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The idea of touring round Europe watching Leeds play seemed such a far off dream the day Howard Wilkinson resigned. George Graham seemed to bring some hope, but it's David O'Leary and his raggedy arsed bunch of kids who saw us on the road to what for me has been a fantastico year. I realised last night when I crawled into my pit that I would never have had the delights of the likes of Roma, Praha, Milano or Barca to chuckle at as I amble about my diurnal routine if it were not for the "young manager and his babies".
Unlike the other soft bastards that I travelled with this week, I had to contend with the extra burden of getting from LOTSA to lovely Essex, before I could begin the trip proper. Needless to say this involved the usual shite with Leicester which I have dealt with elsewhere. Having forgotten to take my mobile, I missed the chance to ponificate via the BBC as to my thoughts on the lumpen scum who think its funny to chant racist abuse at football matches where Leeds are playing. These people are not football fans they are vermin and should be taken outside and shot as class enemies. Anyway I was mulling over these and other issues when I stumbled across an old bloke with a carrier bag in Stansted Airport. If it hadn't have bin for the twinkle in his eye, I could have easily mistaken Thirkers for the copper out of My Pink Half Of The Drainpipe, but his shiny black steel toecapped coal man's boots gave him away anyway.
Next to turn up was Caddy who for some reason had been at work since five in the morning and then presumed that a train would get him to the airport in good time. What do you expect from a lad born in Donny, home of the Railway Kings, the St Leger and a panto horse called Flaxton Grey (incidentally the only horse to have palyed at WorldNET). The new apprentice, Sergeant Doherty turned up last carrying a bag which I'm sure contained housebreaking tools in it. A small but select band hell bent on enjoying the beauty that is Roma, the eternal city, home of the Popes, lots of mad bastards on scooters, the town full of ruins (which we were doomed to blend in with at closing time).
As is customary on these trips, Caddy made sure that panic set in immediately by leaving his mobile at the security desk. Whilst we enjoyed the first glass of the day he ran off back to get it and was delighted to find that there were loads of them there, I only wish he had blagged me one as I was bereft without mine. There were very few Leeds fans on our flight, as usual Scone and Nit from Whitby were there (I think Graham's missus pays them to spy on him actually). So ofski we goski.
The flight was uneventful, we drank the bar dry, Scone and Nit cornered the air hostessses up the back of the plane and I chatted up Denis Findlay (who Gramp Sykes will remember played for the two Manchester teams in the fifties - scored agin Leeds too!). Dennis was great company unlike my scummy mates who made me sit on my own for some reason whilst they talked endlessly about computers and their favourite hard disk file allocation tables. Dennis kept drinking tonic water out of a large plastic bottle, it was only when he swayed up the bog that I realised he had gin in it too! At the end of the flight we exchanged cards and I'm off to stay with him up his villa in Peruggia next Summer.
When we landed at Ancona we fled the airport for Castel Ferretti station and the 4 hour train trip to Roma. The station has been turned into someone's house so whilst Thirkers gave a kid sweeties, Caddy and the Sarge went into some bushes together ( I think its an old RAF thing). Those reading the list earlier will know that there had been some discussion about the price of a train ticket between Ancona and Roma. Caddy had printed out this thing that said it was £33 each way. We were discussing this and Caddy noted that there didn't seem to be anyone collecting tickets etc.. on the train. At that point the conductor turned up sat down beside us and started to use complicated long division, 3 times table and a card with a magic spell on it to work out our fare. It was about threepence happenny each way for all of us. What Caddy had was a print out that said £330,000. Funny isn't it how the Eyeties have copied our pound sign for their Lire? You'd think they'd get their own.
Once up Rome we tear arsed round to the Hotel, dropped our kit and hit the town. Paul and I remembered our way towards the Spanish Steps, took in a few closed bars first and finally landed in this place which was run by Lazio fans who completed every sentence with the word "Fantastico". As we ate our steaks the lad serving us polled up and asked how it was, after all the "fantasticoing" Thirkers sort of grinned and muttered "s'alright" in his usual nasty snarling Armley street urchin way. From that point on we used Fantastico at every available opportunity! We settled on some Grappa and then did the tourist thang around the Steps, ending up in a trendy wine bar full of people with two mobile phones, rubber faces and grey teeth. It was great, all the swish Romanos supping gentile glasses of wine and us lot knecking bottled beer.
