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A few brief thoughts before I head off for work.
Dermot Gallagher - top bloke. Almost as good as those two brothers of his - Liam and Noel. We've not seen a ref for some time who was prepared to risk the Wrath of Wenger to dish out generally well-deserved bookings to Arsenal players. Even if he did bottle the decision to send Silvinho off when he produced a scything tackle on Bowyer when the Brazilian was already on a yellow card, his performance was pretty sensible throughout, and although the card count might suggest that this was a dirty or violent game, that wasn't really the case. Sure, a couple of individual challenges resulted in a batch of fingerpointing, but the spirit between the teams was generally good. Maybe Arsenal were hoping for a repeat of last year.
With Dacourt and Bakke returning in midfield, Jason Wilcox starting a game for the first time this season, and the unveiling of Rio Ferdinand before the game, it's beginning to look like we're getting back to a full-strength squad. Harry Kewell and David Batty are also close to a return, Jon Woodgate is regaining his match fitness and maybe this was the result that will spark a rejuvenated spell in the league.
Both sides made plenty of chances - and the woodwork kept the ball out at each end of the pitch, but when Jason Wilcox failed to score with a header from 4 yeards out when totally unmarked, I began to think we'd end up with a draw or worse. Even when Dacourt's free kick took a massive deflection to leave Manninger stranded and the Frenchman with his first goal for the club, Arsenal were in the game and looking more and more dangerous. Robbo parried a couple of shots rather than catching them, but made some good blocks and forced the Arsenal players wide when they had caught the defence slightly flat-footed.
Viduka had the entire ground screaming in frustration when tried to pass the ball to Smithy through 3 Arsenal players when it looked easier to shoot and seal the game, but we somehow held out and picked up a very useful 3 points to stay vaguely in touch with the leaders. Man of the match - hard to pick one. Woody was solid, Bowyer very active and Dacourt good - but drifted in and out of the game. I guess MOTM goes to DOL for his selection and motivation of the side to grab the three points.
1-0 up with half an hour to go...................we should coast this.
Those were not my thoughts in the latter stages of last night's match, given a) the number of times this season we have failed to hold on to a lead, and b) the number of clean sheets young Master Robinson has managed to provide for matron since the excitement of getting in the first team [for those who have not been paying attention, that number = 0].
But we did it.
Another thing: last year we managed to amass 3 pts out of 24 in games against the teams who are serious title contenders (MU, Arse, Liv & Chel). Luckily, our form against the dross was so good that we still finished 3rd. This season, despite all the difficulties, we have already got 7 pts out of 12 against the mighty.................and we've bloody lost at home to unspeakably crap teams, and failed to win at Derby & Bradford! Grrr!
Last year, though, Arse didn't just beat us twice......they absolutely murdered us. It was so bad that I was actually glad (a bit) when we didn't get to the UEFA Cup Final, because I feared getting creamed in front of a worldwide tv audience. But there was certainly no inferiority complex there yesterday!
The game was a battle. No side was ever going to get on top, but we fought like hell and definitely deserved our win. Poor old Wilcox was way off the pace (hardly surprising really) and Bakke is in a horrible patch of form. I was surprised that Jones and/or Burns did not come on for either or both of them in the last 20. (What's up with Jones...............anyone know why he's not getting any games? There have been whisperings that he's not fully fit, but why put him on the bench if you're not going to use him? Has he been playing for the stiffs?)
I was just thinking last week that it's about time we tried something new at freekicks, because Harte must have taken about 50 since he last scored. And boom........up stepped Dacourt and it was 1-0 against the Arse!
Scores from the floor:
From a reputation dating back to the 70s Leeds are still know by some as Dirty Leeds.
From a reputation dating back to this afternoon, Arsenal are now know as The Filthy, Unclean, Cheating, Arsenal...or more succinctly - The FUCAs.
The dirty FUCAs turned up needing a win to stay in touch with the apparently untouchable Red Scum from the dark and dank side of the Pennines.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 26/11/2000.
The only serious challenge so far to Manchester United's easy domination of the Premiership is fast becoming a paper tiger. Though Arsenal's contribution to a rumbustious encounter with Leeds United here yesterday was tigerish in the real sense, their second successive league defeat has left them eight points behind the leaders in second place and with a considerably inferior goal difference.
The way the results are going, with Liverpool losing yesterday and Leicester the day before, only Ipswich may have the champions in sight by Christmas. Since beating Manchester City 5-0 at the end of last month Arsenal have scored once in four league games and have failed to score in their past three.
