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Stumble out of bed at an excruciatingly early part of the morning. The only positive thing is that Chigley is on the telly. At least I managed to get some kip once I'd finally made the minibus. Get to Scouseland, and find Arkles isn't open yet, so no chance of the necessary liquid refreshment to boost the spirits and lubricate the old vocal cords before the game - clearly a Liverpool plot going on.
Not for the first time in recent weeks, a football crowd was called on to observe a minute's silence - today's marking the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and also, sadly coincidentally, the numerous deaths at Ellis Park in South Africa last week. The odd mobile phone chirruped out, but nearly 45000 people showed their respect for the dead, most people realising how easily they could have been involved in just such a tragic incident themselves.
Leeds lined up pretty much as expected. Liverpool had Gerrard back, despite earlier reports that he would be crocked. "Money-grabbing Judas" McAllister was on the bench (when will the idiot tendency in the Leeds fans realise just how much he did for the club?) along with another one of our perennial hate figures, Emil "Bruno" "whoops I fell over" Heskey. Leeds came out of the traps quickly and looked so much more up for it. This was a 6-pointer we couldn't afford to lose. Smithy won the ball as Leeds attacked, knocking it back for Danny Mills to produce a superb first-time whipped cross. Henchoz headed it behind for a corner with the Pieman breathing down his neck. Harte went to take the corner as Dom and Rio came up from the back to attack the goal in front of the Leeds fans, who were chanting Rio's name. Matteo broke to the near post, Harte's corner cleared the six yard box and there was Rio on the back post to give the Leeds end even more reason to sing his praises. One goal in four years for West Ham, now two in two games for Leeds - he looks more and more worth the money every game.
After a great start we nearly had a repeat of what happened in Madrid with a dubious free kick being smashed into the box but this time Nige got his fingertips to it and pushed it round the post to preserve the lead. We all breathed a sigh of relief as the Scousers clutched their heads in frustration. Leeds passed the ball brilliantly, and not one Red touched the ball in a 2-minute passage of play that had the Leeds end "OLE-ing" every pass.
It became clear that the Liverpool tactics included trying to wind up Alan Smith at every opportunity - but this time he just rose above the baiting, took the free kicks that came from the numerous pushes and hacks and got on with the game. He nearly made it 2-0 with an overhead kick from the edge of the six yard box just short of the quarter hour, and Leeds were creating loads more chances and dominating both possession and territory. The ref awarded some free kicks each way that looked frankly bizarre, and Hamann and Carragher in particular benefited from a lenient attitude by Mr Wiley. The ref's patience was finally tested by a late hack on Smith by Gerrard - the book came out and Liverpool and England's golden boy found his name first on the page. The challenge on Smith wasn't that terrible but it came just 5 minutes after a worse hack at Kewell, and the ref clearly indicated that it was for more than the one tackle.
Smith was caught waist-high by Hyppia as he tried to break through but no foul was given, but still Leeds pressed. Bowyer charged into the box into some space made by Viduka moving his pie box out of the way and had a shot. Westerveld spilled it, Bowyer followed up and - after a slight amount of hesitation - rolled the ball into the net right in front of us. 2-0 up after 30 minutes at Anfield - a great position to be in IF you can hang on to it. We did more than that - Danny Mills copped for a real mouthful from Bowyer, who thought the defender should have picked up his run into the box with a pass, but since Mills' shot had left Westerveld at full stretch and only just crept past the post, Bowyer's abuse was a bit harsh.
Half-time, we're still 2-0 up and the players go off to a rousing chorus of boos from the Scousers. Houllier had to change something for the second half, with Olly bossing the midfield, aided by Batts and Bowyer - both slightly out of sorts but providing able support. On came Gary McAllister to a rousing chorus of jeers from the Leeds end. Macca had an immediate impact, playing down the left wing and winning a corner. The ball had bounced out into the Leeds end - and nobody wanted to give it back to the former Leeds and Scotland captain. Instead he got some personalised close range "banter", and the ball went back to Nige to hang onto before the corner was taken. The ball in was good - and Nige was back-pedalling when he tipped the ball out for another corner. Liverpool pressed forward and for the first time Owen came into the game, winning a corner on the left as he charged into the area.
