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What on earth is going on? We've got 15-20 very talented players at Elland Road getting paid huge amounts of money and we've only twice managed to win two games in succession in the league this season. Meanwhile, a 5th home defeat in the league puts us in line for our worst season at Elland Road since 1995-96 as the Wilko team started to disintegrate.
The game: we could/should have scored after 30 seconds when Keane over-balanced as he tried to get on the end of Viduka's through ball. A minute later, Robbie Keane's luck was in as he found the net from just outside the six yard box. A minute later, Danny Mills was extremely harshly treated as his hand hit a ball kicked at high speed and close range. Solano slotted the penalty home and we were back where we started.
Throughout the game we enjoyed the majority of the possession but failed to do enough with it. Bakke, Dacourt and Wilcox were particularly disappointing. Viduka didn't get much of the ball but didn't seem too keen to search for it. Only Robbie Keane was a credible attacking force, but too often he found himself driven wide with no support to help out.
At the back, Lucas Radebe and Jon Woodgate would have been our first-choice pairing at the start of the season - but I make that 11 different combinations that we've tried this year. Add to that the Nige/Robbo switch and you've got the sort of recipe for confusion that we had under Wilko with Whyte/Fairclough/Mclelland/Newsome/Wetherall and Lukic/Beeney. It's no surprise that we've only had 11 clean sheets so far this season: "successful" years of late have yielded 20-30, with 22 coming last season.
Lucas had a fairly dire game, getting regularly turned and looking short of pace, and Matteo's performance at left back must have left Ian Harte hopeful of a recall. Newcastle's second just before half-time saw them rapidly turn defence into attack, with Acuna somehow staying sufficiently well-balanced to loft the ball over the stranded Robbo as Lucas failed to get his boot to the ball.
The second half was more of the same: Leeds possession, a certain amount of pressure, but no sharpness. Keane should have scored but aimed a header straight at Given, and the Newcastle keeper did well to keep out a couple of other efforts. When they forced home a third goal with a few minutes to go, the scenes were reminiscent of Maine Road last week: home fans streaming for the exit and a loud and jubilant end full of away fans celebrating a vital three points. Looking at the teams out there and at Newcastle's absentees (Shearer, Cort, Dyer to name but three) we should have strolled this: maybe that's what our players thought too.
DOL knows that he needs to do something to improve things, but each player needs to improve their contribution and workrate if we're to stand a chance of qualifying for Europe next year. The "naive young manager" and "young players just learning" gag no longer washes: there are too many individuals believing their own publicity out there and after two good seasons they're forgetting what it's like to be a hungry team out for a big scalp. We CAN do it: we just need to believe and try a little bit harder.
Of course it's bloody frustrating to lose at home again to another mid-table and mostly average team, but we did actually play better yesterday than we have for some weeks. For once it was poor finishing and inspired goalkeeping that prevented us from winning rather than the recent overall ineptitude.
A positive start to the day as Stewards actually came into the Supporters Club to hand out anti-racism leaflets, it took awhile but at least the club seem to be doing something. A good start to the match as well, Keane nearly broke through from kick-off and within a couple of minutes had finished at the 2nd attempt after Viduka broke free on the left.
The euphoria didn't last long, Newcastle broke well and soon equalised with a Solano penalty after Mills had been adjudged to handle after a ball to hand incident in the area. For a while it didn't look like it'd matter as we played well for the next 20 minutes or so and were only denied by a poor final ball and good saves by Given from Viduka and Bowyer, as well as a couple of close calls collecting the ball on the edge of his area.
All credit to Newcastle as well, in the first half they didn't pack the midfield as we may have suspected with their injury problems and contributed to an exciting half. International singing sensation Shola Ama caused us problems for the 2nd time in a month with his uncanny Wanchope like ability to emerge from a tackle with the ball at his feet. Geordies were lucky to be ahead at half-time though after Acuna scored his 2nd ever league goal (and 2nd against us) whilst sitting on his arse on the edge of the area.
