but a splendid tackle by Woodgate denied the newcomer his golden moment.
Matteo dragged back Stone to concede a free kick in a dangerous position, but Robinson's punch clear from Staunton's cross was decisive.
On 23 minutes Villa were ahead, Barry crossing from the left for Taylor to glance on to Merson, who drilled his shot into the far corner.
And they went close to doubling their lead when Matteo again impeded Stone and Hendrie's volley from the free kick dipped just over the bar.
United were level, however, on 28 minutes when Keane's precision pass picked out Bowyer, who coolly slotted home at James's near post.
In a half that presented few chances United had stepped up considerably on recent efforts, passing and moving well and enjoying the width brought to them by the inclusions of Kelly and Harte.
But they did well to survive an early scare after the turnround, Robinson beating out a long-range blast from Boateng which caught him totally by surprise and Stone heading the rebound onto the bar from an acute angle.
When United came back Dacourt's fine crossfield ball found Kelly, who rounded Wright and delivered a fine cross which James snatched from the head of Viduka.
Keane was robbed at the last moment by Barry, who turned defence into attack with a long ball to Angel. But Woodgate was in with another excellent tackle.
Hendrie should have done better than to blast carelessly wide when Angel shimmied him in, and it needed all of Robinson's resolve to turn Ferdinand's deflecting header round the post.
In the 75th minute United were ahead when Viduka crossed and Barry leaned all over Keane as he was poised to snaffle his chance. Harte sent James the wrong way with his spot kick.
United rode their luck in the last five minutes, Merson twice rattling the woodwork with shots from distance as Villa went hell for leather for a share of the spoils.
And he still had time to thunder a volley just wide as Leeds rocked for the first time in the match but held on determinedly.
Said O'Leary: "Merson is always capable of producing that little bit of magic and in the end our luck held and his didn't.
"We got ourselves back into it after conceding a silly goal and having done the hard work in getting our noses in front we ended up having some good fortune.
"We have been letting ourselves down but I thought we passed it around a bit better. There's a feeling around the club that there is plenty more to come.
"So far it has not been an enjoyable season through not having a full group of people out there on the training ground.
"It's all about results now. This was one of our games in hand, so to win it was vital.
"And to get a result here sums this silly game up.
"For the past couple of years we have been done by Villa home and away at times when we have been flying. It's an amazing game. You have to make the most of the highs.
"Personally I didn't think there was any outstanding player out there,but the team worked hard together for their result.
"As for the penalty, I didn't really care who took it as long as it went in.
"But if Hartey had missed it I would have had a go, saying that Robbie Keane should have taken it!
In the event, I thought Ian Harte was dead right to take it."