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Gerrard Houllier said "you dont win things these days with just 11 men"
Today at Highbury Leeds United proved that to be true.
This was a humbling experience. Outfought, outclassed, and out of the top 3. Our fantastic run had to end sometime, today we ran headfirst into the Arsenal brick wall.
Leeds are in danger of being caught between two stools. Today's loss almost rules out a 3rd place spot for Leeds and if we play as badly on Tuesday then Valencia will be celebrating in a sea of Sangria and Paella.
Leeds weren't even 2nd best today, I thought the burgers were better than us.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 07/05/2001.
As if Leeds's game at Valencia tomorrow was not important enough, it looks even more crucial now. Assuming David O'Leary's players fancy mixing it with Europe's finest again next season, they almost certainly cannot afford to slip up. "For us to get back into the Champions League," O'Leary said, "we've got to win the competition."
Third place in the Premiership is not out of reach but, with Liverpool needing only three points to secure that spot, O'Leary is pessimistic. He can abandon hope of a visit to Milan for the Champions League final as well unless his team improve on this performance.
Far from resting everyone down to the kit man in readiness for the semi-final second leg in Spain, O'Leary sent out an almost full-strength XI. Minds may have been wandering but Arsenal got the win which guaranteed them a top-three finish more comfortably than the score suggests.
Copy from The Independent of 05/05/2001.
David O'Leary's promise to produce a Leeds shadow team on his return "home" proved false. Just like any suggestion that this might be an afternoon of shadow boxing from these combatants, who both had significant events in the next week to distract them. Talk about Bad Blood at Highbury Hill. Indeed, there was so much in evidence that you feared it could require extra stocks to be provided by the north London transfusion service.
From the early minutes there was no chance this would be a subdued end-of-season stroll ahead of an FA Cup final for the hosts and a Champions' League semi-final, second leg for the visitors. Later the Leeds manager, a veteran of 18 years and 722 games here, called on the FA to review two alleged incidents, unseen by the referee, Peter Jones.
O'Leary refused to identify them, but they apparently involve Arsenal's Martin Keown, who was not one of seven players cautioned but appeared to elbow Mark Viduka and commit another assault on Lee Bowyer in the second half. "Some things happened today which should have been dealt with, and were not," O'Leary said darkly. "I hope the FA deal with them."
His counterpart, Arsène Wenger, was a model of insouciance. "If the FA decide to have a look at it, I don't mind; we are used to it," he reflected, with Patrick Vieira's kick out at Olivier Dacourt - resulting in a fine and suspension for the Frenchman - in the earlier fixture between these teams in mind. That was also the contest in which the Leeds manager blew kisses at Robert Pires, which resulted in the French international calling O'Leary a "whore". Wenger added: "Maybe sometimes there was over-commitment and too many physical challenges, but there is no bad feeling on my side against Leeds."
In the moments when the ball was allowed to flow, expertly-fashioned goals from Fredrik Ljungberg and Sylvain Wiltord were reward for a facile victory which secured the Gunners' Champions' League place next season. A gloriously-struck free-kick response from Ian Harte, which left David Seaman embarrasingly stranded - not a great advertisement for his forthcoming testimonial against Barcelona - gave Leeds faint hope. They failed to grasp the opportunity and defeat leaves them in a qualification quandary. They must win the Champions' League to claim a place in next season's competition.
O'Leary's threat that there would be wholesale changes ahead of Tuesday night proved far from the truth. Alan Smith, the bane of Tony Adams and Keown in recent seasons, was absent, together with Danny Mills and David Batty. Robbie Keane, who is European Cup-tied, replaced Smith and Gary Kelly and Eirik Bakke came in for Mills and Batty. Otherwise, Leeds fielded the team that drew 0-0 with Valencia. Yet there was little doubt that Leeds had a more momentous event on their minds. In the early minutes, Thierry Henry swept the ball across goal, where Wiltord just failed to make contact. Then Henry unleashed a brute of a shot that forced a fine save from Nigel Martyn.
Wiltord was at his scintillating best and his teasing cross left Ljungberg with an inviting opportunity in the air. Unfortunately, heading is not the Swede's forte and he cleared the bar from close range. But in the 16th minute Ljungberg atoned with a splendidly executed goal, darting into the area and escaping the despairing lunge of Martyn after Henry had culminated a fluid move by sending him clear.
By then, things were getting tetchy. Olivier Dacourt and Vieira were cautioned in quick succession. Gilles Grimandi was booked for another foul and Harry Kewell followed him, while Bowyer went down mysteriously in his own area and required lengthy treatment.
Leeds' best first-half chance arrived at the foot of Bowyer, but the midfielder's weak shot ended straight in the stomach of Seaman. Arsenal finished the stronger and in added time before the break, Henry's delightful cross was caught by Lee Dixon, in front of goal, with a vicious scissors kick. To his chagrin, the effort was well saved by Martyn.
The injured Keane was replaced by Jason Wilcox just before the interval. Afterwards, the former Blackburn man assumed Kewell's position on the left flank, leaving the Australian to partner Mark Viduka. The switch failed to ignite Leeds and it was entirely expected when 11 minutes into the second half Vieira exchanged passes with Wiltord, who drove the ball with precision across Martyn.
Leeds were not quite done, though. Almost immediately, a free-kick from Ian Harte eluded a stranded Seaman. But it was Arsenal who looked destined to increase their lead only for Martyn to thwart Henry. Then Machiavelli intervened again. Viduka was apparently elbowed by Keown off the ball, unseen by the referee. Within seconds, the Australian striker was cautioned, and he was followed by Arsenal's Ashley Cole for a late challenge on Kewell. From the resultant free-kick, Harte's ball into the area eluded everyone and rebounded off the far post. Tony Adams became the seventh man booked when his boot made contact with the stomach of Bowyer.
