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...by which I mean that, when we were wandering around Barcelona before the game, all the local fans were telling us how Barca were going to beat us - and with our resources stretched paper-thin, we rather jokingly said that we'd be happy with anything less than 5-0 to Barca. Next time I'll just keep my big mouth shut.
A bleary-eyed thought on Monday morning saved me a lot of trouble for this trip. "Only got 40 miles of petrol left - better fill up now," I thought. Just as well I did, or else it would have been a long walk to Luton on Wednesday morning. As it was, getting up there for a 7 a.m. flight was hard enough work. Stelios managed to ensure that his plane had enough fuel for the flight, and we were off.
When you follow a side brimming with world-class players, it's probably a lot easier to be magnanimous and friendly with the opposition than if you're following a side trying to justify its own hype. But when that friendliness extends to your taxi driver trying to show you pictures from the local paper of the Leeds team practicing at the ground when he's trying to steer at 40-50 mph, that's a bit much. Wandered around the town a bit during the day - the Placa Real was Leeds Central, with several hundred fans gathered around the bars. The local riot police were, needless to say, not far away - but weren't needed and seemed happy enough to pass the time smoking a few fags in the afternoon sun.
A gentle amble up to the ground seemed like a good idea (with frequent pauses for refreshment) and so we found ourselves in the Bra Cafe (really) watching the world go by. Someone was clearing out an apartment across the road - we noticed them throwing something into a skip and thought it looked an ideal thing to take along with us to the ground. "O'Leary" - a 5-foot long floppy dog - joined us in the cafe (complete with Leeds scarf of course) and became the centre of attention of various passers by and the dozen or so coaches full of Leeds fans passing by en route to the Camp Nou.
"When's he going to talk about the game?" I hear you ask. Ah yes. Well, with tickets (cheers Guy/Roy/Mike) for the top tier of the ground, we had a reasonably unobstructed view, but it did seem a bit Subbuteo-scale at times.
We appear to have a bit of a full-back problem at the moment. Ian Harte was skinned several times against Munich, and having Stephen McPhail as our left-sided midfielder affords him little protection. Gary Kelly has a better positional sense than he used to have - but it seems that he still tries to rely on his pace to recover when he slips up. Unfortunately, that doesn't work too well against world-class players - or even Marc Overmars. From his time at Arsenal, Overmars was clearly a reasonably good player - but he was never worth anything remotely like the 20-odd million Barca paid for him. Apparently he's improved his fitness and got some more enthusiasm since his move to Barca - and he did leave the Leeds defence looking more than a bit stupid at times.
We tried to unsettle (i.e. kick) Rivaldo early on, but he just set about taking control of the middle of the park, and only Olivier Dacourt came close to challenging that dominance. Lee Bowyer chased enthusiastically but to little effect, and our makeshift midfielder Ian Harte and Stephen McPhail were nowhere near as effective as we'd have hoped. Michael Bridges continues to look as if aliens have replaced the man who scored so many goals last season with an identical-looking but considerably less focussed than the original.
The ref was overly picky and the home side appeared to get the nod in any 50-50 decision, but he was perfectly justified in giving a free kick just outside the box after 10 minutes that gave Barca their first goal. When Rivaldo left Duberry sitting on the ground and chasing shadows 10 minutes later, there wasn't much Nigel Martyn could do, and it was beginning to look like a total rout was possible. Somehow Leeds hung on to half time without conceding anything else, and even starting to put together a few reasonable moves of their own.
Half-time brought the traditional "Champions of Europe" chant, bare-chested, shirt-swinging, bouncing alarmingly around the top deck of the stand. And, as per usual, getting more than a few totally bemused looks from the locals - but quite a few of their fans clearly appreciated the dedication of the 3000 or so Leeds faithful, even if the police and stewards didn't.
