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Home from my latest gloryhunting exploits...
I will content myself with the briefest match report possible: we were outclassed.
The rest is pure personal indulgence so you can either bin it now, or whenever you have had enough.
Good, now that's out of the way I can indulge myself somewhat and record my thanks to all those other listers who made the Valencia trip another enjoyable experience for me.
Pete Doherty has already done the first list report so I will embellish only where it helps to paint the picture.
First off, I booked my flights and hotel weeks ago, knowing that I wouldn't get an official ticket through the club. Fair enough, I have only been to two previous CL games this season, and only one of those officially. Step forward lister Ed Watkinson, who responded to my increasingly desperate appeals for a spare.
I flew to Madrid late on Monday night and got there in time to pop round to La Moderna (the bar we used for the Real Madrid game) for a couple of beers. We must have made a good impression last time out because the staff gave me a warm welcome. Great anchovy tapas and a few beers and on to the next bar but one for a pint of guinness before trying the micro brewery a couple of doors down (Damian had pointed this out a few weeks ago). Back to the hotel for a few hours kip.
Up very early the next morning for the 8am train to Valencia from the Atocha station. This is what Kings Cross could be like if we let the Royal Horticultural Society take over Railtrack, awesome.
Just settling into my seat on the train when the Swiss Family Boocock appeared, unexpectedly the genuine family Boocock, i.e. Alice, Julia and John, rather than assorted Donkey Heads and Bram Stoker source material. A very pleasant, extremely civilised and comfortable train journey ensued. Thoroughly recommend the Alaris service to anyone.
Arriving in Valencia, the railway station vestibule bears more than a passing resemblance to the Foods Hall at Harrods. What I thought was a neo-classical car park next to the station was actually the Bull Ring, thankfully not in use until after we left.
A short walk from the station to where we thought we would find our hotel, Captain Titus Boocock navigating and interpreting. Close but no cigarillo. Due enquiry was made of a native by Betts, in impeccable Spanish,at least to my uncultured ears. The chap stopped what he was doing and actually took us around to the right street. This was typical of my experiences with the locals.
Others such as Sticky, may not have been so lucky.
Having overwhelmed the Alka-Seltzer hotel with a mass check-in. I went out on a quick recce for a cybercafe. Not found, so back to La Bolsa for the first mini-meet of the day, having first met Ed Watkinson off his train from Barca. Ed had no luggage as his intention was simply to find a bar that stayed open until his train back to Barca at 5am. I digress. Ed had a ticket for me, so I could relax.
There followed the usual leisurely list lunch, which is more of a cross between the Mad Hatter's tea party and the Caucus Race, with the constituent members frequently changing, as groups join and leave at their own pace. This would cause total consternation in any British establishment, where they couldn't possibly cope with people eating and drinking in shifts, then leaving without paying. The Spaniards are more more laid back and their faith was not misplaced as the bill was eventually called for and settled, despite the extended dramatis personae.
The meet dissolved about 4pm, to reconvene at 5.30.
I didn't want to do a Caddy so I went for another walk.
Back on parade at 5.30. This time we mean business. Pre-match nerves are palpable and we are all hoping for the best at the match but by no means certain, despite much discussion of arrangements already made for Milan on the 23rd. It is a mark of how far we have come this season to hear the facility with which listers know how to get the best deal for travel to Milan, via sometimes tortuous routing. Makes a change from Bournemouth and M illwall, I suppose. And cheaper, Venice for a fiver anyone?
It seems there is a serious proposition for an end of season bash in Venice, around the CL final.
La Bolsa meet divides into two, the advance party moves off to the "Beer" bar in Salamanca to join other listers, in a classic pincer movement. The rear party at La Bolsa take on rations and promise to follow later.
Round to Salamanca only to find our approach to Beer is opposed by Jabba, Guy and various other listers, outside what turns out to be the local headquarters of General Galtieri and his junta. Paul Cadd reassuringly awake and upright.
The argie barman becomes ecstatic when Al (the white rastafarian tyke from Pete Doherty's report) enters with knee-length dreadlocks and full River Plate regalia. The barman is a River Plate hombre, through and through.
Many jugs of Valencia grog (cava, fanta and bacardi) served. La Bolsa rear party arrives and the list meet is properly constituted.
The next half hour is spent, loudly, devising chants for the Leeds Prawn Baguette Brigade.