"It will be a shame for the Premier League if we go into December just fighting for second place," Arsène Wenger reflected after the match, "but at the moment Manchester United just keep on winning and to keep up you've got to win your away games."
Copy from The Independent of 26/11/2000.
When Leeds last beat Arsenal by a solitary goal, namely Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's late diving header 18 months earlier, their victory effectively delivered the Premiership title to Manchester United. Olivier Dacourt's winner at Elland Road yesterday was nowhere near as dramatic but, unusually for a Leeds success, it will have been greeted with similar glee at Old Trafford.
Arsenal now trail the champions by eight points without any games in hand. The goals have dried up and their discipline is in danger of disintegrating. Seven visitors were booked, compared with one from Leeds, and security officials had to form a guard around the referee, Dermot Gallagher, as they harangued him in the tunnel afterwards.
Arsène Wenger, comme toujours, felt Arsenal were unfairly treated by Mr Gallagher, though his assessment of the title race seemed admirably sensible. "I'm not conceding anything yet, but you have to be realistic," the Arsenal manager said. "It's just a shame for the league."
Eight years to the day after Leeds sold Eric Cantona to Alex Ferguson, it was quite an afternoon for the French. Dacourt, having been relieved of his status as the club's costliest recruit by Rio Ferdinand, was inundated by compatriots in the Arsenal line-up wanting to embrace him before kick-off. But the French kissing was soon forgotten as the teams tore into each other in lashing rain, and the kiss of death came 11 minutes into the second half.
Ray Parlour took Dacourt's legs from behind as he powered through the centre. Ian Harte has tended to have a monopoly of Leeds' free-kicks from such range 22 yards out but Dacourt clearly sensed that it was his day. His rising drive into the defensive wall took a deflection off Arsenal's Cameroonian midfielder, Lauren, which did enough to divert it beyond Alex Manninger's reach.
It was Dacourt's first goal since arriving from Lens during the summer and he was later booked as a match which both sides needed to win simmered menacingly. There were times during a feisty and frenetic throwback of a first half when it might have been Billy Bremner tangling with Peter Storey. Arsenal, in particular, seemed determined to take no prisoners.
Martin Keown, agitated by a succession of robust challenges by Alan Smith, exacted retribution by clattering Lee Bowyer from behind and was fortunate to stay on. Lauren, cautioned as early as the fifth minute, was also lucky that the officials did not see him take out Harte after the ball had gone.
Arsenal also had the greater threat in more legitimate terms. The pace of Sylvain Wiltord and Thierry Henry gave the Leeds centre-backs several reminders of why Ferdinand will be an asset in more than one sense of the word.
Had Arsenal played the ball to feet more instead of resorting to hopeful long balls, Leeds might have been embarrassed. As it was they were indebted to Paul Robinson for a sprawling parry from a Henry free-kick, and to wastefully wide shooting by Robert Pires and Wiltord after the ball had been cut back to them by Henry and Silvinho respectively.
Leeds have made a habit out of maximising the potential of limited possession; Uefa statistics for the first phase of the Champions' League revealed that they saw less of the ball than any of the 16 qualifiers for the second round. They were always dangerous at set-pieces, with Eirik Bakke glancing wide from a Bowyer free-kick and Gary Kelly bludgeoning another such award narrowly wide from 35 yards.
From open play, Leeds created only two chances before scoring. Both stemmed from crosses and it was their misfortune that the first fell to Jason Wilcox, who is not noted for his heading and nodded tamely to Manninger, while Woodgate sent a harder chance wide after Harte's centre found him.
Although Harte's volley shook their left-hand post on the hour, Arsenal dominated the second half territorially. Patrick Vieira shrugged off his early lethargy and began to drive them forward. Too often, though, Robinson was asked to do no more than beat down long-range shots and, when Wiltord did beat him following a Vieira pass in the 63rd minute, the ball struck the far post and was cleared.
Arsenal's annoyance at being able to break down Leeds, even after sending on Kanu as a third forward, was manifested in further rugged challenges. Vieira was given the benefit of slender doubt after pushing his studs into the face of Dacourt a press-box wag reckoned he must have though it was Smith while Tony Adams guaranteed his entry into the book with a last-minute lunge on the cherub-faced striker.
