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It wasn't a good game on satdi. We were poor, and against anyone else could've lost. However, in Joe Royle, city have a manager with less technical nouse than O'Leary. Royle beat us at our place, knowing that packing the midfield means we have no invention, but at home, he bottled it and decided to play two-up, albiet using 3 centre-halves and two wing-backs of various depths (Edghill not straying out of their half, Tiatto going whereever he could up-end someone).
Picture the situation. You're loosing, so the sensible thing to do is change strikers so the other team has to defend deeper. Royle does this with Dickov on for Goater. We instantly retaliate with Keane on fer Smith. You go 2 goals behind, and the other team has a fit, fresh striker on who likes to run at defences. I know: lets take off a centre-half and bring on an attacking midfielder. Royle, yer a clown! Keane's now free to do whatever he wants.
In all truth, the press were right. It shouldn't've been 4-0. A competant ref would've given us 3-0 at half-time, perm any 4 from Tiatto, Granville, Haaland, Wanchope, Howey and Morrisson to send off, but again and again the ref bottled it, to the point where Mills started retaliating after been taken from behind so often. Morrisson rugby tackled his way past Smith in the centre circle and Howey has a belief that two-footed from behind is fine so long as you take their legs first.
Their fans were quite vociferous to begin with, but as the goals went in to chants of "Alfie, Alfie, what's the score?" they soon quietened down. However, it was within these quieter moments that their fans proved it's all of manchester which are scum, as they had a chorus or two about istanbul.
After the game, we were kept in to allow city to regroup outside. Stuff's already been mentioned about City fans using pepper spray on all comers (women and children included) on some of the back streets around Claremont Road. Anyone in colours seemed open-game to them, regardless if you were with a family or owt. Later on as I was boozing in town, there were set-to's occurring in the overdraught, old garratt and also the Granby. Alot of police around, but they were still eating their kebabs so didn't bother to break owt up.
All in all, we weren't up to much, but deserved the win by whatever magnitude. Bowyer showed how much we missed him t'other week, and Wilcox emphasised the advantages of 4-4-2. Well worth the price of admission for Keane's first.
The afternoon sun warmed us up nicely on a cold afternoon - but it would have been better if it hadn't been straight in our eyes for the first 20-odd minutes. At 16 quid a ticket, I suppose we shouldn't complain too much and what we did see through shaded eyes wasn't much to write home about. Leeds attacked from the off, pouring down the far end and enjoying most of the possession. But that's the story of a lot of games this season (notably Southampton), and by the time the sun was below the South Stand we'd seen Eirik Bakke booked for a tough but fair-looking challenge, two City players escape scot-free with far worse, and then saw Alfi dive headlong over the leg of a totally wound-up Olivier Dacourt to get the Frenchman yet another booking.
30 minutes gone, and with the exception of one cut-back from Smithy and a half-chance for Mark Viduka, this was looking like another one of those nearly-but-not-quite days. Then they handed a goal to us on a plate: Andy Morrison took a free kick from inside the City half - straight to Jason Wilcox. Wilcox ran the ball straight back at the depleted defence, knocked the ball across the edge of the box and saw Eirik Bakke produce a good finish as the City defence struggled to close him down.
Coming up to half-time, we saw ref Mike Dean again favour City as he waved his card at Danny Mills for a real nothing challenge. Maybe he realised his mistake: a bit of dissent at a free kick saw Andy Morrison and Jeff Whitley pointlessly added to his book to make it 3-3 at half-time. After the break, Danny Tiatto produced 3 particularly bad tackles: having been carded for the first one he can count himself hugely lucky to have been on the field to make the third, and I was wondering if I should pick his number for the lottery when he remained on the field after making the worst challenge of the day.
You've got to feel some sympathy for City, in a sort of "ha ha we won you lost" sort of way: they battled hard throughout the second half and even forced Paul Robinson to bat away a fierce shot from Wanchope, and Robbo had to be quick off his line a couple of times. The City fans started getting behind their team, but the atmosphere at Maine Road is a far cry from what it used to be: there was an air of resignation as soon as they went behind, and the biggest cheer of the game from their fans was reserved for an excellent save by Nicky Weaver, twisting in mid-air to keep out a shot from Robbie Keane after a good cross from Wilcox. As the half wore on we still didn't look totally comfortable, but when Lee Bowyer's shot found the back of the net in the 80th minute, the City players hung their heads and the stadium started to empty.
With injury time looming, the stadium announcer told us they'd be keeping us in, but when Robbie Keane scored that just meant we'd get to have an extended celebration. A superb through ball from Lee Bowyer on to an even better timed run found the Irishman heading towards the goal. Under pressure from the defender, he could have gone down to win a penalty and a red card, but Keane stayed on his feet, chipped the advancing Weaver, and produced a celebratory somersault in front of an overjoyed Leeds end.