"We're rich and we know we are"
Were only the openers. My favourites though came from Simon:
"There's only one school in Windsor!"
and finally, "My bird went to Roedean, nah, nah, nah, nah"
It was entertaining at the time.
8.15, time to go to the ground.
Over the River Kwai, sorry Rio Kwai. In actual fact the bridge was over a dried up watercourse. Ten out of ten for spontaneity to Brother Boocock with "Where's your River Gone, Where's Your River Gone?" a la Chirpy-Chirpy Cheep-Cheep.
Arrive at the ground to find long queues at two single turnstiles. 3000 Official Leeds tickets and two turnstiles. Very dodgy ten minutes as La Guardia Most Uncivil decide to play humpty-dumpty with all the King's Horses and all the King's Men. I could not see the point of trying to sandwich us between bloody horses. Where could we go? No-bloody-where.
Ten minutes to go and things were looking iffy so I pushed my way quickly through the gate. Things had deteriorated so badly that they had abandoned all attempts to check tickets at all. I could have got in on a Yorkshire Rider bus ticket that night. Still, I was in. Up the concrete mountain and into the arena. Checked my ticket for my seat number. Only stewards were Leeds who said sit where you like mate. Just like Selhurst Park then. Except nobody was sitting. Leeds were up for it. Big Style. Most of Leeds had spent the afternoon on the beach, drinking and playing footy. (according to press reports the following day, there were 2600 Leeds on the beach that afternoon). Glad I didn't bother.
Game underway, some knuckle-draggers start throwing coins on to the Valencia guys in the tier below. Ten minutes later three police appear out of nowhere and one smashes his baton into a Leeds fan's neck, completely at random. I hear the Toy Thief nodding in Latvian sympathy at this point.
Half time, WATCOE, what else. Fleeting glimpse of Gav as he passed close by.
Second half underway, goals go in and the bloke next to me will kill Nigel Martyn if he ever sees him again. To him England's number one is Leeds most wanted. He would rather prostrate himself before Roy Keane than see Martyn play for Leeds again. Keeps up this thread for next twenty minutes until another member of the loyal gathering decided to put him out of his misery with a haymaker of a punch. Exit Dunderhead to safer territory. Discretion is the better part of valour. I am not bothered about the Leeds on Leeds violence, so much as the local plods with their peace-makers.
Leeds crowd almost totally subdued by now. This was not in the script. Bloody gloryhunters.
If the crowd are subdued, then DOH Leary is positively catatonic. I spend almost as much time watching the bench as I do the pitch. No movement. Not even, Wilcox and Macfrail, wearing greatcoats surreptiously pouring the spoil from O'Leary's dug-out tunnel out of their tracksuit bottoms.
So, three down and nothing we can do about it. Except perhaps take off Bakke, bring on Wilcox and go with three up to try and salvage something. No way. Our illustrious manager has given up and the lads on the pitch know they are on their own.
The forgotten army. Reinforcements are not on their way. The cavalry are staying at home.
O Leary is definitely not a leader of men. He probably blew much of his hard-earned Stansted cred with the team through his complete acquiescence that night. He is the sort of Officer the yanks would have cheerfully fragged in Viet Nam.
The clock moves on relentlessly and I decid,e at 89 minutes, I have had enough without another probable confrontation after the match. For the first time since the autumn of 1967, I leave a Leeds game before the final whistle. Perhaps in hope that my leaving will improve matters. After all, the last time we were 5 nil up against Chelsea and I missed two goals. That was our revenge for Villa Park. Billy's last game before a suspension and one of his greatest goals.
Trudging down the staircase, I hear Leeds cheer a bit. Maybe we had gone close, or even scored? No, the cheer was obviously for Smiffy getting his marching orders.
Back to Salamanca and part three of the list meet. The list returned to the bar in dribs and drabs, somewhat deflated. Just like the fizzy pop fiasco, or Wilko's last game. We had not been up to it when push finally came to shove.
So, what else to do but to have a few beers and make the best of the evening. By now, the whole town was full of celebrating locals. Couldn't blame them. I ended up talking to one or two, particularly a Senor Julio McIver (Glaswegian dad, Spanish mum).
The Boococks gave the argie barman a Leeds away top, which he wore for the rest of the night.
More pints of San Miguel interspersed with many friendly exchanges and conversations with the locals. Called it a night about 3 am. Steady walk back with Ed W to the station and then back to the Alka-Seltzer.
So that's it for another season and another great result for the list.
You lot know best.