The second half started promisingly enough, and a volley from Ian Harte forced Dutruel to stretch himself for just about the only time in the match. Maybe Barca switched off a bit, maybe DOL's half-time words had stuck, but for half an hour, Leeds were battling on reasonably even terms. An indication of the relative strength of the squads came as Barca brought on Petit for Cocu, while Leeds gave Tony Hackworth his debut in place of the marginally more experienced Stephen McPhail. It seemed a bit of a strange substitution, with Matthew Jones and Gareth Evans available as defensive/midfield cover and Darren Huckerby - who must wonder where his career is going - as an attacking winger, but I'm sure DOL had a reason.
Within two minutes of the Leeds substitution, Kluivert had increased Barca's lead by sneaking in front of the defence to meet Simao's cross. Less than 10 minutes later, it was 4-0 - which was a slightly unfair reflection of the play - but only slightly.
With time running out and thoughts turning to the optimal way back to Las Ramblas and a bar or two, a Barca attack saw Radebe and Duberry both go to head the ball clear. Lucas was left motionless on the ground, and when we saw him carried off the field in a neck brace, we feared the worst. Leaving aside his personal contributions as captain, the last thing we needed was to lose yet another experienced player. It now seems things are not as bad as we first feared, but even so it resulted in a first-team debut for Danny Hay, who didn't have to do much, but his presence as the only centreback on the bench was another indicator to Robert Molenaar that his presence isn't likely to be required for much longer.
The players left the field wearily - but at least most of them came over to acknowledge the non-stop chanting that had supported them throughout the game. "O'Leary" the dog was waiting for us on the way out (I was sure he'd have gone over the balcony onto the level below), and accompanied us back around the town for the evening. Try explaining in pidgin Spanish to a (fortunately Madrid-supporting) taxi driver why you're carrying a 5-foot long stuffed toy around at 2:30 in the morning...
So what positives can we take from this game - our joint heaviest defeat in Europe? Well, the fact that we got here is a good thing. The fans came and showed they can behave themselves, and the players now have an idea of what sort of things they need to do to improve themselves if they can hope to succeed at this level. If Harry Kewell had been available to run at what has been a leaky defence, if Eirik Bakke had been there to provide a bit more solidity in midfield, and if Jason Wilcox hadn't broken his ankle kicking air on Monday, then we might have had a chance of a draw. Realistically, a win is still beyond us against teams like Barca. Milan had a good win - but they've fallen a long way from the heights they reached a decade ago and might prove fallible. Besiktas remain a bit of an unknown quantity - but we've now got to focus on getting a couple of wins in the remaining league games and at least dropping into the UEFA Cup.
DOL needs to spend some of that money we've got in the bank - because it's crucial that at the very least we continue to qualify for European competition every year if we're not to fall further behind the top teams in terms of both skill and revenue. But he doesn't need me telling him that - it's clear he knows, and he is rightly not going out and spending money for the sake of it - and he's got to hang on to the current set of players: we can't afford to lose players like Doobs just because we happen to have found a fit replacement; having a reasonable set of back-ups to the top-name stars is just as important as having those stars in the first place.
Ipswich here we come!
Tuesday daytime at work, Tuesday evening in Barca. Well that was the plan. Unfortunately Go put a spanner in the works with that one, as a near 3 hour delay meant it was nearly midnight by the time we got through Barca airport. This meant we barely had time for a stroll along the Rambla's populated mainly by pissed Leeds fans before heading for our sea view accommodation, though the local youths did try to squeeze a bag snatching and a drugs sale into our schedule. Both failed.
Next day a whistlestop through the sights for those of our group who hadn't visited Barca before, reassuringly all the attractions were in the same places as previously and the Sagrada Familia is no nearer completion, though very few Leeds fans seem to have managed travel beyond the Ramblas. Just time to demolish a mountain of Paella and a few beers and then off in the general direction of the ground. The University area we started in seemed devoid of bars, so we gravitated towards the ground and found a bar opposite a hotel which later turned out to be where the Leeds team were ensconced at the time. So we had a chance to cheer them off as they drove the few hundred yards to the ground.
Headed off and found a fair amount of friendly chaos outside as everyone seemed to be allowed in the same entrance. We eventually found our turnstiles and then climbed and climbed and climbed, before eventually coming out somewhere on the upper slopes of the Pyrennes (probably). Though when you eventually got there and saw the near full ground and the pitch way below it was dead impressive. The stadium tour I'd been on before doesn't really give you any impression of how high you do get.