Two minutes of injury time was suggested by the 4th official, and with most of that gone Leeds won another corner. For once we managed to get it into the box, and there was Keane again: a slight miskick, but it found the net and we were treated to another somersault. The City fans streamed for the exit, and when the final whistle blew moments later, the Leeds end was singing "We want 5" - and we outnumbered the remaining Blues.
This was one of the least one-sided 4-0's I've ever seen. City didn't deserve to be on the end of such a hammering, but they created very little, and having suffered more than once this season from dominating a game without converting the chances, it was great to see Leeds suddenly start taking every chance. Just a shame that fifth one didn't go in....
Copy from Football Unlimited of 15/01/2001.
After Manchester City had collapsed to their heaviest home defeat for 12 years Joe Royle strode through the Maine Road corridors clutching a can of cider. By the end of the night he may have got through a crate's worth. As results lurch from bad to worse there must be plenty he would rather forget.
City's manager was right to say the scale of this victory flattered Leeds but no amount of alcohol can hide the fact that his side are in trouble. Short of confidence and creativity their prospects look bleak. Having taken six points from 39 since late October, they surely need 18 from the next 45 to survive.
"There's a while to go yet before I get my calculator out," Royle insisted. Yet lose at Derby on Saturday and at Middlesbrough a fortnight later and the manager may feel the need for his ready reckoner.
Copy from The Independent of 13/01/2001.
Manchester City's Premiership life is draining away, any optimism yesterday disappearing thanks to four goals three in the last 11 minutes scored with collusion from the home defence. A team playing with more confidence than Leeds would have made a far earlier meal of City, who lacked creative spark in the first half and only briefly hinted at anything better in the second.
It was a blow for City that Darren Huckerby was not available to wreak vengeance on his former club. There were ex-Leeds players in their line- up in Alf Inge Haaland and Danny Granville, as well as their new goalkeeper, Carlo Nash, on the bench. For Leeds, Mark Viduka was fit, although Harry Kewell was missing and Robbie Keane only fit enough to be a substitute.
With Eirik Bakke and Olivier Dacourt knocking the ball around in midfield with ease, Leeds made the running, although the nearest they came to a clear chance was when those two combined, Danny Mills whipped in the ball from the right and Richard Dunne just managed to get in front of the lurking Viduka. It took an intervention from another City defender, Richard Edghill, to stop Jason Wilcox getting a touch in a similar position.
The other side of Dacourt's play was represented by two flailing tackles, the first on Danny Tiatto earning him a warning and the second on Haaland moments later making him the third man booked. With Paulo Wanchope and Shaun Goater up front, plus three big central defenders, one of City's main tactics was always going to be the high ball into the penalty area. Leeds dealt more than competently with the early variations on that theme and, on the half hour, City's attempt to hurl another ball forward ended in disaster.
Andy Morrison put his free- kick straight to Wilcox, who ran it back at a wrong-footed defence, leaving the unmarked Bakke free to stroke the ball past Nicky Weaver for the game's first goal from its first authentic shot. Only Bradford have a worse defensive record than City and this was another thoroughly galling goal to concede; nor with such an abject lack of creativity in the first half was it obvious how they could undo the damage.
They could have been further adrift before the break if Weaver had not managed to change direction and save when Bakke's shot was deflected by Alan Smith. There had been three times as many bookings as attempts on goal during a sterile first half, but at least City brought on somebody theoretically capable of passing as well as winning the ball for the second. Tony Grant was apparently on his way out of the club earlier in the week, but his appearance coincided with their first chance, Tiatto setting off Wanchope, who shot wide from a narrowing angle. Paul Robinson could not hold Haaland's drive 10 minutes later and the ball had to be scrambled away before Wanchope could cash in. Wanchope and Grant figured in the build-up as City's relative revival continued with Tiatto's shot saved by Robinson.
Leeds should have put it beyond doubt 15 minutes from time when Keane, just arrived as a replacement for Smith, volleyed straight at Weaver from Wilcox's cross. Four minutes later, it was all wrapped up. Viduka moved beautifully to get in a cross from the right, Edghill failed to clear and then deflected Lee Bowyer's shot into the net.
Keane more than made up for his earlier miss two goals in the dying minutes, the first from Bowyer's through-ball after Jeff Whitley had been caught in possession and the second after City's woeful rearguard had failed to clear Wilcox's corner.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 13/01/2001.
So much for Plan B. Having returned to many of the loyal foot soldiers who had helped him slog through successful second and first division campaigns, Joe Royle's team was cruelly exposed by a Leeds side already with an eye on next season.
Robbie Keane turned in a masterful 20-minute cameo off the bench, scoring twice and almost claiming a hat-trick as City took their depressing sequence of results to six points collected from the last available 39.