At last for the first time in about a dozen European trips i get to fly from Luton, and hence had met up with the rest of the East Anglia whites and checked in with half an hour of leaving home. The tactic of flying to the wrong city again meant we had few other Leeds fans on our flight, but at least landing in Barca gave us a reality check of just how far we had come. As we remembered leaving the same airport 8 months before, not dreaming we'd last so long in the tournament.
Through Barca airport in no time at all, even allowing for someone to go jogging along the luggage conveyor belt in pursuit of a piece of errant luggage. All 17 of us dived into the 2 people carriers we'd hired (henceforth known as the Chucklebuses - long story) and we set off on the 3 hour trip south to Valencia. A smooth journey allowed me to consolidate my position as European cards champion and we reached Valencia by early evening.
An early chance to learn the geography of the city as the 3 hotels we were spread across, were about as far apart as possible, one north of the city, one south and one by the airport on the east side - anything on the west side of the City being in the sea. Though whether the sea is really there is a moot point as we spent a lot of the trip distinguishing between the old river which has had it's course diverted and the riverbed turned into parks, and the new river which doesn't appear to have any water in either.
After we'd located all the places and effected a quick change of clothes, we headed back to the Expo, the most centrally located of our 3 hotels, to meet up with the rest of the group. However, the hotel had plenty of police and security guards hanging around, as it was also being used for the official trips and their had been some hassle earlier. So after reflecting on the irony of having people on our trip who were staying in the same hotel as the official trip for the same length of time but paying approx 150 quid less we headed off for the city.
A wander around the narrow streets of the historic centre, brought us to a smallish bar that the 12 of us more of less filled up. After a while negotiating to buy the garlic potatoes on the bar, "No we don't just want a plate - we want all of them" all conducted in my very basic Spanish, they twigged that we were in fact very hungry and the chef disappeared into the smallest kitchen in the world. For the next hour or so a stream of food, salad, spicy sausage, garlic potatoes, chops, multiple vegetables, flowed out to us, til we could eat no more. Not sure where all the food came from, we must have emptied their fridge, but we were a bit worried when we noticed the dog in the bar was nowhere to be seen.
Tuesday morning the benefits of staying in the airport-side hotel were realised as those who made breakfast happened upon a Stewardesses convention. Our trip back into the city involved an unscheduled detour into the airport, where the dozens of coaches and police vans lined up outside signalled the imminent arrival of the day-trippers - who were to be shepherded off to the beach for the day. A tour of the city followed, a walk along the river-bed to the fishy bridge (raptuously received by the East Anglia branch), then onto the Cathedral, Town Hall and bullring with a couple of pub stops en route. Plenty of Leeds around, who were pretty well-behaved as far as we could see, though I personally seem to be missing the gene that makes you sing "We are Leeds" and bare my arse whenever a camera appears.
Then time for another meal - as we only understood half the menu - we took the usual European course of action and ordered everything on the menu and shared it amongst us. After a short rest at the hotel we headed off to the University area for a pre-game beer - well we thought we were but the taxi driver dropped us somewhere else entirely, so we got to experience another European metro system (strangely uninhabited by Rickmans) before reaching the intended destination. A good choice of bar as 4 or 5 beers and food each only came to about a fiver each, with a free jug of beer thrown in at the insistence of the grateful owner as we were leaving - Leeds fans obviously drink more than Spanish students.
We got to the ground approx 40 minutes before KO to avoid the crush problems at Coruna. Unfortunately this didn't work, there appeared to be only 3 turnstiles open for 2500 people and with a painstaking ticket check and search for everyone, with ten minutes to go we were still a long way from getting in. The ever increasing numbers of fans meant a crush was developing, although all the fans around me remained calm and patient, however the police panicked and decided to ride the horses in to disperse this crowd. This just meant that the people at the front were shoved forward more as people behind tried to avoid the horses and consequently got forced into the police by the turnstiles who responded by striking out wildly at anyone and everyone. I got hit once across the arm/chest and then again about 5 minutes later across the back of the legs as I was going in up the stairs away from the police.
Those people who know me, will know that I'm hardly the most threatening looking person, the words skinny speccy accountant have been used, so I was slightly stunned to be subject to an unprovoked attack especially after I'd been let in and was on my own. I guess like some others, there was always a slight thought in my head that people who did get attacked by the police were somehow responsible by simply not having the sense to get away from an area where trouble was brewing. But as the trouble had little warning and I had no chance to get away from the situation, I understand a bit more the arguments of people caught up in trouble who claim they have done nothing wrong.
