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Just back from a great week in Madrid with some good memories, a very sore throat and a renewed hope for the future. We went to the home of the best (arguably) team in Europe and whilst the result favoured them, I really do believe we are at the start of something big here. Yes, even this sceptical old Leeds supporter is finally starting to believe! Bring on Munich in the QF's. I fancy a trip to the bier kellers of Munchen!! What do you reckon Guy?? Noch ein Pils bitte!!
The Bernabeu was ours for the night and what a sight it was to see thouands and thousands of our supporters sing their hearts out for the lads. Hence the sore throat!! Anyone heard of a figure put to the number of us there?? We certainly filled a huge chunk of the upper two tiers and there were pockets of supporters all over the place. Great fun at the end when all in the main section (the Kop) asked the East Stand, then the West, then the South Stand and the Lowfields to give us a song. The tiny handful of travelling Whites miles away in the South stand couldn't be heard but their flags were waving vigorously so I'm sure they were singing their hearts out bess 'em! Though why I couldn't persuade everyone around me to join in with, "We've got Dom Mateo", I really don't know. Although it did provide some amusement as I kept on trying!! :-) Too much local rum and coke I think!! Ridsdale got a rousing reception but couldn't be persuaded to "Get the team out for the lads" and eventually the stadium announcer told us all we could leave the stadium but much to the amazement of the waiting police we didn't want to go at first. Only when the team didn't come out did people start to drift away into the excellent Metro system (wish the London Underground was as cheap) and into bars all over the city. They made some money in the local bars this week!!
Difficult to judge too much on the technicalities of the game. I'll never complain about the back of the MNES again. But the space we gave them at times seemed scary when looking down from above. The vision and passing of their lot was awsome to pick out their own playes on the other side of the pitch, but I remember thinking that when they played at ER earlier this season and that was from the front of the West Stand. We do look like we can mix it with the best now. The bigger the team the better, as they like to play football and that leaves us space to play against them and at times it is awsome to see our team in full flow. Harry Kewell genuinely scares the shit out of the opposition and I see it as a mark of respect when teams like Real Madrid put two men on him when he's got the ball.
Managed to get to the Triskel pub that Tim had suggested for the meet on Monday night, but was a tad on the late side having gone native and slept off the lunchtime beers and gone out to eat very late. Got to the pub about 11.30 - 11.45pm to find that Tim had been in earlier (according to the barman) and that there was a quiz going on in the cellar bar. Went down to find a few new faces from the list putting in a good performance in the quiz after trying to break their necks by going down some snowy mountains on tea trays!!
Lots of good sight seeing all around. Loads of Leeds shirts all over the place and plenty of encouragement from the locals. Must have been Atletico fans!! Even the policing was relaxed!! And above all an awseome stadium. I totally missed the Hand of Sod (wouldn't have seen it from 7 miles high anyway) as I was still gawping all around at the stadium and taking it all in :-) If a football ground deserves to be named the Theatre of Dreams then surely it must be the Santiago Bernabeu!!
Good trip...can't wait for the photo's.
Having returned from Madrid last yesterday (Never, ever fly British Airways unless you are wearing a suit and traveling Club Class) I thought I'd give a quick account of events from the posh seats of the Bernabau.
First off, big hello to all the listers, Beneluxers, and the suspectos habitualmentes who made the trip and an even bigger hello to the man who will forever in the words of Betty Boocock be referred to as "The Deserter". As for Dunderheads domain name purchase let's just say you won't let your kids log into it.....As ever when abroad a great spectrum of people and great list meets.
Monday night we had the get together and the beer flowed like water, and to be honest tasted like it by the end of the night. As the occasion demanded we partook of a selection of tapas to accompany - and you can really do that many different things with salami, fish and bread ? (answers to Dunderheads domain name :-))
Tuesday a.m. did the cultural thing, I gave the Prado a miss in favour of the Thyssen collection and would recommend anyone visiting Madrid to do the same. A fantastic gallery, light, spacious and very well laid out from the renaisseance through to modern art, everything from Rembrandt and the Dutch masters through impressionism and on to Picasso, Pollock and even more recent stuff.
Had a quiet afternoon relaxing over coffees and a few beers before girding the loins with a fantastic set price meal in a local cafe - steak, dessert coffee and a beer for under 4 ! Moved onwards to the gathering and time for a couple of beers before boarding the Metro and onto the game. Note to London Underground, the Madrid Metro runs regularly and late into the night, it also costs 30p a journey if you buy a 10 trip ticket - why can't ours ?
Anyway onwards to the Bernabau - what a structure, the Camp Nou, the San Siro, Olympic Stadium were all impressive but none more that this and none came near it. A veritable shrine to football and impressive enough to make me regret not catching the stadium tour. ManUre the biggest club in the world - I don't think so !