We headed back towards the Hotel at about midnight, which seemed to be a sign for Thirkers to go beserk, he kept climbing orange trees and then handing the fruit around (I dont think he had actually ever seen an orange tree before, maybe kids in Armley think oranges are grown in the soil like spuds, I'm not sure). Anyway some Roman type was going to get up next day to find one splattered on the roof of his Postman Pat car. Caddy found us a bar near the hotel which would serve us, which was good cos the barmaids were wearing pelmets and there was a guy belting out a tuna on the sax. The good thing was that the owner was a Milanese and he was keen for us to go back after the match next day (be here for twelve he said - Result!).
We hit San Pietro next day, bought Lal a Pope Snow thing for her collection and then tried to find Al Edgar - we tasted the bus this time which was bizarre - the queue were underwhelmed when we cheered because it actually turned up. By the time we got to the Trevi Al had split so we hit the Piazza Navonna for a leisurely luncheon (Thirkers excelled himself with non fish and chips) and a stroll round the Christmas Market in the piazza. The restaurant did have a small smattering of fans - including a group who were clearly from the North Side of the River judging by their accents and the ugliness of both the men and the women. That daft twat dressed in Gold as an Egyptian type was still there. Thirkers copped for some Pistachios and Olives which kept us going as we half wandered half shopped our way up the Walkway back to the Trevi. This was wierd where were all the Leeds fans?
After a hotel stop and checking out the trains back to Ancona (shit ten to ten rather than ten to twelve because there was a general lack of recepticle about the reliability of Italian trains - Railtrack you have made us miss our sleep by loosing our trust in railway timetables!) we took a tube to Piazza Poppoli because I wanted to have a drink in Franco Zeppherelli's bar - something the other three Philistines couldn't understand (funny though how they all wanted to be film buffs when the Sarge kept asking "what film was this song in"). Needless to say we ended up somewhere else and proceeded to watch the Parma 1850 Munich debacle on TV. We headed out for the ground on the tram - which had exactly no Lazio fans on it. We walked up to the ground from the tram stop completely un hindered too. On the bridge over the river they were selling ale quite freely. So what is it with the tossers in Milano then? And don't tell me it's because some poor guy got stabbed, because the shut down in Milano was organised days in advance. Give me Roma any day.
After a kerfuffle getting into the ground we were treated to an hour and a half of bliss. A fairly even first twenty minutes developed into a tussle that Leeds had clearly got their teeth into. Woodgate was definitely a different player to last Saturday, DaCourt was a collossus, Smith was up for it as was Viduka (in spite of us constantly shouting You Fat Knacker at him). In the second half we just outshone them and it was not a question of would we score but when. When we did it was a peach. Kewell set it up to Viduka, Smith ran clear and picked up the back heel and side footed it expertly into the onion bag. Lazio's failings were in the second third of the pitch, they didn't hold the ball up enought or ditribute it properly to their front men, who looked dangerous when they actually did get the ball, but couldn't beat the combined talents of Woody and Robbo.
At half time in the bog the general feeling was what had looked like a chance to get one point before kick off was ours for the taking. This was the best European football I have seen the team play. In the second half they had the measure of Lazio, both in terms of skill and tactics. The team's work rate was 100%. When they did score the thousand or so Leeds fans just kept shouting "Yes Yes Yes" - the local police who used a very light touch throughout took it in good part, even though a lot of them were clearly Lazio fans. Half time saw a mass consumption of that coffee liquer thing, I think this is what made us far noisier in the second half, Give the 40,000 or so Lazianilos their due they did make a noise, but only up to when we scored.
I've seen some of the reports from those of you who weren't privileged to have been in the Stadio Olimpico last Tuesday, all I can say is that we beat a team which could easily also have one this game. What won it for us was the skill of Dacourt, Viduka and yes Smith combined with the commitment of Bowyer, Woodgate and Robinson. The rest of the team were part of it but those six for me were the ones who did the business for us. The addition of Kewell alongside those six reminded me that we are building a fine team, we've yet to see the best of Ferdinand and we will soon have a much stronger squad when Bridges, Martyn and Batts return. Batty will bring experience and the others will bring depth. However, as I say it was a privilege to see the team playing on Tuesday.