At the end, Smith departed with an undignified gesture to Wenger, who was complaining bitterly to the referee. David O'Leary, savouring Leeds' second win in 11 games against the club he served so long and stylishly, contented himself with a self-satisfied smile.
Copy from SportLive of 26/11/2000.
SportLive is no longer operational. Should it return to the web, this report will be removed and the link restored.
Leeds may have booted Arsenal's title pretensions into touch as early as November, but the crueller blow was dealt by Patrick Vieira on his supposed best friend Olivier Dacourt.
Unbelievably, French international Vieria was not among the seven Arsenal names that went into referee Dermot Gallagher's notebook, but he will be lucky to escape further censure if the FA look at a video of yesterday's volatile game.
Arsenal were already trailing to Dacourt's deflected free-kick when Vieira tumbled to the ground and kicked out at his assailant as he fell. He caught the Leeds player square on the chin.
The short-tempered midfielder had already clashed heads with Eirik Bakke while waiting for a corner and the indiscipline in the Arsenal team as a whole was what cost them against a young Leeds outfit who had no right to know better than their experienced opponents.
Ray Parlour became the sixth name in the book - earning Arsenal an automatic fine of £25,000 for failing to control their players - when he fouled Dacourt just outside the area.
The 26-year-old got straight up and took the free-kick himself - his 20-yard shot clipping the shoulder of Lauren and looping over Alex Manninger into the far corner of the net.
The win lifted Leeds back into the top half of the table and would have reassured the watching Rio Ferdinand that he really had joined a club capable of beating the best and launching a serious challenge for the championship.
The best indication of just what a quantum leap Leeds have made in signing Ferdinand is the fact that yesterday they had more transfer money invested in the 22-year-old, who was sitting in the director's box, than they had among the 11 players who faced up to Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Boss David O'Leary was able to make three improvements to that side in the shape of Jason Wilcox, Dacourt and Bakke and the confidence is growing as their injury-ravaged side gets ever-closer to O'Leary's preferred first team.
Both teams had suffered European defeats in midweek but Leeds had clearly recovered from their lesson at the hands of the defending European champions while Arsenal appeared not to have fully thawed from their disappointing trip to Moscow. The heat of a few early tackles soon put paid to that.
Alan Smith twice clashed with Martin Keown in the opening minute, a tussle which indirectly goaded the Arsenal defender into a booking later in the half for a savage hack at Lee Bowyer that could have earned him a red card.
Dacourt's foul on Roberto Pires with an hour gone was Leeds' only blemish. They also had the better of the chances, and Wilcox, making his first start of the season after breaking an ankle in training, should have scored in the 26th minute.
Gary Kelly's cross was headed on by Smith but perhaps too much ring-rustiness meant the England international did not have the power to beat Manninger with a free header from five yards. Despite enjoying the better of the play, Leeds were always susceptible to the pace of Arsenal's breaks and Silvinho nearly caught them cold just before half-time.
The Brazilian left Kelly in his wake and although Paul Robinson rushed from his goal to touch the ball from his path, Silvinho recovered possession and fed Sylvain Wiltord, who shot criminally wide of an open goal.
Leeds could have put the game beyond doubt when Ian Harte's shot was deflected on to a post in the second period but instead the Yorkshire side had to endure half an hour of intense pressure as Arsenal searched for a point.
Wiltord was particularly unlucky. A shot from the right after 69 minutes flew inches wide of the far post and a similar effort from the opposite side five minutes later cannoned off a post.
Robinson, who will continue to deputise for England international Nigel Martyn until Christmas at least, pulled off a series of good saves but was grateful that one from Silvinho ricocheted to Jon Woodgate rather than a posse of red shirts.
But ultimately, O'Leary's side showed they had the discipline to stand firm and hold on to their three points - something Arsene Wenger's side again seem to be lacking.
The Frenchman may refuse to write off his title aspirations so early in the season but it is clear that with the talent available to him the problems of throwing away an early lead against Spartak Moscow on Wednesday and the bookings yesterday are obviously psychological.
O'Leary's intention is to build a predominantly home-grown squad to challenge his more cosmopolitan rivals for honours and the way they ran as one to the Leeds dugout to celebrate the goal shows they are united in their respect for their manager.
Manchester United's eight-point lead has pessimists fearing the title race is over. But, on yesterday's evidence, Leeds are fast closing on the heels of Arsenal as the main rivals to Sir Alex Ferguson's team.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 27/11/2000.
