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Can't believe those scores, to echo Stotty's comments, Dacourt was awesome yesterday, one of the best midfield performances i've ever seen by a Leeds player - the amount of times he turned out of trouble in midfield moved into space and gave a perfect pass to put us back on the attack was astonishing.
Fairer scores would be:
Batty / Hucks - Not on long, nice to see Batts back.
An odd but very entertaining game - at times i thought we were playing as well as we had all season, but the amount of chances Sunderland had suggests all was not well at the back. Luckily Phillips was not on top form and most of the chances fell to Quinn who was a nuisance all day but missed a few. Having said that we played some nice football and cut them open at times and it was only the poor final ball that stopped us scoring a hatful ourselves.
Ref (Styles) was bizarre and never really kept Sunderland (a nasty little team) under control. Prime example when we had a free-kick on the edge of the area, ref paced out 10, wall was about 6, he whistled and whistled to get hem back, they didn't move and just as we thought he book someone and move them back another 10 - he just gave up and let them stay where they were.
Not often I get a chance to comment on a match when I've actually seen it in person these days, so here goes:
I thought Leeds looked awesome in brief intervals yesterday. There were times in the game when we looked to be in a different league to Sunderland, who were pretty crap throughout. There were however at least 2 very worrying spells (particularly at the end of each half) when we seemed to completely switch off, and at these times we were quite lucky not to concede a soft goal.
That said, there was no point in the game when I wasn't convinced we were going to win. Even at 1-0 when it looked like they might score while we were off having a mental cup of tea, I had no doubts we could go on and score again to win. Sunderland really were crap.
Scores on the (beer hazed) doors:
Batts: 8 - Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou. Didn't have long, but was
immediately the most combative player on show. A 20 minute arms
flailing, over-head kicking, perfect passing, team-mate advising
masterclass. Bow your heads in shame all those who doubted this man's
ability. 1st name on the teamsheet from now on - I just hope to hell
that O'Leary plays Batty AND Dacourt.
O'Leary: 4 - Partly for selling Jones, mainly for taking Dacourt off. Seems to be sadly lacking in man-management skills sometimes.
Ref: 0 - Absolutely shocking.
P.S. How the f56k are we going to fit Lucas in? If only we had a good right-winger we could play Rio as a sweeper and put Kelly in the same cupboard (sorry, 'press') as Harte. Having said that, I'm a staunch 4-4-2 man really...
My old fella has been watching Leeds for over 50 years now. He's missed the last 5 games due to hobnobbing it on the QEII with a load of poncey old twats. He said that he'd been shitting himself for the last couple of weeks, not cos of any tummy bugs that may have been lurking on the cruise liner, but because he was worried that Leeds 18million quid investment may have been a waste.
Midway through the 1st half Rio picked up the ball in danger, he shrugged off Niall "Lighthouse" Quinn, dummied beautifully, turned inside and stroked the ball 50 yards forward straight into Viduka to start a swift counter attack.
"Bloody Hell ! - He'll do for me kid!" enthused my father. An instant cure that no amount of immodium could achieve.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 18/12/2000.
This was how David O'Leary envisaged things four months ago, as his Leeds season began with Harry Kewell injured and West Ham hanging on to Rio Ferdinand in the face of £15m offers (though he probably saw Nigel Martyn in goal, instead of returning from injury to wonder from the bench how he might displace the precocious understudy Paul Robinson).
"It's nice to put into play what you imagined," the manager said, after Kewell's cross had picked out Mark Viduka to put the match finally beyond Sunderland's reach.
Earlier Lee Bowyer had put Leeds ahead after Viduka and Alan Smith had juggled the ball through with ricochet help. Between times Sunderland had fully tested O'Leary's dream team, missing only their individual talent and key chances. They arrived at Elland Road on the back of one defeat in 13 games. Leeds received them with two wins in eight. O'Leary was entitled to his delight. It justified the months of implied "You just wait".
Copy from The Independent of 16/12/2000.
Leeds are back on track, running out worthy winners against the form side in the Premier League at Elland Road. It was not quite as easy as it seemed. Sunderland only rarely allowed Leeds to settle, could have scored twice through Niall Quinn and hit the bar in the dying moments. But a goal in each half, by Lee Bowyer and Mark Viduka, lifted Leeds out of the non-European doldrums of recent weeks and into the top half of the table.