Not much came of that corner, but shortly afterwards Owen got the better of Mills and Matteo to make it into the box. His pull back across the face of goal was met by Gerrard, arriving unmarked on the left from 10 yards out. He hit the ball hard enough to stop Harte - on the line and in the line of fire - from clearing. 1-2 and they're right back in it.
A few midfield battles were hotting up, and Mills was booked for an innocuous challenge on Fowler. "Fowler takes it up the nose" and scouse-accented Harry Enfield take-offs: "Calm down, calm down" was the order of the day. Heskey came on and immediately made his physical presence felt. He charged through a crowd of defenders in exactly the same way that Brian Deane used to do (for Sheffield United of course, not Leeds) and was pulled and nudged by several defenders. Remarkably, he stayed up - but then he usually goes down when it's nothing like a foul, so the fact that he was actually being fouled this time probably confused his diving muscle, forcing him to remain upright this time.
Liverpool had the most of the play in the first few minutes of the half, but Rio and Dom had masterful games at the centre of the Leeds defence, and Houllier probably wondered why he'd let Matteo go to raise money to buy Ziege. Kewell started to get a bit tired around the hour mark (again) but he stayed on for a while longer and tormented the defence - and Babbel in particular - with a bunch of mazy runs and crosses that never quite managed to add to Leeds' total.
With about 20 minutes to go, things started getting very tasty. Mills successfully beat Heskey to the ball, but with the ball cleared downfield and the officials looking the other way, Heskey slapped Mills in the head as he went past him. I'm sure the FA will do sod all about it if they ever get to view a tape of the game. Gerrard had been getting increasingly niggly, and Hamann (at last) and subsitute Smicer had both picked up yellows. Batts laid the ball off as Leeds cleared, Gerrard slid in very late and studs first, catching Batts just below the knee in passing. Batts was knocked over by the challenge, but by the time he'd got up (not long - you know what Batts is like when it comes to staying down after an injury) the ref had decided that Gerrard's tackle deserved a yellow card. Whether or not the ref remembered what Gerrard had originally been booked for is uncertain, but it must be said that he was a bit unlucky to get the second yellow. However, he did make contact in a late challenge with the ball well gone, and that's what probably made up the ref's mind.
That's when I started worrying. We are notoriously bad against 10 men, and Derby equalised when they were a man down earlier in the season. But this Leeds side has learnt a lot since then, and with the exception of a couple more charges from Heskey, the game was in the bag. It would have been in the bag, packed in the back of the car and travelling home if Mark Viduka had a bit more luck. One shot hit the post, he was brought down by Westerveld for what looked like a penalty from the Anfield Road end, but refs - even refs that have unbalanced the numbers and made a couple of dodgy decisions - do not give penalties and red cards against Liverpool directly in front of the Kop. In injury time, Vidooks had the ball in the back of the net but was wrongly ruled out for offside. We hung on a little, but we still hung on. A vital 3 away points - and a league double over Liverpool. This year really isn't turning out so bad!
"Boring boring Scousers!" we sang. "We are Champions League!" we added. Excellent result, well worth getting out of bed at a stupid time in the morning to attend. DOL has somehow managed to keep the team focused and together throughout all the injuries and other problems that have attended Leeds all season, and for once the Manager of the Month award wasn't a jinx to its recipient. La Coruna here we come!
Today was, as the cliché goes, a game of two halves! First half, Liverpool can surely never have been so slaughtered at home. Completetely battered by a Leeds team that ran the midfield and looked continually meancing in front of goal. Second half, after two substitutions, Liverpool - certainly 'til Gerrard was dismissed - looked equally as menacing and likely to score.
Before the game, as we wandered through the incredibly depressing backstreets of Liverpool, not trying to hide our allegances, a big scouser leaning against the wall with a polystyrene cup held high called us over. I thought he was going to ask for redevelopment money in his little cup, and I thought, you'll need a damn site money than'll fit in that little cup! However, he said: "Hey, be gentle with us today." Fat chance I thought - apart from which, the sentiment should have been the other way round... As we walked off, he noticed our friend's cut nose (he hit it on the car door as he got out) and made some comment about it being a very big nose. As a token of retribution two thousand Leeds fans screamed smilar abuse at Phil Thompson during the match. But more of the chants later...