RARELY can a November game have held so much significance and this was as massive a result for Leeds on a big day for the club as it was a boost to Manchester United and a slap in the face for their feisty foes from the capital.
Leeds badly needed a Premiership victory to steady the ship after a poor run of form and the books have been closed now on title bets with Alex Ferguson's men sitting pretty after Arsenal failed to reduce the yawning eight-point gap which separates them from the champions.
It was always going to require something special from Leeds to beat the consummate stylists of Highbury and right on cue they contrived their best league performance of the campaign dotted with some splendid individual efforts.
Frenchman Olivier Dacourt, United's record signing before both he and his £7m fee were dwarfed by the arrival of Rio Ferdinand, fancied this against a team littered with his compatriots and showed them all the way with a breathtaking all-round display highlighted by his first goal for the club.
The existing central defensive pairing of Lucas Radebe and Jonathan Woodgate played with such authority that some pundits were moved to suggest that United could have saved themselves the expense of the new man watching from the stand.
And Alan Smith, with enough petrol in his tank, zest in his heart and indomitability in his spirit to single-handedly sink a battleship, began explosively and carried on in that vein throughout the entire 90 minutes of a match in which the Gunners accumulated no fewer than seven bookings.
Twice in the first minute Smith rattled Keown's cage with United looking full of intent and the fired-up striker was unlucky to be stopped by an offside flag after Bowyer sent him clear.
A lovely ball from Wilcox to Bowyer had Leeds buzzing and Smith timed his run to perfection this time, chipping Manninger only to see his effort spin wide.
Lauren made the most of a challenge from Woodgate to claim a free kick 20 yards out but Robinson was down quickly to beat away Henry's well-placed shot to the far corner.
Bowyer tried his luck from distance to leave Viduka complaining that a through ball might have been in United's better interests, then Dacourt didn't get enought meat on his edge-of-the-box drive to trouble Manninger.
When Kelly was brought down out on the right Bowyer's excellent free kick gave Bakke a heading opportunity, but it flew wide.
Arsenal had started to mix it and after Viera clattered into Smith, Keown was shown the yellow card for an off-the-ball dig at Bowyer.
Robinson again did well against Henry after a Pires pass allowed him a first-time effort, but was stranded as Silvinho cut the ball back to Wiltord, whose shot spun across the face of goal.
Kelly's 30-yard piledriver had Manninger clutching at thin air as it whistled inches wide, and Woodgate was agonisingly wide with his fine header from Harte's cross as United went all out to break the deadlock just before the break.
Only the wiles of Adams prevented Smith from getting in a telling header when Harte crossed from Viduka's fine feed then, when Dacourt burst through in the 56th minute Parlour became the fifth Arsenal booking after checking him.
Harte shaped up to crack the free-kick, but the Frenchman fancied a pop himself and his well-struck shot had the aid of a big deflection from Lauren as it zipped into the net.
Dacourt celebrated his debut goal for the club with a slide on the greasy surface all the way to the dugout.
Viduka won a corner on the right which led to another on the left on the hour and Harte was desperately unlucky from the second to see his volley come back off an upright.
Wilcox's snapshot was collected by Manninger before Kelly chased back to harass Henry as he shaped to shoot.
Then Wiltord's drive flashed across the face of the goal and Silvinho was stopped in his tracks by Dacourt before Wiltord, immaculately put through by Viera, saw his angled shot beat Robinson but hit the far post.
Henry wasn't far over the top with his direct free kick and Robinson performed heroics to keep out Silvinho's blockbuster as Arsenal piled it on. Viduka looked all set to double United's lead 10 minutes from time but instead of burying it he chose to pass to the closely attended Wilcox and the chance was gone.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger bemoaned his side's inability to score on their travels, but reckoned they were unlucky to lose.
And he believes that Manchester United's total domination is taking the fun out of the league.
"At this rate they are going to win the championship by 24 points," he said, "and that cannot be good for the Premiership. Manchester United win everything at the moment and although it is too early to concede the title I first have to think about us winning a game.
"If, in November, they are so far ahead then it is a shame for the Premiership. It makes it less interesting once you start thinking as early as December that you are playing for second place. That means the league has gone."
United manager David O'Leary, for whom this was a fulfilling result against the club he served so long and so well as a player, is more hopeful of joining the scramble for that runner-up spot now after the benefits of being able to field something approaching his strongest team were plainly evident.
A lengthy run of victories is what is needed. This was just the start.