Most significant of all for the future, David O'Leary's special subject, Harry Kewell, showed he has lost none of his verve after a lengthy injury, and David Batty was given a standing ovation on his return to the first team as a substitute almost exactly a year after injuring his Achilles tendon. No wonder O'Leary had a smile on his face.
By this time next week, if the grapevine is right, Robbie Keane could have joined one of the most expensively upholstered squads in the division. For O'Leary, the stylish manner of the victory signalled a full-frontal assault on the top-three place which would ensure European football at Elland Road next season. "There was a sense that we were getting back to old ways," the Leeds manager said. "For the first time this season, we played the way I know we can play and that's entirely down to getting players back."
Spare a thought for Sunderland, though. Perceived, along with Leicester and Ipswich, as evidence of the Premier League's diminished status, Sunderland arrived at Elland Road on the crest of four successive wins and an impressive record of only one defeat in 13 League games, a sequence based on the unfashionable virtues of industry, cohesion and tactical simplicity.
Sunderland know what they want to do and they do it well. Yet from the moment Peter Reid, the Sunderland manager, eyed the Leeds team sheet he knew his side's confidence would undergo a more severe test than should be expected from a side languishing 12th in the League at kick-off. And so it proved.
It had been six hours since Sunderland conceded a goal, to Dean Richards of Southampton, since you ask, yet Leeds should have stopped the clock on that statistical quirk long before Bowyer put them ahead mid-way through the first half. Viduka and the impressive Olivier Dacourt both went close, while Emerson Thome was booked for bringing down Viduka and was lucky not to concede a penalty shortly after when a clear nudge in the back on the Australian went unpunished by the referee, Rob Styles, who ended the match with seven names in his notebook.
But, after six hours and 23 minutes, the Sunderland fortress was stormed. And a messy little breach it was too. "Sloppy," said Reid. Eirik Bakke's cross should have been cut out somewhere between the flicks of Alan Smith and Viduka and certainly before Bowyer pounced to steer the ball past Thomas Sorensen. Leeds deserved the lead, but seemed momentarily to step back and admire their handiwork, a dangerous fault against a team of Sunderland's work ethic. Slowly, the visitors inched their way back into the game and Quinn, whose aerial battle with Jonathan Woodgate was a critical feature of the afternoon, should have scored with a half-volley from 10 yards after a knockdown by Kevin Phillips, a reversal of the usual sequence.
Leeds increased the tempo after the break, making Sunderland look one-paced. Kewell, in particular, was a threat, one moment threading his way through the Sunderland defence in a Giggs-like blur of legs, the next clipping a lofted pass on the turn from which gave Viduka the glimpse of an opening. But when Quinn profited from a fearful mix-up between Kelly and Robinson to score, only to be ruled offside, it was a reminder of the precariousness of Leeds' lead.
Another gilt-edged chance fell to Quinn moments later, but the big centre-forward took a fraction of a second too long to find his bearings, allowing Rio Ferdinand, making his debut at home, the chance to block.
When the decisive second did come, 15 minutes from time, it was a goal of surreal simplicity. Kewell drifted over to the right wing and delivered a precise cross for Viduka, who glanced a header beyond Sorensen's reach. Not even a team of Sunderland's spirit could find a way back from that deficit and victory was deemed secure enough by O'Leary to give Batty a brief but deserved taste of the high life.
It was as if Leeds had scored a third, so loud was the cheer. Alex Rae offered his own greeting with a clattering tackle on Batty's suspect Achilles. Batty simply smiled. It was good to be back. Thome hit the bar with a thumping header and Kevin Kilbane had a drive acrobatically tipped over by Robinson. But Leeds had already won their regeneration game by then.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 17/12/2000.
Leeds United arrested their surprising recent descent down the Premiership ranks in a victory that could yet prove as significant for issues of personnel as points.
David Batty and Harry Kewell each made returns from long-term lay-offs, the latter laying on the decisive second goal that won his side some much-needed breathing space as they sought, unconvincingly at times, to defend Lee Bowyer's first-half goal.
That goal came in the 77th minute, an all-Australian affair, as Kewell's perfectly judged right-wing cross found the head of the unguarded Mark Viduka who headed in from four yards.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 18/12/2000.
SANTA will be doing his rounds a little lighter next week.