The start of the game went past in a bit of a blur as I tried to locate and check the rest of our group had got in safely and recover from the general shock, but Mendiata forced a good save out of Martyn early on. I'd just calmed down a bit and mentioned to the others that we'd held on longer than against Coruna when Valencia invoked the oft-used you can use your arm to score against Leeds in Spain rule. To be honest we weren't that bothered initially as we still needed to score a goal anyway and we seemed to having the better of the game.
Unfortunately some of the better chances seemed to fall to Batty who along with Dacourt was having an excellent game, though Smith, Viduka and Kewell all had half-chances. At half-time we were still reasonably confident we still just needed to score one goal, just as we did at the start of the game - and at this point we looked like we may do it. Second half we found out what it's like to play with the big boys, Valencia were able to sit back and counter-attack and they are awesome at this. Mendiata fried Harte everytime and their passing and movement was fantastic. Two quick goals killed the game to all intends and purposes and though we had plenty of the ball they always looked more likely to score. To be honest though Dacourt was excellent and Batty and Smith were playing well despite the rapidly descending red mist, there were too many players found out at this level, Harte and Bakke being the most obvious culprits.
As the game wore on, we got quieter as it sunk in that the dream was over and their fans got noiser, they subbed key players to avoid bookings or injuries from the loose cannon called Alan Smith and the red card was somewhat inevitable, though it took longer than expected. I can't condemn Smith too much, yes the tackle was stupid, but it probably reflected the frustration in all of us and we spend all year decrying the lack of passion and real feeling for the team in most professional footballers nowadays. Maybe the biggest surprise was that he didn't go for Viduka rather than one of the Valencia players - easier to hit a stationery target.
Game ended and the celebrations began, along with a few tears in our end. It's a depressing experience watching 50,000 people celebrating when you having nothing to celebrate yourself and of course we had to wait for the Valencia fans to clear the stadium, which they were reluctant to do, before we could be let out. To both sets of fans credit, each applauded the other after the game was over. The players returned suited and booted for a final curtain call and received a heartfelt reception from the fans and we continued to wait while the sound of a party taking off surrounded us. Eventually we were let out and sneaked past the police and party outside and headed for the bar. The first 2 or 3 wouldn't let us in, but the next was friendly and as the night wore on Valencia fans coming down from their high were good enough to buy some of us more beer and wish us well for the future.
The search for a taxi was interesting but did allow us to observe Valencia's world-record attempts at ; How many people can you get on a scooter; How far can you lean out of a speeding car window carrying a flag; and How noisy a fire-cracker can you have. But to be honest the celebrations were good natured and looked like a bloody great party if only we'd been in the mood.
The next morning, the best entertainment was tracking the biggest cockroach in the world round the breakfast room, though on the way back we headed for the tacky seaside resort of Salou - described en route as like Skegness with sun. Except it wasn't sunny so it was like Skegness, full of fat sunburnt northerners - actually sounds more like the Kop next Sunday :)
Reflecting on the whole European experience, it's obviously depressing to get so close to the final, but it has been a wonderful year, you hope the team can repeat the experience but suspect not. I think it may take a while to realise just how brilliantly we have done this year. Personally this trip probably reflects the end of the era to some extent, as most of our group have done all the games the last 2 years and we have a great time together. Unfortunately for various reasons money, holiday time, pressures from other halfs many of them have already said they wont be able to travel abroad next year and so whatever the tournament we are in, that particular chapter is over.
To bastardise the lyrics of Lou Reed, the "End of a Great Adventure". Been some of the best times in my life though. Thankyou Leeds.
Just got back to work from the Valencia trip and have now waded through the 300ish postings that were piled up in my absence. Did something happen while I was away ? We are back in Europe next season, still with a shout of the Chumps League, we are going to finish top five minimum in the Premier league, we got the semi final of the European Cup despite everything and reading many of the postings you'd think this was the West Ham or Man City list !! Yes we bottled it a bit (collectively), yes we had no real options on the bench, yes the first goal was a handball, yes Mendieta took the Pi** out of Harte. However at least we were there, we had our chance and damn near took it.
Remember that O'Leary's mantra of a "young team and an inexperienced manager" is not all codoolgy.
In his second season in charge we got further than any British club, any Italian club and took Europe by storm. Enough already !!