Found our seats and realised why they were compartively expensive, we were in the bottom tier and sat about three rows away from our much beloved chairman and the all the Real/UEFA bigwigs. Leeds fans all over the place as well as the "official" party up in the gods to our left. In fairness to PR he gave us a smile and a wave, although how explained two Leeds fans, (Messrs.Brown and Hannah) with donkeys on their heads to the Real chairman is anyones' guess.
Game kicked off and we started well, with Smithy's goal sparking mass celebrations all over the ground, although we were soon silenced by Rauls' hand of God. Even the Madrid fans around us apolgised and looked suitably embarrassed, notwithstanding that Raul was superb, as was McMananamanamn - the Spanish style really suits him, Figo is a tosser and should be treated as such, we gave as good as we got for most of the game, although there was always the sneaking feeling that Madrid were doing enough and could step it up, my mate remarked after the goal from Smith "That's going to Piss them off" and sure enough they surged forward straight afterwards. A draw would have been fair, but then who said it had to fair. Still we left with banners flying and heads held high.
We were denied the usual player sing along as we were released about fifteen minutes after the game ended although we did get MoT from PR as he headed off to the dressing room.
Back to the bar for a night cap and so to bed.
Highlight of the following morning was the headline of the Spanish Sports daily newspaper, which read in translation "Raul finally scores a goal as good as one of Maradonas' !"
What this experience really proved (and to an extent Saturdays game) proved is that we can live with the biggest teams on the biggest stage, I've come back to what seems like a million EMails regarding if we're playing well and whether we should have a trophy or whatever, and should be have beat the CRS etc. All I have to say is that the team have proved that we can raise our game from time to time and be up there with the best, I personally think that the players and the squad we've got/will have by next season could be capable of of doing it consistently and then watch us go. Regardless even if it all falls apart and we have nothing to show, the memories of this season will keep me going, (and a great many of my friends/family bored) for years to come.
Marching on together, in the ground, in the pub or in the armchair - WE ARE LEEDS !!
Copy from Football Unlimited of 06/03/2001.
With the white handkerchiefs fluttering appreciatively across the Bernabeu's fondo sur last night, David O'Leary was given a sharp reminder of why Don Revie used Real Madrid as his inspiration when, almost four decades ago, he changed Leeds United's strip to all-white.
In the end Real got the win they needed to finish as Group D winners. Yet Leeds can take credit from extending the European champions to the odd goal in five after a soggy night here in the Spanish capital which brought out equal measures of the best and worst in Vicente del Bosque's side.
With both sides already qualified for the knockout stages, the consequence of defeat was not overwhelming. Yet the prize of finishing top of the group represented more than just bragging rights. When the draw is made in Geneva on Friday week the group winners will have the luxury of avoiding each other in the final eight, as well as the theoretical advantage of playing the second leg of their quarter-final on home soil.
Copy from The Independent of 06/03/2001.
Real Madrid duly took first place in Group D of the Champions' League here last night, and with it the theoretical advantage of a home second leg in the quarter-finals. Their victory over Leeds United was probably deserved on the balance of play, though it was not achieved in the finest traditions of the eight-time European Cup winners.
Leeds, who had already reserved their place in the last eight, were still savouring the swift breakthrough secured by Alan Smith when Real replied with a goal swatted in, basketball-style, by Raul. The Spanish leaders' second goal was also fortuitous, Luis Figo's centre taking a wicked bounce to wrong-foot Nigel Martyn.
Mark Viduka levelled again, only for Raul to restore Real's lead in legitimate fashion within four minutes. Leeds will not be particularly perturbed, having given a far better account of themselves than when they were beaten 4-0 at Barcelona in September.
The view that Real had as good as won the section was challenged when Leeds took a sixth-minute lead and reasserted within 80 seconds as Real equalised. Both teams had been involved in controversial last-minute incidents last weekend, against Manchester United and Barcelona respectively. Now, remarkably, their early goals were equally contentious.
Viduka, controlling Lucas Radebe's long pass, found Smith in what was clearly an offside position. The 20-year-old, who had already scored in Munich, Rome and Brussels, calmly ignored Real's appeals to place a low shot past Cesar from 12 yards.
The triumphalism of Leeds' followers died in their throats almost immediately as a free-kick, conceded by David Batty and swung in by Figo, reached the near post. Raul scored, but with his left hand rather than his head. Nigel Martyn led a posse of protesting players, to no avail.
An open contest continued to produce chances for both sides. Smith, offered a free header from Harry Kewell's 11th-minute cross, directed the ball straight at a grateful Cesar. From the second and simplest of three opportunities created by Real in as many minutes, Steve McManaman half-volleyed wastefully high.
Real's second goal was as freakish as the first had been dubious. Figo, cutting in from the right, whipped in a cross which reared up off the divot which Martyn had made for the purpose of taking goalkicks. The keeper was startled as the ball tore past him like a Darren Gough bouncer.
Leeds involved Kewell more after the break and the ploy reaped a rich dividend in the 54th minute. The left-winger, starting for the first time since Boxing Day, teased Geremi into conceding a corner. The kick, taken by Ian Harte, sailed over two defenders to give Viduka a heading chance he could hardly miss from three yards out.