Second half Newcastle dropped deeper and packed the defence and as per usual we struggled to break through, though at least we kept playing football and did make some chances Keane and Viduka could both have done better a couple of times each and Given made a great save from a Bakke header near the end. We had corner after corner and they generally landed in the danger area from Bowyer and Wilcox but we didn't seem to have any real aerial threat which was odd as Newcastle were quite a small team themselves. Eventually we committed to many men forward and on the break Ameobi eventually fired in from the edge of the area as we stood off.
A poor result but not that bad a performance, Newcastle played very well given what they had available and we were somewhat unlucky though if we played as well as we are capable of, luck wouldn't come into to it.
They say you cant make a silk purse out of a pig's ear. Is the converse true ?
Pig's Ears 1 Newcastle 3
The only consolation is that of all the home defeats this season this was our best performance. Also its worth noting that Lady Luck and the ref wore big Geordie grins at the end.
Good sides however don't concede 3 goals at home against mid-table sides with half a team injured/suspended.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 22/01/2001.
While Leeds United were on their awfully big adventure, they dared to imagine that they could make all their dreams come true. For a side weened on non-stop youthful fantasy, the inevitable intrusion of reality is proving a disturbing experience.
Leeds have abandoned their Champions League exploits for the challenge of the Premiership as reluctantly as a hyper-sensitive child exchanging Harry Potter's Chamber of Secrets for a first term at an inner-city comp. However much their admirers impress upon them how wonderful they are, they no longer quite believe it.
After Newcastle had completed a Premiership double over them in less than a month, Bobby Robson suggested that Leeds still had the makings of "a great side". But the potentially great side have now lost five Premiership matches at Elland Road, against middling opponents, and languish in the bottom half.
Copy from The Independent of 20/01/2001.
Greater challenges lie ahead for David O'Leary and his Champions League likely lads. As they prepare to face Real Madrid, Lazio and Anderlecht on the European stage, though, respectability on the home front continues to elude Leeds. Victory at Elland Road yesterday would have taken them up into the top half of the table but the conquerors of Lazio and Milan failed to rise to the domestic occasion.
They could hardly have made a better start, Robbie Keane's fourth goal since his arrival from Internazionale giving them a second-minute lead. It was all downhill from there. A combination of poor finishing on the part of O'Leary's players, some inspired goalkeeping by Shay Given and goals by Nolberto Solano (from the penalty spot), Clarence Acuna and Shola Ameobi contrived to present Bobby Robson's unlikely lads with a victory against the odds.
It was Leeds' third defeat in five Premiership matches, their fifth loss in the League at Elland Road this season. "The bottom line,'' O'Leary said, after emerging from an hour long dressing-room debriefing, "is that a lot of the players are not playing with confidence at home. Expectations are high here and we are struggling to live up to them.''
The opposite is true of Robson's side. They were without the suspended Kieron Dyer, as well as Alan Shearer and Carl Cort, and their manager's day did not get off to the best of starts when his first-choice goalkeeper, Steve Harper, failed a morning fitness test on an injured toe. "I thought, 'That's just our luck here we go again','' Robson later reflected.
The déjà vu must have been even more acute when Leeds made their early breakthrough. Newcastle have not been able to keep a clean sheet since September and yesterday their defensive copybook was blotted with just one minute and 52 seconds on the clock.
Alain Goma was pulled out of position on the left edge of the penalty area by Mark Viduka and when the Australian cut the ball into the heart of the box Keane beat Given with a side-footed finish at the second attempt, after both the young Irish striker and Eirik Bakke had miskicked. It was not the best of starts for Robson's under-strength side, but they did not take long to recover.