This was a team that looked comfortable in Europe - a team that should be playing there next season if it can only drag itself up from mid table obscurity back into the top three where it belongs. Certainly one of the best Leeds teams I've ever seen play in Europe. A great performance which is done a disservice by the scoreline. I don't know what it looked like in the Pack Horse, Rich, but my feeling after having seen ITV's highlights is that they didn't do the lads justice and the commentary there was pretty much 100% pro Leeds. Anderlecht should be very worried. However I digress from my fireside chat...........
At the end of the game Risible was out straight away. The team came out to play very quickly, they obviously like singing with the fans and the press corps which followed them out was very bemused. Highlight was Lucas singing his own song. He obviously loves it a great deal when we sing it. Gary Kelly and Lee Bowyer are the ring leaders in all this, making the others all have a go (including Rio who was taken aback by it all I think - I bet the Hammers never did anything like that). Our chant of "five gears and they are all reverse" got a luagh from the copper who spoke great English, but a quick blast of Bandera Rossa showed which party the majority of them supported!
Oh and what song did Bowyer sing? Well it was clear that it was what he had tried to sing and failed in Milano - it was the WATC COE. He even took his shirt off. The time passed by very quickly before we left anyway - Leeds staff were on hand to make sure we got the use of the toilets (thanks Alan Heggarty on behalf of a burstin' Cadd) and there was no hassle once out of the ground. We dodged the flares to catch the last bus from the stadium into town and it was the best thing cos it dropped us right outside the jazz bar at ten past midnight! But not before Al Edgar had checked that we all knew exactly how tall Robbie Fowler is. Al even had a blow up Robbie in his handbag to prove it. The beer flowed in the bar and we were generally well behaved. We took a carry out back to the hotel and woke up the only other guest (which was nice) and then hit the sack to dream about that goal.
Next day we had to head for the station - meet next to the cafe we said, so Thirkers went for cheese the Sarge enjoyed girly (oops sorry racing car) calendars and I paniced when they didn't turn up. I had the tickets so I said to Pete, "Stuff 'em, they can walk". Sure enough they had already found the train and were desperately looking out for us. I thrive on hassle me. The train was a hoot, the AC was on full making it feel like a chest freezer and we only had one can of beer between us. A quick wazz resulted in me finding an old dear's hand bag and then me and Thirkers being applauded by a whole carriage full of ancient Italian women when we found the owner - Bravo Inghilesi they bellowed before Graham and I snogged each one individually - "no tongues like, but quite a few of 'em grabbed our wedding tackle" as Thirkers will no doubt say every time he recounts (embellishes) the story for his assembled great grand children in years to come.
When we hit Ancona we bumbled about until we found a bus into Il Centro - a bus populated mainly by slavering old men with strange sticking plaster on the backs of their heads. We had a wander round a couple of dozen fish markets before we found a restaurant inhabited by the world's most beautiful waitresses (also afficionados of the pelmet as it happened). This was the best food we had in Italy and it cost bugger all. Lovely Taghliatelle, Lasagne and Gnocci. The Sarge had a massive ice cream - which we let pass as he is only an apprentice - and off we stumbled back to the Railway station for our bags. I was burstin so I went in search of the bogs. they were a delight - a Workers Co-operative runs them and I had a great chat with the two old Communists who man the desk - I was so pleased that my 30p was going to them rather than Gardner Merchant or some French PLC. Superloos run by workers - living proof of the efficacy of the Labour Movement and workers control.
Our flight back was predicated by a trip with Fangio on the Manche equivalent of Death Race Two Thousand. At the airport Thirkers pestered everybody silly trying to get a bin liner to hide his cheese in which was mingin'. He even hassled a guy who he thought was a porter, but in fact worked for New Holland and was travelling with seven Japanese businessmen. Oh how we laughed. On the flight back we sat next to Peter Ridsdale who had transmogrified into a Teeside businessman - he loved it when Caddy called him a child abuser (just where are Verner and Adie when you need 'em?). Caddy's indescretion was all his missus' fault anyway because she had told him not to get pissed on the plane - so I suppose that accounted for all the ale, the shorts and the coffee liquer.............
Anyway I'm home again now, I've got my phone back and the world is mostly alright. That's the end of this year's Euro Romp, Anderlecht and Madreeed all beckon. If you haven't done it already I advise you to try it, if you have you'll know what I mean when I say its the best sort of football. Now did I ever tell you about the time Thirkhill and Brown messed me about with a lift in Barcelona..............................