Inside the ground we bumped into a madman wearing shorts on a cold spring morning, hi Martyn! ;-), and found out we were sitting (er, standing) almost at ground level, unnervingly, next to a shed load of rozzers and some bloke with a video camera who was filming us as much as the match. What was that about?
The game started brightly for Leeds, bossing the midfield, and after a few minutes we won a corner on Liverpool's left. In unison we sang, "Rio, Rio Ferdinand, Rio, Rio Ferdinand, Rio..." (I'm sure you get the idea.) We had no idea just how prescient that chant was to be...
Harte swung in a corner over everyone and Rio came screaming in towards the ball, pretty much unmarked, but with little of the goal to aim at. "Bury it" I screamed. So he did! :o) What a start. After that it was almost relentless Leeds pressure. Liverpool had two chances the whole of the first half (both which I notice were shown on Skysports news in their squinted view of the game). Murphy's free kick which Nige pushed round for a corner and Owen's fairly weak volley straight at Nige.
But enough of Liverpool, by this time we'd settled into a series of top quality chants, the best of which (IMHO) was
"We've got your Matteo, you've got our stereos..." (repeat ad infinitum) along with
At one period of quiet during the game, some scouser shouted over to us, "How many European cups have you won?" to which some joker shouted back, "How many stereos have you nicked?!" The banter was almost as entertaining as the game.
Almost. Leeds broke and Kewell fannied about with the ball on the edge of the area, seemingly wasting the opportunity as he cut inside and was forced, surely, to play the ball with his right foot. Instead he saw Bowyer tanking through the middle and with his left, scooped the ball over the Liverpool defence who looked on agape as Bowyer, ball as his feet approached goal - and Westerweld. In exactly the same was an Italian foward wouldn't, he ran straight into Westerweld but somehow came out of the other side with the ball at his feet and the goal wide open in a Viduka's mouth/pie type situation. He rolled the ball into the net and we went mental as the offside flag wasn't raised.
As some point Gerrard got booked for his one thousandth foul on Batty. Store this info for later...
Half time couldn't come quick enough for Liverpool as we ran them ragged. Surely it wouldn't be as easy in the second half?
It wasn't. Liverpool came out with McAllister and Smicer on for Berger and Murphy, and looked a different team. We seemed to sit back and let them come at us, and come at us they did. It was no surprise when they scored, Owen finding space where maybe Mills should have been and crossing for an unmarked Gerrard to strike a great finish well wide of Nige. (My view was blocked when it happened and I thought Nige should've done better, but seeing the goal on TV, it was a good finish.) We were hanging on at this point as McAllister and Smicer seemed to make a big difference, Macca sending over dangerous corner after dangerous corner. Half an hour to go and "One diving bastard" Heskey came on; Liverpool were down to three midfielders. Soon after they were down to two. Batty pushed the ball upfield and Gerrard came steaming in to knock him flying; when the ref blew up I was mad for him not playing advantage. But when he booked Gerrard for a second time I wasn't so pissed off. ;-)
It got a lot easier for us at this point and we could and should have scored once more, Viduka being adjudged offside right at the death after a good break from Keane. We were hanging on - even with ten men towards the end - though Heskey's dives didn't fool the ref and we deserved the win. Not sure we'd have held on if Gerrard hadn't gone off, but maybe that's luck evening itself out after the Man U debacle.
Can we catch the Arse?
Copy from Football Unlimited of 14/04/2001.
It was billed as the third-place play-off, the most important Premiership match of the season for both teams, and a rip-roaring match did not disappoint. Leeds United emerged with the honours and now occupy the coveted slot for the third Champions League place but Liverpool could argue that, had their goalscorer Steven Gerrard not been sent off in the 70th minute, they might well have shared the points. However, their league campaign is far from over: they have two games in hand and are sitting comfortably behind Ipswich in fifth place.
Champions League place or not, Liverpool remain on course for a cup treble and once they finish slogging their way over a series of hurdles that make last weekend's Grand National look like an amble around Aintree they are capable of putting in a strong finish to the season.