Arsenal move on to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, with the minor distraction of a fixture at Newcastle on Tuesday night, just as Leeds, out in Spain, will be kicking off in Valencia in not just their own cup final, but the biggest game involving Leeds in 26 years. They can perhaps be excused an indifferent showing yesterday.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 06/05/2001.
Arsenal confirmed they have no intention of surrendering runners-up spot without a fight in a fiercely contested and occasionally bruising scrap which left Leeds looking most likely to miss out on a Champions League placing.
In Thierry Henry Arsenal had the most dangerous player on the field, and, with slightly better finishing, or perhaps by bringing Denis Bergkamp off the bench, could have put the game beyond Leeds' reach without recourse to arguments. Recent evidence suggests these sides enjoy an argument though, and with seven bookings and any number of off-the-ball incidents virtually anything was possible right up to the final whistle.
David O'Leary's much-advertised resting of players amounted to just two changes from the team which faced Valencia, Danny Mills and Alan Smith making way for Gary Kelly and Robbie Keane respectively. David Batty was suspended, allowing Eirik Bakke a rare start. But all three newcomers would get into most Premiership line-ups and it hardly constituted a weakened side.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 07/05/2001.
A SEETHING Mark Viduka ran off down the tunnel without shaking a hand and was swiftly followed by a similarly agitated Harry Kewell.
The United players did not have a word to say between them and the exit from Highbury was swift.
David O'Leary had said that he had not been looking forward to the return to his spiritual home for a high-profile Premiership fixture sandwiched, as it was, between two legs of a Champions League semi-final.
It was always going to be fraught, given the recent history of antagonism between the two sets of players, yet nobody could have anticipated the potency of the hostility and the venom that Arsenal had reserved for United.
Off the field O'Leary, for 20 years a north London hero, was booed, jeered and taunted throughout, while on it Arsenal went for the jugular with a series of physical extremities.
The welcome mat had clearly been turned face-side down.
Arsenal got the win - only just, in the end - that ensures Champions League football for them next season and, at the same time, vastly diminishes the prospect of more of the same for Leeds.
They looked awesome in a first half which they dominated from first kick to last and irksome in a deeply troubled second period in which Leeds rallied magnificently.
Viduka seethed at an elbow from Keown, Bowyer at a trampling from the same vastly experienced defender and Kewell at a constant swatting aside. But all served to inspire United's comeback which had the unlikely effect of Arsenal hanging on grimly at the end.
In a blood-and-thunder affair which produced seven bookings O'Leary didn't carry out his threat to play a weakened team ahead of tomorrow's Champions League semi-final secong leg in Valencia, and Gary Kelly coming in for the injured Danny Mills, Eirik Bakke for the suspended David Batty and Robbie Keane for Alan Smith up front were the only changes.
Both sides desperately needed a win to aid qualification for next season's European showpiece competition and Wiltord was in the thick of the early action as Arsenal came forward in numbers. But it was Keane who got in the first shot of the game, forcing Seaman into a diving save.
When Bakke gave the ball away Henry's well-struck shot from 20 yards was beaten out by Martyn, and with ten minutes gone Ljungberg missed a glorious chance at the far post, carelessly heading over from Wiltord's pinpoint cross.
It was a real let-off for United, who sprung forward through Kewell and his hanging cross towards Keane was only just snaffled by Adams.
But Arsenal took the lead on 16 minutes when Pires fed Wiltord and Ljungberg, on the overlap, rounded Martyn before slotting home.
Keown had a fine chance to increase the Gunners' lead nine minutes later, but from Ljungberg's free-kick out on the right he failed to make the contact that would surely have brought a goal.
Bowyer shot weakly at Seaman after being put through by Bakke, leaving the unmarked Keane to throw up his arms in frustration on a wholly difficult afternoon for United.
Dacourt's slide-rule pass into the box gave Keane a chance, but Adams came thundering in with a challenge and conceded a corner. At the other end Ferdinand floored Wiltord in a dangerous position but Henry's blast from the free-kick came off the wall.
On the stroke of half-time Martyn produced a truly stunning save to keep out Dixon's thunderbolt from close quarters after Henry had put him through and Leeds, for whom Keane could no longer continue after his tangle with Adams, were no more than clinging on.
Twelve minutes into the second half Arsenal fashioned a second goal when Vieira and Wiltord combined to tear apart the Leeds defence and Wiltord hammered his shot into the far corner.
But United hopes were raised just a minute later when Adams felled Bowyer and Harte's curling direct free-kick left Seaman rooted to the spot as it found the top corner.
Martyn saved bravely at Wiltord's feet before the game threatened to explode when Keown felled Viduka with his elbow, sparking pushing and shoving all over the park.
But order was swiftly restored and Harte's free-kick from out on the right sailed right through the crowded area and onto a post as Leeds began to enjoy their first period in the ascendancy of the game.
It was a supremacy that they held until the end as Arsenal embarked on defending their advantage, and Leeds could make no further inroads.
Said O'Leary: "The game was won by the better team. We couldn't put two passes together."
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said: "It was a tough game. Leeds have a very physical player up front who made Martin Keown nervous, but overall it was a good football fame.
"We could have been two or three up at half time, but when they came back to 2-1 we became very nervous. Leeds went for a more direct game.
"When they hit the post it was the turning point of the game. It put us on the back foot.
"Overall we deserved to win. We still have to secure second position, but at least we are in the Champions League.
"You could see there was something at stake. For me it was important to get the points becuse Leeds finish with two home games.
"The rivalry between the clubs is not unhealthy. Okay, there were many physical challenges. There is certainly no ill-feeling on my part.
"Players sometimes get over-excited and we were nervous because we wanted the three points to get us into the Champions League."