Monday - Met Betty, Thirkers and Caddy at Stanstead and set the tone for the trip by going straight to the bar. Interesting flight on the ex-Luftwaffe Ryanair 737, lovely views of the Alps and Adriatic coast. More beer in flight but no food - 4 for a cheese roll ! Entrained at Ancona for Rome, changed trains in Foglino and drank the buffet trolley dry - although seeing as he only had four beers this was not the achievement it may seem. Arrived in Rome, checked in at the Pensione and then straight back out into the city. Nice walk/tour under the supervision of Boocock Tours, taking in the old city and Spanish Steps, a "Fantastico" meal, or so the waiter kept telling us and a couple of bars, finishing a long day with a session in every sense in a jazz club.
Tuesday - Dragged from sleep/hangover by Betty, "we're going to the Vatican" - tour part 2. When we got to St Peters', we discovered that we'd missed a gig by the Pope that Sunday. I use word "gig" because with all the crash barriers, video screens and debris, the place looked like Oasis had just finished playing there rather than a Papal Mass. Took the obligatory pictures and did the tourist stuff. Time constraints meant missing the Sistine Chapel so we headed off to meet Caddys' mate, Alan, at the Trevi Fountain - put the traditional three coins and made a wish. We got there an hour late and missed Alan, so went for a beer and some lunch in a nearby Piazza, complete with fairground and market. Did the souvenir shopping - those espresso cups got cheaper as soon as Betty bought a set ! Back the Pensione, quick change and out into the dark streets of Rome for the game. The set up for the game was much better than at Milan, we took a tram from the town centre, walked to the ground and there was a only a very small police presence and despite what we had been told in the letter which accompanied our tickets there was no problem in having a look at the souvenir stands or walking around - as Thirkers has documented there was even beer on sale outside.
We got into the ground slightly after kick off as they'd put us in a different part of the ground from last time against Roma and we went the wrong way. Went through a fairly strict body search - one lad behind us said he had coins taken off him but Caddy got his mobile and camera through without any problems and took out standing places in the seats for the game.
I'm afraid I'm one of those people who don't enjoy games but suffer through them, however I can say that we thoroughly deserved the win, Woody, Smith, Dacourt and Viduka were all on top of their game and everyone played their part, only real thing was that Bakke is still obviously not fully fit and struggled a bit. After the half time interval and some ice-cream and a couple of the coffee liqueurs - and of course the now traditional shirts off chorus of "WATC- COE", Leeds came out full of fire, obviously the half time team talk was along the lines of "You can beat this lot so get out there", as we came out looking like the home team and proceeded to completely dominate the game fully deserving the win, yes we had few lucky moments, yes, they had a few chances - what do you expect from a team for whom the purchase of Rio Ferdinand would be something out of petty cash - but on the night we were the better team, capped by a glorious goals from Smith and the jolly boys giving the Rome concrete a good shake as we literally jumped for joy. After the usual heart-stopping extra time there we were.
As the Lazio team left the pitch to a chorus off boos from their support, the lads came over and took their applause before disappearing down the tunnel, a few minutes later Ridsdale came over and gave us a wave them went down the tunnel and out came the boys for the traditional sing song, the team ran through the full repertoire including WATC-COE, Marching, We are Leeds, Radebe led us in a choruses of his own song, and even Rio got in on the act with a song that he'd obviously learned from his pal Doobs on a night out with the Massive.
The game was sensitively policed with many of the police on duty laughing along and pointedly digging their Lazio supporting colleagues in the ribs and there was no trouble in the Leeds area of the ground that I saw - maybe they were on the coffee liqueurs as well.
We were released n to the night after about 45 minutes and left to out own devices, as we walked back to the bus station we saw the only incident when a few flares were throw at the Leeds supporters coaches but as soon as the police stopped the local's legged it - we saw nothing else. The Lazio team coach went past us so we gave then a friendly goodbye wave. Onto the bus and back to our jazz club for some cracking be-bop and more alcohol until the very wee small hours.
Wednesday - Up at 8.00 for the 9.00 train to Ancona, I decided to have an alcohol free day (my liver and stomach were most insistent) so passed the journey quietly with just the four of us and the Thirkill cheese collection (60 worth of top pongy cheese!). Wander around Ancona and another great lunch then homeward.
In summary a great time had by all who went, good food, good beer, good jazz, good football and good mates - I love this list !
Copy from Football Unlimited of 06/12/2000.