Once again, Leeds could not protect their position and once more it was the Figo-Raul combination which undid them. After a corner had been only half-cleared, the £38m Portuguese crossed for his colleague to outjump Batty and score with a glancing header his 27th goal in 54 Champions' League games.
Leeds' misfortunes increased when their captain, Radebe, had to be carried off with a leg injury. Even then, they went down fighting, Viduka crashing a late drive against the angle of post and bar with 22 minutes remaining.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 07/03/2001.
THE European champions were handed their passage into the quarter finals as Group winners by an opportunistic goal thief who should know better and yet another referee who "didn't see it."
Raul, envied the world over for his goalscoring prowess, was this time vilified for his palming of the ball into the United net and, Maradonna-style, getting away with it.
The first three goals here all had a giant question mark hanging over them yet, in a sense, their bizarre elements only added to the unbridled excitement of a truly memorable night.
Again Leeds rode into Europe with cavalier spirit, a determination to acquit themselves with distinction and full of lofty ambition and, again, they let nobody down.
This, indeed, was final confirmation if any were needed that they can mix it with the best of them now and have no fears.
In wholly inhospitable conditions they started with intent, David Batty and Mark Viduka combining well to send Olivier Dacourt on his way. But he could not find the final telling ball.
The Frenchman was quick to redeem himself, however, racing back to frustrate a Steve McManaman-inspired attack.
Then United raced into a spectacular sixth minute lead, Viduka embarking on an excellent solo run down the right before crossing precisely for an Alan Smith, offside from here to Barcelona, to coolly place his shot past Cesar.
The lead lasted less than a minute, Luis Figo sending over a free kick from the left for Raul to push the ball home with his hand to the accompaniment of fierce Leeds protests.
It had been a rip-roaring start and Leeds should have gone ahead on ten minutes when Harry Kewell defied all the odds to fling over a cross from the left for the unmarked Smith to power in a point-blank header. But he could not direct it wide of Cesar and all his body language told us that he knew he should have scored. Dacourt blazed over the top as Leeds came again and Real knew they were in for the most severe of examinations.
Raul raced 30 yards through challenges to unleash a drive which Nigel Martyn spilled, but Lucas Radebe was on hand to tidy up.
McManaman was next to try his luck, but he was way over the top from Gerami's lay-back.
The impressive Solari put the ball through the stricken Ian Harte's legs before unleashing a fierce drive which flashed outside the far post.
Then Kewell had some words of chastisement for Rio Ferdinand as the big defender went for a Harte corner and simply got in the way of what looked like a perfect volley opportunity.
Kewell turned Geremi inside out before whipping over a cross which Cesar did well to take out at his near post, and Viduka caused all sorts of problems from Harte's corner before Hierro hoofed to safety. Bakke floored Raul 25 yards out, but Hierro's placed free kick was too weak to trouble Martyn.
Viduka turned inside Solari and got in a left foot shot which brought Cesar to his knees and Leeds were looking much the hungrier outfit.
Several Spanish moves were breaking down through a sloppy final pass or the swarming by Leeds of the player in possession and the huge travelling army of 7,000 or so United fans were enjoying a thrill a minute.
But four minutes before the break their hearts were broken by Figo, whose angled cross from the right looked innocent enough until it took a wicked bounce off the greasy surface and flew into the far corner past a stunned Martyn.
Raul was desperately close with a glancing header as Leeds tried to regroup and a night which had started so promisingly was suddenly as disconcerting as the driving rain.
Then the face of the game again changed dramatically, United equalising on 54 minutes when Harte's left wing corner was powerfully headed home by the unmarked Viduka.
With the bit between their teeth now United fancied this enormously and Radebe typified their determination with a skilful and perfectly-timed tackle on the dangerously-lurking Morientes.
Yet they fell behind again in the 59th minute, Raul rising above Batty to nod home Figo's pinpoint cross.
Leeds lost skipper Radebe shortly afterwards when he went down in agony with a right knee injury sustained when he fell awkwardly in making a clearance from Geremi's headed cross.
Kelly came on at right back, Harte switched to the left and Matteo was paired with Ferdinand for Leeds to come again with an excellent move featuring Kewell, Smith and Viduka.
The big Aussie found time to measure his shot from the edge of the box but, unluckily, it hit the angle of bar and post and flew over.
A minute later he was through again courtesy of a measured pass from Smith, and this time he blasted wide.
But Figo was guilty of a similar miss at the other end from Geremi's excellent lay-back.
With all eyes on the clock Smith went down in the penalty area and at least the spot-kick claims had more justification than Raul's goal that should never have been.
Onward, then, to the quarter finals, where the stakes are high and the rewards for success fantastic.
What Leeds have learned along the way is that there is a mentality out there that rules are made to be bent, if not broken, in the one-track pursuit of glory.
All is fair in love and football.
It is a lesson that will not be lost upon them.