Here's the Valencia trip report.
Flew out to Barcelona Sunday p.m. with the suspects touring party and had a night in Barcelona, staying on the Plaza Real, just off the Ramblas. One thing that really struck me on this trip was just what a dirty place Barca actually is and in particular the number of assorted street people/winos/beggars and general loonies was even worse that London. Still we went for a walk round the harbour (the other side of Barca, lots of very rich people on very expensive yachts, complete with armed private security guards)before the ritual tapas and late night drinking in assorted bars and then onto bed.
Picked up our hire car in the morning and headed down the coast, good clear roads and plenty of opportunities to pick up speeding fines. Three hours later we arrived in Valencia and then it was time for the ritual of finding the hotel, with three "helpful" navigators in the back calling out separate and different directions. We eventually made it and got checked in to our hotel. It's funny that a "Three Star" in Valencia was about twice as good as its equivalent in Barca. Quick shower and spruce up then to town for a wander and beer. First mistake was stopping in the main square, where we were charged nearly three pounds for a bottle of lager (we later found out that the bars in the central area had doubled their prices for the days before the game).
Hit the town and after an excellent meal (more tapas) in a bar in the student area we tracked down Jabba and co. and headed to the the very appropriately named "Beer Bar". What a choice, not only copious quantities of local beer, but also a pinball machine, table football and a selection of 80's classics in jukebox. Stayed there until well past our bedtime closing the evening off with some gratuitous songs for the benefit of the American students who came into the place. If, as the saying has it, university students are supposed to represent the top 10% of a countries intellect then no wonder they got Bush and nearly got Gore, irony is not something you get in a hardware store next to steely and coppery :-)
Morning of the game dawned bright and sunny, so tourist time, we headed round the old part of the city, fantastic cathedral in complete over the top Spanish style, also adjoining basilica (converted from the Moorish mosque).
Also a lovely old market to wander round, complete with local delicacieses such pigs ears and sheep'ss heads on offer. We stuck to the salami, cheese and nuts ! On our way to the market we were stopped by a Valencia fan who gave us all a tissue to use the dry our eyes after we had lost.
After more tradional English drinking in the cathedral square, back to the hotel and changed for the evening. Mr. Thirkill and I called into a bakery opposite the hotel and indulged ourselves with some delicacies to fortify ourselves for the evenings events and headed for the list meet. Attendees that I can remember were, in no particular order, Jabba, Andy, Guy Thornton, Phil Boyes, Dunderhead, Raffe from Sweden, Betty plus family, Ed Watkinson, Alan Dellow and Viki Broon, Suspects Thirkill, Cadd and Sticky and several others in various states of sobriety, not forgetting Armleys only white rastafarian and River Plate supporter whose name I've forgotten. Since the Beer Bar didn't open until later in the evening we went to the bar next door, the Argentina.
After a few beers it weas time to try the legendary "Aquita de Valencia" a sort of prototype alcopop made of cava, orange juice and liberal measures of gin, bacardi and vodka. Very refreshing and it had a surprising "sneak up on you" effect, meaning that by kick off time it was a merry band that headed towards the stadium.
Valencia fans were very friendly and (as it turned out correctly) very confident of the result. Unfortunately the same could not be said of the police who with usual organization only opened one gate of those listed on the ticket, resulting in a melee/queue of Leeds fans. As ever there were a couple of Guardia Civil who undertook their Guardia role more seriously than their Civil one and walloped any passing Leeds fans they could reach. We eventually got into the ground, and after climbing what seemed like the equivalent of one of the Alps we got to the Leeds area and found a space. >From our vantage point I didn't see the handball for the first goal, only the terrible headed clearance by Harte that led to it, although we soon had a flurry of SMS messages from home, mostly on the lines of "Cheating Spanish B******s". We then proceed to held our own for most of the second half, although we looked very weak going forward.
I didn't bother leaving my seat at half time but the Guardia made their presence felt in the gangways (I'm told) although we do ourselves no favours by pissing in the stairwells and against any convenient walls.
I assume D O'L's teamtalk went somehing along the line of "We're doing OK at one nil, whatever we do don't concede a second early on and we'll try and nick one later in the half."
Unfortunately Valencia's teamtalk must have been along the line of "Get out there and score another" as they came at us after the break and scored two goals in what seemed like as many minutes. Game over.