In earning an unexpected victory thanks to Alan Smith's late goal last night, Leeds United not only enhanced their chances of reaching the quarter-finals but left Sven-Goran Eriksson in a precarious position with the Rome derby looming on Sunday week.
The neat finish Smith applied to Mark Viduka's backheel after a fine move 10 minutes from time was no more than they deserved for a performance which was both disciplined and adventurous against a disappointing Lazio, who have lost both their second phase matches. Leeds were, though, grateful to Paul Robinson for a fine one on one save which denied Hernan Crespo shortly before Smith's goal.
Leeds knew they had a chance to do English football a double favour and by winning they enhanced the standing of the Premiership and pushed Eriksson closer to the exit at Lazio and towards an early start with the FA.
Copy from The Independent of 05/12/2000.
The future of Sven Goran Eriksson will be the focus of attention in both the Eternal City and Soho Square this morning but, in Yorkshire and beyond, this match will be hailed for what it is rather than what it might mean.
In defeating the Italian champions in their den, Leeds United may have hastened the arrival of Eriksson at his desk in the FA's new central London HQ, but that was incidental to their supporters. They were concentrating on a magnificent result, secured through Alan Smith's 80th-minute goal, which has revived their Champions' League hopes. With Real Madrid thrashing Anderlecht in Spain, Leeds will feel they now go into the winter break with every chance of securing the second qualifying place behind the holders.
It was Leeds' third appearance at the Stadio Olimpico under David O'Leary, having twice faced Roma here, and familiarity appeared to have bred confidence. That was heightened by the positive message inherent in O'Leary's decision to include Jason Wilcox at the expense of Ian Harte achieved by moving Dominic Matteo to left-back.
With Olivier Dacourt dominant in midfield, Leeds had plenty of the ball early on and won several set-pieces. From one, Mark Viduka was unlucky to be booked for tangling with Alessandro Nesta as the Lazio captain attempted to restrain him. The defender then did enough to prevent the Australian reaching a teasing Lee Bowyer free-kick. The ball also just eluded the head of Smith who had escaped his marker.
After 15 minutes, Eirik Bakke fired in a header after rising to reach a Bowyer corner. Attilio Lombardo, however, was in position to clear off the line. The bald veteran was one of the key figures in the opening exchanges.
Matteo and Wilcox were both constantly beaten by Lombardo and Marcelo Salas headed just over from one of several crosses. Hernan Crespo then diverted a Juan Sebastian Veron corner into the side-netting.
Lazio, buoyed by these efforts, began to gain a measure of control in midfield, with the influential Veron belying his lack of fitness. After 21 minutes, his inswinging corner deceived Paul Robinson and Giuseppe Pancaro, rising at the far post, headed against the bar.
Fifteen minutes later, Lazio came even closer, but Jonathan Woodgate, impressing after an understandably nervous start, came to the rescue. He had already cleared a Pavel Nedved cross which seemed bound for the head of Salas when he denied the Chilean in dramatic fashion. Giuseppe Favalli, released down the left by Veron's powerful header, crossed to the far post where Salas steered a diving header goalwards. As the Curva Nord rose in premature celebration Woodgate headed off the line.
Veron's frustration manifested itself with a booking for dissent as Lazio, disappointed, temporarily switched off. Leeds almost took advantage with Viduka showing good footwork to create space for a chipped cross which Bowyer stabbed just the wrong side of the far post.
Nedved twice caused Leeds problems as the second half began. An error by Bakke allowed him to deliver a dangerous cross which Leeds scrambled away, then Lombardo set up the Czech for a shot which he thumped into the side-netting. Drifting in from the left he next put another powerful shot narrowly wide.
Then the canary-shirted visitors rallied. Dacourt drilled a 25-yard drive just over, then a brace of Bowyer crosses almost presented Wilcox with goal opportunities. A third Bowyer cross nearly prompted an own goal as the ball deflected off Viduka on to the thigh of his marker, Lombardo, before being tipped over the bar by Angelo Peruzzi. From the resulting corner Woodgate shot wide. The goalkeeper then saved at the feet of Smith.
With the prospect of victory slipping away, Eriksson replaced the exhausted Veron with Fabrizio Ravanelli. O'Leary reacted by introducing his ace, Harry Kewell, to warm applause from the small band of Leeds supporters. The Australian had an almost immediate impact, but first had to watch as Crespo, breaking on to a long ball from Nesta, got away from Lucas Radebe and bore down on goal. Faced with the £36m striker, Robinson did not panic. He stood up and, as the Argentine tried to chip him, saved easily.