Royle started the game with six of his team that had dragged City out of the Second Division, a signal that the 'Dogs of War' policy that became his trademark in relegation battles at Everton is back in his lexicon.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 16/01/2001.
THE best way forward for a team to restore flagging confidence is to be pitted with a side whose entire fabric is shot to pieces.
And this was the bonus for Leeds United as they chalked up their first away win in the Premiership for five months against a City side dire and desperate who served up what mounted to an apology for top-flight football.
United, crying out for a morale-booster, were tentative themselves in a woeful opening half-hour of exchanges that would have had any self-respecting theatre buff leading a queue for a refund had this been a West End production.
Of quality there was none; of purpose and direction precious little. Only a constant stream of mind-numbing misplacement of passes short and long was in evidence as both sides craved a playmaker.
Worse for City, in Nicky Weaver they had a goalkeeper whose clearance kicks were as bad, and downright self-imperilled, as the Blues in front of him. He was later to redeem himself slightly, but let there be no further bracketing of his name with that of United's Paul Robinson when England is discussed.
This game of paupers needed a prince and, as it wore on, two emerged in the yellow of Leeds.
First Lee Bowyer determined that fortune might favour the brave and with industry, vision and an eye for goal he turned the tide United's way.
Then Robbie Keane made a grand entrance with 20 minutes left, forced Weaver into a blinding save and scored two in the space of a minute, with Bowyer's help, to bring an emphatic and largely unwarranted ring to the scoreline.
This was a fixture in which the result was always going to be more important than the performance and it at least brought back-to-back wins without the concession of a goal to put United in a happier frame of mind.
They did not have to hit the form of which they are capable to overcome a ragged City outfit and nor did they.
United manager David O'Leary conceded that they had been flattered by the scoreline, adding: "At least it will do our confidence no end of good.
"You have got to follow it up by beating Newcastle next week, take full advantage of your games in hand and hope that is enough to send you on your way.
"I was delighted with the players. I thought Rio Ferdinand was outstanding again. He's not a bad player for someone who allegedly can't play in a back four."
There were recalls for Bowyer and Jason Wilcox as United set about making a long-awaited start to a sequence that would see them in the top half of the Premiership table.
And in City they were facing opponents whose dreadful run of just one win in their previous 12 games had put them into the bottom three death zone.
Leeds old boys Danny Granville and Alf Haaland were in the City line-up but Darren Huckerby was ruled out of a sell-out match with an ankle injury.
A tame opening saw Eirik Bakke yellow-carded for a foul on Tiatto and a shot from the Norwegian that was nearer the corner flag than its intended target.
A direct free kick from Dacourt hit the wall and, when Viduka threatened from Bowyer's smart pass, Morrison was in with a timely tackle.
There can have been few quieter starts to a Premiership game and it was getting more untidy by the minute with both sides guilty of abysmal passing and the lack of an incisive edge.
When Bowyer sent Smith away down the right his cross for Wilcox was turned for a corner by Dunne, and with 30 minutes gone there had still not been a meaningful effort on goal.
Howey was booked for a foul on Dacourt, who was himself admonished when he sent Haaland sprawling.
United went ahead on 31 minutes when Wilcox hurtled forward and picked out Bakke, who had taken up a good position and had had an easy task in converting the cross to the other side of the box from ten yards.
Weaver panicked at Bakke's long-range shot just before the break and in the end did well to keep it out with his legs, but his failure to save cleanly typified a dreadfully scrappy affair.
Everything City tried was down the left through Tiatto and Granville, who was replaced at the start of the second half by Tony Grant.
Tiatto unlocked the United defence with a through ball to Wanchope, whose shot on the turn hit the side netting.
Edghill's thunderous shot was spilled by Robinson, who redeemed himself with a great block as Wanchope shaped to swallow up the rebound.
Smith won a corner out on the right midway through the half but United were unable to capitalise with a goal which would have put the match out of City's reach.
Tiatto produced a moment of magic when skipping past Mills after Wanchope's good work, but his fearsome shot produced a flying save from Robinson. City brought on Dickov for Goater and United introduced Keane for Smith with around 20 minutes left.
Matteo and Wilcox combined well to give Keane a close-range chance, but Weaver produced a reflex point-blank save to keep out the Irishman.
But ten minutes from time Viduka's brute strength carried him into the area from a free kick in the deep and his cross was smartly turned home by Bowyer.
"Alfie, Alfie, what's the score?" the travelling fans taunted. The City skipper, well enough aware of his side's fate, stood with his head suitably bowed.
And United embarked on a grand finale. Viduka's smart back heel in the 89th minute found Bowyer, whose arrowed pass to Keane was met with an exquisite first-time flick past a stranded Weaver.
And Keane doubled up a minute later, blasting home Bowyer's corner from close range at the far post.
It's encouraging to win 4-0 when you're not playing well. The turning of the corner is in sight.