This was their fifth game in 14 days, including beating Manchester United at Anfield, a first-leg Uefa Cup semi-final in Barcelona and an FA Cup semi-final against Wycombe Wanderers, and in the first half particularly it showed in the weariness of the players' reactions.
Copy from The Independent of 13/04/2001.
Football, like comedy, is all about timing. Although David O'Leary denied that this victory opened the door to the Premiership's third Champions' League position, his side has judged their run to perfection. Yesterday represented their fifth win in six matches and was by a distance the most significant.
Since being knocked out of the FA Cup by Liverpool on 27 January, Leeds have not lost domestically, and although Gérard Houllier pointed to his side's two games in hand and argued it was inconceivable they could perform this poorly again, Anfield's Champions' League ambitions may have been dealt a mortal blow.
The reasons behind Leeds' resurgence are not hard to fathom, although some might think it is no coincidence they have played with such panache since Brian Kidd started coaching the first team.
"It is all about having players back from injury," said O'Leary. "You can be the greatest manager off the pitch but if you have nobody to put out on to the field you can do nothing. But although Brian's been a great addition to the club, we began our roll a couple of months before he took charge."
Nevertheless, Leeds are still dangerously fragile in some positions, not least at centre-half. Lucas Radebe is injured, Jonathan Woodgate has been unable to focus on football because of his trial while Michael Duberry has suffered from both conditions.
Under the circumstances, Rio Ferdinand and Dominic Matteo have risen to the challenge manfully. Houllier had to sell the latter to fund the transfer of Christian Ziege, and those who were at Anfield on Good Friday might wonder who had the better of the deal.
Ferdinand began the match by winning Merseyside hearts as he placed a wreath in the goalmouth beneath the Kop to mark the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, which was made more poignant by the deaths at Ellis Park. Barely three minutes after kick-off he broke them by heading in Ian Harte's corner and throughout he was icily composed dealing with the England trio of Fowler, Owen and Heskey.
His goal provided the first evidence that Liverpool were seriously off-colour. Ferdinand should have been picked up by Steven Gerrard but the midfielder, who was to be harshly dismissed for two bookable offences, wandered towards Matteo, allowing the other centre-back to pounce by the far post.
For the rest of the half, Liverpool never seemed to recover their balance. Their passing was hopelessly astray and eventually proved fatal as Gerrard slipped the ball straight to Olivier Dacourt in the 32nd minute. The Frenchman fed Harry Kewell, whose through-ball was met by Lee Bowyer thundering in from midfield. Sander Westerveld blocked his first shot but Bowyer merely walked the rebound in.
In November, Leeds had been two down to Liverpool at Elland Road after being similarly outplayed and recovered to win 4-3. Liverpool could not match that but it is a testament to how poorly they began that they looked more of a threat when reduced to 10 men.
After the interval, Houllier brought on Vladimir Smicer and Gary McAllister for Patrik Berger and Danny Murphy, whose free-kick superbly turned away by Nigel Martyn had been their one clear chance. None of the Liverpool midfielders who began the match finished it. "I could have changed the entire team," said the Liverpool manager. "I did not feel that anyone played well in the first half. If we play like that against Barcelona, we will be in trouble. In the first half Leeds looked stronger and more solid that we did."
McAllister, certainly, brought more fizz to proceedings and 10 minutes after the restart Michael Owen, cutting in from the left, squared for Gerrard to drive home, although Liverpool's respite and the midfielder's celebrations were to be short-lived. He had already been booked for a robust challenge on Alan Smith but his tackle on David Batty that earned the second yellow card was innocuous, especially to someone as battle-hardened as the Yorkshireman.
"I thought the sending-off was harsh," Batty commented. "He did clip me but I went over to the referee and said it did not deserve a booking."
His departure meant Houllier, who had brought on Emile Heskey as a third striker, was reduced to two specialist midfielders, and Mark Viduka, who had found the net four times against Liverpool in November, was soon exploiting the gaps. In the 71st minute he struck the foot of the post and, profiting from Robbie Keane's breakaway in stoppage time, he clipped his shot over Westerveld only for it to be wrongly ruled offside.