The ball moved up the pitch to Kewell. He played a disguised pass inside, Smith flicked it on to Viduka then ducked behind Nesta to receive a beautifully back-heeled pass. As Peruzzi advanced the teenager scored with a coolness Crespo must have envied.
Lazio rallied and should have levelled with four minutes left. When Guerino Gottardi crossed from the right the goal gaped for Diego Simeone, but he mis-kicked and the ball drifted wide.
Copy from SportLive of 05/12/2000.
SportLive is no longer operational. Should it return to the web, this report will be removed and the link restored.
Rome might be the Eternal City but in football nothing is forever, especially in the volatile Italian capital. And Alan Smith's 80th-minute winner for Leeds on Tuesday night, which revived their Champions League hopes, will mean the Lazio reign of England manager-in-waiting Sven Goran is likely to draw to a premature end.
It was a fantastic performance by David O'Leary's team with the winning goal, driven home from 12 yards by Smith following a clever backheel from Mark Viduka, just reward for their endeavours.
Worryingly though for England, Eriksson's Lazio seemed to lack the tactical nous to cope with Leeds.
The intriguing sub-plot of this game was, of course, the chance to assess Eriksson in a high-pressure situation.
By his own admission he went into this game with the heat on him, knowing full well that anything less than victory would not only damage Lazio's hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals of the competition but enhance the feeling in Rome that he is no longer entirely focused on his club's fortunes.
It was a crucial game for Leeds too. After suffering defeat at Elland Road a fortnight ago when they were outclassed by Real Madrid, O'Leary knew deep down he needed at least a draw to realistically give his team the chance of a route towards the knock-out phase.
With that in mind O'Leary decided discretion was the better part of valour when it came to picking his side, resisted the temptation to draft in fit-again Harry Kewell, and instead turned to the more defensively-inclined Jason Wilcox, only recently back from a broken ankle, to hold the left flank.
Not that one could describe the Irishman's selection as defensive, but the instructions were to begin the game stealthily. On the other hand Eriksson, with a wealth of talent - the cost of his squad comfortably exceeded £120million - wanted his side to go for the jugular from the off to stop the fans turning on him.
Leeds attempted to speed the process by seeking to put Lazio out of their stride with a combination of tenacity and belligerence. After two minutes Viduka was booked after he had tested the willingness of Alessandro Nesta to participate in a physical battle and left the Lazio captain in a heap after an aerial duel.
Five minutes later Lazio failed to defend a Lee Bowyer free-kick effectively but Viduka, Jon Woodgate then Smith all missed the opportunity to apply a finishing touch from close range.
But even though it was a chance missed, Leeds gained a belief there was a vulnerability about the Lazio back four and in the 15th minute were denied the lead when Attilio Lombardo cleared Eirik Bakke's header off the line from a Bowyer corner.
Six minutes later, however, Leeds enjoyed a remarkable escape when Lazio full-back Giuseppe Pancaro, having outjumped Bakke at the far post, somehow headed against the crossbar from a yard out.
Yet Leeds were more than holding their own. At the back Woodgate and Lucas Radebe looked comfortable despite the obvious threat of Marcelo Salas and Hernan Crespo, in midfield Olivier Dacourt was outstanding and Lee Bowyer was not far behind, while Viduka's ability to hold the ball up always offered an outlet.
However in the 36th minute, when a wayward clearance gave Viduka no chance of ferrying the ball forward, Lazio looked for a swift counter-attack.
Left-back Giuseppe Favalli stormed down the flank then crossed deep and with great agility Salas met the ball beyond the far post and guided it beyond Paul Robinson. But having astutely covered his goalkeeper, Woodgate was in place to hook the ball off the line.
Essentially though Lazio found it hard to break Leeds down. Indeed it seemed Eriksson's rigid 4-4-2 system was not getting the best out of his players, and just before half-time Bowyer should have put Leeds in front.
Viduka produced a dazzling piece of footwork to elude Nesta then chipped across the face of the goal.
Lazio keeper Angelo Peruzzi was stranded as Bowyer flew in two yards past the far post but the player who had declared his intention to show his international credentials to Eriksson failed to get a good touch on the ball and his shot thudded into the side netting.