They were given a helping hand two minutes later when Kevin Gallacher flicked the ball over Danny Mills on the left side of the Leeds area the right-back clearly handled. Solano converted the penalty, the Peruvian's sixth goal of the season, and for a while Newcastle even threatened to take control. Indeed, they should have taken the lead in the 10th minute, but when Warren Barton crossed from the right the unmarked Acuna steered his header into the arms of Paul Robinson.
It took a brilliant save by the young Leeds keeper to stop a Gallacher drive 10 minutes before half-time, but Newcastle were fortunate still to be on level terms at that stage. They were also indebted to Given, who thwarted Viduka and Lee Bowyer with one-handed diving saves as the gaps opened up in the Newcastle defence. In the final minute of the half, though, a chink appeared at the other end when Gary Speed played a ball through for Acuna. The Chilean lost his footing under challenge from Olivier Dacourt but, in crashing to the ground, managed to gain sufficient leverage to flick a right-footed shot over Robinson's head and into the home net.
It was a stunning blow to Leeds. They might have made a quick recovery but when Goma grabbed Viduka around the waist three minutes into the second-half the Leeds striker's theatrical dive cost him any hope of a penalty. The referee, Alan Wiley, was not impressed and Leeds struggled to make an attacking impression until the closing stages.
With eight minutes remaining, Alan Smith crossed from the right and Keane blasted a clear drive high into the Don Revie Stand. Three minutes later, from a similarly promising position, Bakke stooped to head a free-kick which Given did well to push wide.
With one sweeping Newcastle break in the 86th minute, though, Leeds' hopes of salvation were abruptly curtailed. Wayne Quinn crossed from wide on the left and Solano, on the far side of the area, tapped the ball back for Ameobi to bury a right-footed drive. It was the 19-year-old's second goal in successive games and it sealed Newcastle's first win away from St James' Park since October.
"It's a massive win for us,'' Robson said. "Had we lost today and at Chelsea next Saturday we could have gone from seventh place to 14th and suddenly you're in a dog-fight. The quicker we get into a cushioned position the better.'' Newcastle are up to sixth now. Leeds remain some distance from the comfort zone.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 21/01/2001.
David O'Leary considered Leeds United's December defeat at Newcastle as the most disappointing of his Elland Road reign. At least he did before experiencing this, which leaves them looking ill-equipped for the daunting ties that await them in the Champions' League.
As they did at St James' Park on Boxing Day, Leeds saw an awful lot of the ball yesterday and won the corner count by a remarkable 16-0 margin. But their lack of imagination in the final third is now a major problem.
O'Leary held an hour-long dressing-room meeting with his players afterwards. He also met captain Lucas Radebe and representatives of the South African FA to warn that the player would be stripped of the club captaincy if he continues to put country before club. Radebe will miss Leeds's FA Cup tie against Liverpool next Saturday because of the World Cup game against Burkina Faso - although Radebe has hinted he may quit international football after that match.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 23/01/2001.
THE patient is sick and Doctor O'Leary has to be aware that you get nowhere by telling depression sufferers to pull themselves together.
Perplexed by the malaise, he is seeking a cure for the football equivalent of a golfer's putting yips, a Test bowler's suddenly faltering run-up and a tennis ace's unexplained loss of co-ordination on the serve.
An intensive course of therapy began on the final whistle, with the players locked in the dressing room for an hour-long consultation.
Like all doctor-patient relations, what was said remains a private matter.
But whatever medicine was dished out, the depression hanging over Elland Road has been brought on by a total loss of confidence, fear of making a mistake, an aversion to inventiveness and a retreat within their fragile selves.
There is another factor. Leeds' exploits on the big European stages over the past couple of years has held them up as prize scalps for opposing players as well as envious managers and as a consequence visiting teams invariably up their game.
United, like alarmed rabbits, have frozen in their headlights and become just another statistic on the Premiership highway.
It need not have been like this. Maybe the introductions of Matteo, Dacourt, Viduka, Ferdinand and Keane all at once were too hasty in the evolutionary process, changing in an instant as they did the look, shape and vibrance of a team that had been doing so well.