He has jettisoned the Grecian 2000, anti-ageing agents and stress remedies earmarked for David O'Leary after the United manager's birthday, Easter and Christmas were rolled into one on a glorious afternoon for the club.
Goals in either half from Lee Bowyer and Mark Viduka effectively kick-started United's Premiership campaign in a quality contest at Elland Road.
A fine home debut by Rio Ferdinand, a first start of the season for Harry Kewell and a re-entry to the fray, to a tumultuous welcome, of David Batty contributed to a gold-wrapped parcel of plenitude.
Said O'Leary: "At last I feel we can get our teeth into this Premiership. It has been a frustrating season, but there were a lot of pluses out there. Finishing in the top three is a priority and hopefully now we are on our way, certainly with no European game to worry about for two months."
Kewell, starting for the first time in the Premiership for seven months, teased and tormented in his inimitable fashion and Rio Ferdinand, immense and immaculate, figured in a winning side for the first time since his £18m capture from West Ham.
United, propmpted by the tireless urgings of Olivier Dacourt, stopped Sunderland's run of five successive victories in its tracks as Batty, taking over from the French forager ten minutes from time, enjoyed his first involvement with the senior squad for over a year following a crippling Achilles tendon injury.
Dominic Matteo was again preferred to Ian Harte as United comfortably protected a record which had seen Sunderland fail to register a top-flight win at Elland Road since 1934.
In an all-action start Smith won a free kick on the left and when Bowyer's cross came over Sorensen did well to collect the ball as Viduka and Bakke rushed in.
At the other end Matteo was pulled up for a foul on Quinn but Kilbane's blast was way too high.
Kewell did well to get in a cross to open up a good chance after nine minutes, but Viduka's shot was beaten out by Sorensen. Then Dacourt was only a whisker wide of the target with a 20-yard screamer.
Robinson bravely saved at the feet of the predatory Phillips when a long ball bisected the defence.
Viduka, outsmarting Thome, won a free kick on the angle of the box, but Kewell's ambitious shot drifted wide.
Then Thome nudged Viduka in the back as he tried to turn in the area but this time referee Styles chose to ignore it.
Arca worked a decent opening for Rae, but he snatched at his shot and it drifted harmlessly wide.
Both sides were heavily committed to attack in what developed into a thoroughly entertaining encounter and after Rae again shot poorly, straight at Robinson, Viduka lashed a ferocious shot high over the bar.
United were ahead in the 23rd minute when Bakke's cross led to some sloppy defending, Viduka and Smith combining to open up the way for Bowyer to plant his shot in the far corner.
Kewell worked wonders to deliver a cross from the left and Smith was only a shade too high with his header.
United were piling it on now, but Sunderland should have equalised on the half hour when Gray battled hard to get over a cross, Phillips headed down and Quinn, under no pressure, half-volleyed wide of the target.
Bakke was booked for a foul on Rae and from the free kick Robinson was alert to Kilbane's snapshot.
Phillips played in McCann for a shooting chance which ricocheted for a corner, then Thome should have received his marching orders in first half injury time when he brought down Bowyer on the edge of the box. Bizarrely, Craddock got the booking for dissent and Dacourt's free kick was scrambled clear.
A fine ball forward from Ferdinand sent Viduka racing away down the right, but he failed to find the unmarked Kewell at the far post, Sorensen leaping to cut out the cross.
A dreadful mix-up between Kelly and Robinson let in Quinn, but the linesman's flag rescued Leeds from a dire situation and Kelly, captain in the absence of Lucas Radebe, embarked on a lengthy admonishment of his keeper.
On 65 minutes Bowyer's corner was met with a blistering shot by Viduka only for Sorensen to produce a majestic point-blank save, and a minute later Ferdinand's low cross brought a cheeky backheel from Bakke which came back off a post.
A brilliant saving tackle by Ferdinand kept out the ponderous Quinn at the expense of a corner and at the other end Sorensen's brave dive at the feet of Smith rescued Sunderland.
United wrapped it up in the 77th minute when Kewell's precise cross from the right was glanced into the far corner by Viduka.
Smith had the ball in the net from Batty's fine pass five minutes from time but it was ruled out by an offside flag.
Arca, the teenage Argentinian, blasted over from a good position in injury time and kicked the turf in frustration to reflect an unrewarding day for Sunderland.
A happy white Christmas is on the cards.