Another disappointment, but Leeds continued to play with great purpose and discipline.
Even as the game opened up after the break O'Leary's side more than matched their much-vaunted opponents. In the 66th minute they were only prevented from making the breakthrough when Peruzzi somehow tipped a point-blank Viduka shot over the bar from Bowyer's cross.
It was another outstanding display by Leeds in Rome.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 06/12/2000.
LAUGHING last and longest, United's impish striker Alan Smith scored a glorious match-winner ten minutes from time to end a barren spell of 12 goalless games just when his side needed it most.
Once again United raised their game to new heights in European competition, delivering what could amount to a knockout blow to a team who originally figured among the favourites for this compelling competition.
United unsurprisingly started with a flat back four after the Leicester debacle, with Jonathan Woodgate lining up alongside Lucas Radebe in the middle of Gary Kelly and Dominic Matteo, who was preferred to Ian Harte.
Eirik Bakke was included in midfield but fit-again Harry Kewell started on the bench.
Lazio looked ultra-strong, fielding one of the world's best defenders in skipper Alessandro Nesta, midfield sensation Juan Sebastian Veron and ace South American strike duo Hernan Crespo and Marcelo Salas.
United were desperate to avoid defeat after last month's setback against Real Madrid in the second phase opener and Viduka was yellow-carded as early as the second minute for elbowing Nesta as Bowyer's right wing free kick came over.
It was an untidy opening and after Salas overran the ball Smith first failed to control Wilcox's through ball and then, running in, couldn't get a touch to Bowyer's inviting cross.
Lombardo, foraging down the right, should have done better with two fine opportunities to cross into the danger zone and Bowyer, at the heart of much of what Leeds had to offer, was well wide with his shot from distance.
Viduka won a 16th minute corner and Bakke's goalbound header from Bowyer's cross was hacked off the line by Lombardo.
Radebe recovered well to rob Crespo at the last second but when Veron delivered the corner Crespo was unlucky to see his angled shot go into the side netting.
Salas wasn't far off the target with his angled lob and when he won a corner on the left Pancaro rose at the far post and rattled the upright with his close-in header.
Nedved didn't get the runs he wanted from the strike duo as he laid the ball inside and promptly admonished them, then Viduka almost got Smith through on goal as the game swung from end to end.
Lombardo was felled by Matteo in a dangerous position on 33 minutes but Smith relieved the pressure with a big kick downfield before Bowyer was pulled up for a foul on Nedved and Veron's effort was way too high.
Veron uttered some obscenities at referee Colombo and was booked for his impudence, then United had a lucky escape when Salas beat Robinson with his far-post header from Veron's cross only for Woodgate, having a stormer, to pop up on the line and head clear.
Viduka opened his box of tricks on the left just before the interval and gave Bowyer a fine chance at the far post, but he just could not get the angle he wanted.
Nesta left the field at half time bitterly complaining to the French official about an elbow in the mouth and constant shirt-tugging by Smith, who is clearly making his mark on big-name defenders.
There was an air of impatience about Nedved's bobbling shot wide at the start of the second half and when Salas won a corner on the right little threat was offered to Robinson.
Veron got Nedved away and his first time shot whistled into the side netting and when Leeds rallied Dacourt's terrific dipping shot from 20 yards had Peruzzi worried.
Nedved was equally close at the other end, sending in a screamer which was only just wide and it was amazing that this was still goalless.
Viduka was next to try his luck with a shot all along the ground which was off target, then Simeones diving header rattled the advertising hoardings.
Smiths excellent cross from the right was almost bundled in by Viduka but Peruzzi twisted acrobatically to keep it out, then Woodgate, of all people, found himself with a glorious shooting chance from ten yards but scuffed it wide.
Peruzzi saved bravely at Smiths feet when Viduka steered him through and with 14 minutes left United, sensing that victory was there for the taking, introduced Kewell in place of Wilcox.
Robinson did exceptionally well to keep out Crespos close-range lob and United finally broke the deadlock in the 80th minute.
A brilliant move saw Kewell turn the ball inside to Smith and on to Viduka, who back-heeled for Smith to take it in his stride and coolly slot home his shot into the far corner to the unbridled delight of the travelling fans.
Simeone angled his shot wide and a brilliant last-ditch tackle by Woodgate stopped Nedved in his tracks as Lazio went for one big final push.
But United stood firm for a victory which ranks among their finest.