It mattered little. The greatest threat to Leeds' qualification for the Champions' League may not now be Liverpool but Ipswich, only one of whose remaining games is against a side in the top half of the table. The title could be settled this afternoon but the carcass of the season still has plenty of flesh to be picked at.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 14/04/2001.
LEEDS UNITED threw down their marker for a top-three finish with as good a display as there has been in the entire Premiership all season.
To go to Liverpool and outplay them by the length of the Mersey Tunnel is a fantastic achievement, and on this evidence there is no limit on the heights which can be scaled by a side which is beginning to strike fear wherever it goes.
Liverpool complain, of course, of fatigue brought on by involvement on all fronts, and if they were tired before this runaround then the need after it must be a couple of days in bed.
They simply had no answer to a buzzing, swarming, dominating Leeds, who did not have a weak spot and made it a long Good Friday for Gerard Houllier's men.
Alan Smith and Olivier Dacourt, rested in last week's facile defeat of Southampton, returned to the starting line-up, with Robbie Keane and Eirik Bakke relegated to the bench.
Before kick-off United skipper Rio Ferdinand laid a wreath behind the Kop goal in recognition of tomorrow's 15th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
Straight away Ian Harte, Smith and Danny Mills combined on the right and only a powerful header from Stephane Henchoz prevented contact by Mark Viduka.
But from the Harte's deep corner United raced into a fourth minute lead, Ferdinand burying his header into the near bottom corner after a series of decoy runs fooled the defence.
Then Nigel Martyn produced an acrobatic leap to turn Danny Murphy's well-struck direct free-kick for a corner and it had been a highly satisfactory start for Leeds.
Ferdinand again caused chaos in the home defence from Harte's free-kick in the 16th minute and set up Smith for an overhead kick which only just cleared the bar.
When Harry Kewell was bundled off the ball by Steven Gerrard, Harte's free-kick was whipped off Smith's head by Henchoz and the Liverpool defence was having to work overtime.
They finally got in a shot on 20 minutes, but it was a poor effort from Dietmar Hamann.
Ten minutes later, though, Murphy's left-wing corner wasn't cleared properly and Martyn was in the right place at the right time to collect from Michael Owen's purposeful volley.
Smith was getting a buffeting from the home defence and was picking up free kicks at regular intervals as Leeds dominated.
And when Owen briefly threatened again, David Batty was on hand to dispossess him.
United deservedly doubled their lead on 33 minutes when Kewell tormented a retreating defence and slipped the ball through to an alert Lee Bowyer, whose chance looked to be slipping away when he lost his footing.
But he recovered well enough to be left with the simplest of tap-ins with Liverpool apparently fast asleep.
Bowyer's neat flick gave Mills a shooting chance, and he was unlucky to see it bobble wide with Sander Westerveld floundering.
But United had a very handy-looking interval lead and their fate was in their own hands.
Unpromisingly, Liverpool clawed one back within nine minutes of the restart, having introduced Gary McAllister and Vladimir Smicer.
Owen weighed up his options on the left of the area and picked out Gerrard, who made no mistake with his well-struck volley at the back post.
But he made a colossal error in the 70th minute, seeking retribution on Batty for an earlier skirmish with a late challenge and receiving his marching orders for a second yellow-card offence, despite Batty's protests to referee Alan Wiley on the offender's behalf.
Viduka had Westerveld beaten all ends up with his shot from 12 yards, but it hit the outside of the post and bounced wide.
The quick-breaking Dominic Matteo then got Viduka in for a charge on goal and the big Aussie looked certain to score.
But Westerveld bravely dived at his feet and won the argument.
Kewell, who had been showing a blinding array of skills down the left, blasted over from a good position but at the other end Robbie Fowler was guilty of a worse miss, shooting tamely wide with everything in his favour.
When Keane and Viduka broke two on one in injury time, Viduka had the ball in the net only for the effort to be ruled out by a ludicrous offside flag.
United will have no sorrow in disappointing them and, as last season, have every chance of pipping them to that all-important third place.
Said United manager David O'Leary: "Don't forget that Liverpool, with the size and quality of their squad, have two teams and I was delighted to beat the one they put out."
Opposite number Gerard Houllier said: "If it had stayed 11 versus 11 I think we might have taken something from the game.
"I was proud of the way we came back after being completely outplayed in the first half."