Too little too soon has been the result.
Ferdinand missed this one through injury, but even the fillip of a second minute Keane goal was not enough to prevent Leeds United from crashing to a miserable fifth home defeat of the season.
Newcastle had something to prove after being knocked out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle in midweek and overcame their early setback to set about the task in style.
A corner count of 17-0 in Leeds' favour may have reflected the game in terms of possession, but it counted for nothing as the Geordies completed an unlikely Premiership double over O'Leary's men in the space of a month.
Big-money pair Ferdinand and Keane had contrasting fortunes ahead of a game Leeds, previously unbeaten in three games this year, were desperate to win to propel them into the top half of the table.
Ferdinand was out with a tweaked hamstring but Keane, who scored twice in a minute in the last match at Manchester City having coming on from the bench, made his first start for the club since joining from Inter Milan.
Weakened Newcastle were missing injured pair Alan Shearer and Stephen Glass and Kieron Dyer was suspended.>pP>But former Leeds favourite Gary Speed passed a late fitness test to skipper the side and Wayne Quinn, on loan from Sheffield United, continued at left back.
Keane won a corner after just 15 seconds and Bowyer's kick was angled back to Bakke, whose looping header dropped just over the bar.
And after just 112 seconds Leeds were ahead, Viduka cutting in and creating a melee in which Keane got the final touch to hammer home from close range.
Newcastle hit straight back, though, in the third minute when Mills handled in a penalty area challenge with Gallacher and Solano stepped up to send Robinson the wrong way with his spot kick.
In an all-action start Acuna wasted two chances in quick succession, first when he scuffed his shot wide and then when he headed straight into Robinson's arms from Speed's precise cross.
More good work on the right by Viduka nearly paid dividends on 15 minutes, but Bowyer saw his shot drift agonisingly wide of the far post with Given beaten.
It looked dangerous for Leeds when Solano's threaded pass gave Gallacher a shooting chance, but Robinson spread himself well to fingertip to safety the effort angled towards the far corner.
Viduka's neat flick again gave Bowyer an opportunity in the 25th minute but this time, having struck his shot sweetly, the midfield man saw Given, a last-minute replacement for the injured Steve Harper, make a majestic flying save.
A dreadful mistake by Matteo right in front of his own goal let in Gallacher for what looked a certain lead-poacher, but Robinson stood tall and somehow kept out the close-range shot.
Wilcox won a corner on the left and Keane on the right as United finished the half strongly, but they were unable to take advantage.
Then a minute before the interval Speed saw possibilities ahead. Acuna stuck in a telling foot in his lengthy battle for the ball with Dacourt and the ball looped over the advancing Robinson.
Newcastle were prepared to soak it up for the opening second half exchanges, but they had a heart-stopping moment when Viduka went down under a heavy challenge in the box only for referee Wiley to wave play on.
Another flurry of corners brought Leeds fresh hope but Frenchman Goma was having a stormer at the heart of the Newcastle defence and they continued to stand firm.
A rare piece of Newcastle enterprise saw Solano burst through only to shoot wide, and the Peruvian was then narrowly over the bar with his direct free kick from just outside the box.
United brought on Smith for Wilcox with eleven minutes left and he immediately created a chance for Keane following a strong burst down the right. But the Irish youngster was wayward with his finish.
A flying save by Given from Bakke's header sent Newcastle upfield to wrap up the match four minutes from time.
LuaLua skipped round Radebe on the halfway line and brought in Speed, whose cross was hammered low and hard into the far corner from just inside the box by Ameobi.
United's beleagured squad need an arm round them. They need telling how good they are and encouragement to show it. The remedial qualities of bonding and a heavy dose of TLC could have them back on their feet in no time.United's beleagured squad need an arm round them. They need telling how good they are and encouragement to show it. The remedial qualities of bonding and a heavy dose of TLC could have them back on their feet in no time.