We never really looked like getting back into it and really no permutation of what we had available or even the presence of Lee Bowyer would have made the slightest difference to a clearly superior Valencia side, rather like the game against Real Madrid, I had the feeling that even if we did score they were more than capable of getting more if pushed to.
The real heroes (and heroines) were the Leeds fans who kept up a constant volume of songs and chants throughout the the game, including the legendary "shirt off" WATCOE at half time. All the Valencia fans said that they were stunned by the number of traveling fans and the volume of noise that we made. Certainly we gave them a run for their money in the ground.
No regrets on the result, we were beaten by a better team on the night and only the stupid tackle by Alan Smith put a bitter taste in the mouth, if we had been winning three nil and Valencia were out we'd have gone mad if one of theirs had done it.
Post match the Spanish went mad, as they deserved to, the players and management came out and said goodbye and then we were released from the away end and into the night. Walked out of the ground and straight into the team bus and players, everyone looked gutted but managed a smile and wave to the faithful. I even got Robbo to shout a few words to Mick Knowles down my mobile.
Back to the Argy Bar and more Aquitas. Mobbed all the way back by Valencia fans who were very friendly, giving us scarves and drinks etc. Drowned our sorrows in the Argy and Beer bars before returning to bed in the wee small hours. At least I did - Thirkers went off to some late night place and retuned about 4.00 ! Unfortunately Sticky got separated from us and got mugged not once but twice. A local (non football related person) tried to pickpocket him, Sticky gave chase and got his wallet back, but then was jumped by two others who relived him of his watch. In fairness this was the only incident that I saw/heard about.
Drove back up the coast Wednesday and then homeward from Barca.
I'd just like to say that it's been an amazing season, even if we've got nothing to show for it in terms of silverware. Despite the postings slagging off various players whether deserved or otherwise, from Martyn (!?!), the back line and all the way through the midfield and on to Viduka - EVERY player (and of course the management team and Ridsdale) should go down in Leeds history for the efforts that went in to the Euro campaign, whether it's comparative bit part players like Burns or Doobs or revelations like Dacourt and Bowyer.
If this is what we do with what some listers think is a substandard and inadequate squad then how good will we be with a few well chosen additions ? Save the bitching for the close season, they have all earned the right to be called "the Gods".
Also seeing Leeds play in Madrid, Milan and Rome, as well as as all the other places we've been, the home games against Anderlecht, Besiktas and Barcelona (why can't we have an atmosphere like that for League games ?). This could be the start of something very big.
Moments to savour in particular. Smiths goal in Lazio, Vidukas performance in Madrid, Dom Matteos goal in Milan, Robbo in the Barca home game, Bowyers goal in the rain against Milan, Anderlecht home and away, 6-0 v Besiktas - if you look at the quality of sides in Europe now, I'd say a better result than the legendary Lyn Oslo game, player sing songs after the game everywhere, Lee Bowyer standing on his own after Valencia.
Finally a big hello to all the listers and other fans that have made the trips so good, we've had some fantastic nights and will have more to come in the future.
WE ARE SO PROUD WE SHOUT IT PUT LOUD WE LOVE YOU LEEDS,LEEDS,LEEDS
Copy from Football Unlimited of 09/05/2001.
The shaven heads of Leeds United baldly went where many a team had gone before here last night. Valencia, inspired by the skill and vision of Gaizka Mendieta, ended the last English hope of a presence in this season's European Cup final with a goal in the first half and two more in five minutes early in the second.
Juan Sanchez might have given last season's runners-up the lead with the help of an elbow but once he and Mendieta had established a 3-0 lead any hopes Leeds had cherished after last Wednesday's 0-0 draw at Elland Road disappeared. Alan Smith's dismissal in injury-time for a reckless tackle was the worst possible end to a bad night.
For Leeds there was an apocalyptic feel about last night's match. Unlike Valencia, who are virtually assured of a continued presence in the Champions League next season, they were waiting on results back home. More than a place in the final was at stake.
Copy from The Independent of 08/05/2001.
The dream that has driven Leeds United since August, when they set out in the qualifying round of the Champions' League, died at the semi-final stage last night when they were outclassed by a vibrant Valencia. The Primera Liga's third-best team will thus attempt to atone for last year's final defeat in Milan on 23 May.
Needing "only" a score draw to contest the European Cup for the first time since 1975, Leeds fell to two goals by Juan Sanchez - the first illegally directed past Nigel Martyn - and another by the masterful Gaizka Mendieta. Their misery was compounded by the dismissal of Alan Smith for an appaling two-footed assault on Vicente seconds before the end.
Manfully as they fought, particularly after falling behind in the first half, Leeds were destroyed by two goals immediately after the interval. Smith's red card, his second in barely a month, meant a tawdry end to a terrific adventure, which took them to several of Europe's great capitals and saw them embarrass some of the continent's most famous clubs.
Afterwards Valencia's delirious fans staged a street party outside the stadium, complete with booming firecrackers. Inside the ground, David O'Leary could not disguise his anger over Uefa's three-match suspension of Lee Bowyer - for stamping on Sanchez, of all people - imposed 24 hours before the match.
"We got punished by video evidence over Bowyer, but there is nothing comparable available for what was a disgraceful decision on the first goal," the Leeds manager said. "But the better team won and the game was over once the second goal went in."
O'Leary said Valencia deserved to win the competition. "They've made two Champions' League finals in two years and I now wish them all the best. They're a fantastic side and I hope they go on and win the final."
On the subject of Smith's almost predictable rush of blood, O'Leary added: "I've got no sympathy for Alan at all. He's a great lad with a fine future but it was a bad tackle. He was disappointed at being beaten, but you don't go out like that."
Later, the Leeds players came on to the pitch to take the acclaim of their followers once it was all over. Yet where they had been full of swagger and song in previous celebrations, they now moved slowly and disconsolately.
The only piece of good news they received all evening was the result from Liverpool. If the Anfield side fail to win their final fixture at Charlton, Leeds could overtake them by taking six points from home games with Leicester and Bradford.
One high-profile Leeds follower, the chairman Peter Ridsdale, had spent yesterday morning liaising with Uefa over the banning of Bowyer. Leeds were offered a chance to have their appeal heard there and then over the phone, but Ridsdale declined and will instead take his case to the disciplinary body in person later this week.
Bowyer's ability to break into scoring positions was badly missed, as was his diligent covering of Danny Mills, although he might have missed the game anyway because of an injury picked up at Arsenal.
Meanwhile, the Valencia coach, Hector Cuper, was handsomely rewarded for calling up his Argentinian prodigy, Pablo Cesar Aimar, having left him out of the 0-0 draw at Elland Road.
The Leeds players, their heads newly shaven in a show of unity, were on the back foot for all but the period between Valencia's first goal and half-time. Aimar and Mendieta started with ominous assurance, the latter's volley forcing Nigel Martyn into an exceptional save with less than three minutes played.
Leeds had no sooner shown signs of settling than they fell behind in the 15th minute. A loose header by Ian Harte fell to Kily Gonzalez, whose exquisite volleyed pass from centre-midfield found Mendieta. Another first-time pass speared the ball into the six-yard box, where the diving Sanchez emulated Real Madrid's Raul against Leeds by using his upper arm to score.
O'Leary's players besieged the referee's near-side assistant, but were soon concentrating their energies on securing an equaliser. Harry Kewell was heavily involved, one corner causing panic before the ball was hacked clear and a 25-yard shot swerving narrowly over the bar.
Olivier Dacourt was at the heart of Leeds' retaliation, which produced a succession of shots from long range or middle distance, with even David Batty testing Santiago Canizares. But Leeds were unable to conjure any clear-cut chances against a back four which, although manned by players with an average age of 33, lived up to their reputation as the meanest in Spanish football.
Within seven minutes of the restart the game was up. In the 46th minute, Sanchez was allowed to turn as if in a practice match and almost casually drill his shot past Martyn's left hand from outside the penalty area.
Leeds were then exposed by a ruthless counter-attack in the 52nd minute. Sanchez and Mendieta took a scalpel to their defence, enabling the latter to run into the 18-yard area before drifting a drive - with his supposedly weaker left foot - into the same corner.
Sanchez was tantalisingly close to completing his hat-trick, steering the ball against the far post, while John Carew, whose 6ft 5in frame belies a deceptive turn of pace, made Martyn work hard to keep down the margin of Leeds' fourth straight defeat in Spain during this season's competition.
Cuper had the luxury of being able to introduce three substitutes as the fiesta started. The biggest ovation was reserved for the departing Mendieta, moments after he waltzed through and saw Martyn parry a fierce shot with his fists. Real and Bayern have been warned.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 09/05/2001.
ONE way or another, it was a night designed to end in tears; of sorrow or of joy.
And so it was that all those in Leeds United colours who have derived so much pleasure from their European exploits over the past nine months cried a river as the impossible dream evaporated.
The city of Valencia, all tooting horns, firecrackers and euphoria, celebrated well into the early hours, and well it might after a display which evoked spine-tingling pleasure and simply oozed class. Pure class, like that endowed upon their supremely talented captain Mendieta.
His masterclass ensured United's poor run in Spain continued this season taking their record to played four, lost four, goals for two, goals against 12.
Having considered all his options enforced by the eve-of-match banning of Lee Bowyer, United manager David O'Leary went for the straight replacement with Eirik Bakke.
United looked a motley crew, their uniform shorn heads designed to enhance team unity making them barely distinguishable one from the other. Or was it a clever ploy to confuse Valencia in recognising Kewell from Mills?
Valencia's fortress Mestalla rocked with the vibrant atmosphere befitting an all-or-nothing Champions League semi-final and the Spaniards were swiftly into their stride, Mendieta powering in a third minute angled drive which had Martyn at full stretch to save.
When Viduka was fouled Mills had the chance to cross from the right, but it was too near Canizares to cause any damage. Then the closely-attended Smith couldn't get a touch on Kewell's cross from the opposite flank.
An appalling backpass from Sanchez gave Kewell another chance to throw over a searching cross and this time Canizares found a telling punched clearance.
Ferdinand was smartly in to take the ball off the toes of Sanchez after Carew crossed well and Sanchez was off target with his header from Mendieta's cross.
It was looking ominous and Valencia grabbed the lead on 16 minutes when a glorious ball across the face of goal from Mendieta was turned in by a diving Sanchez to vain protests from the United camp that he had handled.
Viduka won a corner and Batty tried to double-head his way through, but the ball ran away from him as United continued to struggle to find an opening against a tight and tidy defence.
Kewell's 26th minute shot from 20 yards flew over and when the play switched, Angloma's deep cross forced Mills to concede a corner.
Leeds dealt with it well and Dacourt jinked forward through three challenges before unleashing a drive which, although powerful enough, was straight at Canizares.
Viduka showed great skill on the left of the area before picking out Batty, whose first-time volley had Canizares sinking to his knees to save. Then Smith fired in a low cross-shot and Leeds were taking the game to Valencia now in the desperate search for an equaliser.
The Spaniards soaked it up and sprung forward, with Mendieta's cross a shade too high for Carew to get in a decent header before Kily Gonzalez went down in the area under a challenge from Bakke in a heart-stopping moment.
Then Fabio Aurelio won a corner on the left and Ayala rose well from the flag kick to nod just wide.
Batty battled well to get Smith through on goal, but Pellegrino put in a decisive last-ditch challenge in the last meaningful action of a first half in which Leeds knew that it doesn't come much tougher than this.
Dacourt had busied himself and there was much encouragement in the big-match experience of Batty, but not for nothing does the Valencia defence have the reputation of being the meanest in Europe and a comprehensive route-finder was needed.
Within three minutes of the restart, however, it was curtains for Leeds when Sanchez picked up from Mendieta and produced the most glorious left-foot drive from 25 yards which flew like an arrow into Martyn's left-hand bottom corner.
Leeds had to go for it now and when they were committed forward Mendieta looked certain to score as he glided through but he overran the ball and Martyn collected.
It was only a brief respite, however, and the immaculate Valencia skipper repeated his run in the 52nd minute, this time burying his shot into the same bottom corner as Sanchez.
Now it was showboating time for last year's beaten finalists as they revelled in their advantage, Sanchez beating Martyn all ends up only to see his shot come back off a post and sparking a Mexican Wave from an ecstatic home support.
Ayala's foul on Viduka gave Harte a free kick chance from 20 yards, but it was tamely hit and confirmed the acceptance by Leeds of their fate.
Martyn palmed Carew's blast aside and Angulo was way too high from the rebound in a final period of play which was totally academic. And he was again made to hurl himself to keep out the hat-trick seeking Sanchez in the final countdown.
It all ended in disgrace as Smith brutally assaulted Vicente, appropriately in injury time, and received the same marching orders from the field as a humbled Leeds did from the competition.
For his sins Smith will receive at least a three-match ban which will keep him out of the early part of next season's European campaign, be it in the UEFA Cup or, dare we contemplate it, the Champions League.
His calling card on Spain was impetuous, irresponsible and unforgiveable.
Leeds deserved better. They deserved to have gone out with their dignity intact.