It was a strange decision to have the Leeds fans in bunches around the stadium - 2 large groups right at the top behind either goal plus at least one smallish group in the bottom corner. Although splitting us up made it more difficult to generate too much noise, at least at half-time for the 1st time ever we could actually see what a WATC-COE looks like. Dead impressive it was. Unfortunately as is usual on European trips the seat numbers meant nothing and it was sit where you like, but this time our end was full and it was nearly impossible to find seats - the one I eventually found had some moron behind proclaiming "I've been here 2 days",at the top of his voice, every few minutes.
Evidence that we were still on the same planet as the rest of the city was that Gary Kelly managed to respond to the singing of his name prior to the game (he must have dog-like hearing). But as the teams were flashed onto the screen the enormity of the task facing the team dawned on us. From the height we were watching from the players were little more than ants in the distance, but it soon became clear the Red ants were a class above the white ants. And even though the Smith ant removed the Rivaldo ant from the pitch for a spell early on, our elevated position meant we had an excellent view of the way Barca moved around to create space and found each other with pinpoint passes. The first goal being a perfect illustration. A second soon followed as everyone waited for Rivaldo to take a free-kick and De Boer crashed one in. In between Barca had also missed what looked like a sitter as the ball was scooped over the bar. It soon became clear that moving Harte forward into midfield wasn't really working , we never really managed to maintain possession far enough forward for him to get a shooting chance - and he looked lost as Barca zipped the ball around in midfield.
We occasionally worked the ball forward into decent positions and had 3 on 3's etc and Barca's defence looked far from impregnable but Smith and Bridges never really seemed to be on the same wavelength to find the right pass or have the speed to go alone. A fit Kewell may have given us the chance to score a couple of goals, though you suspect if we'd scored 2 they'd have scored 6. Along with the movement it was noticeable just how comfortable the Barca players were on the ball and how the defenders were happy to play the ball around until the attacking players had isolated themselves one-on-one versus defenders, quite often given the size of the pitch, before playing the ball forwards.
The score stayed at 2-0 at half-time and we got to enjoy ourselves by WATC-COEing from either side of the ground. A couple of decent chances at the start of the 2nd half, Harte hitting the keeper with a close range shot before another shot went narrowly wide. Though from the angle we were at it could have been 20 yards over for all I know. Barca continued to largely control the match without being too bothered about pushing forward too much, and as our midfield tired, McPhail especially though not surprisingly, another couple of goals went in. To be honest most of us weren't that bothered, as we'd long since resigned ourselves to picking up no points and the main concern was when Lucas went down, after being headbutted by Duberry, as we later found out. Our concern was magnified as this gave the Barca fans more time to pelt us with coins / golf balls and lighters - not sure why they started to do this at 4-0 up. I didn't think the chants of Adios Figo had bothered them that much but it wasn't in keeping with the friendly atmosphere that had surrounded most of the game.
We were kept in for about 20 minutes at the end - and it was bizarre to see that the entire Nou Camp emptied quicker than the Kop normally does - but as we left via a few souvenir stalls the streets were pretty empty. On the way back to the hotel we stopped in a bar, to find oh joy they were showing the game again, but the locals were less interested in the game than us and only perked up when the Juventus game appeared.
Not much time the next morning for anything but getting back to the airport, and the flight back was enlivened by the stewardess auctioning a seat next to the captain for landing, though judging by the way we bounced into Stansted the winner may well have landed the plane himself. A pretty good trip the team were outclassed, but that was somewhat inevitable with all the injuries. It's just such a shame that we'll probably be back in the UEFA Cup at best by the time we are near full strength again and can show what we are really capable of. Difficult to give too much summary of the players performance, I forgot my binoculars, but Bowyer and Radebe were about the only ones who looked close to being in the same class as Barca.
....most of the touts wanted the same £60 that the ticket office was selling for, except they were selling cheaper tickets with a mark-up, of course. After a bit of haggling eventually found one selling them for quite a bit less. The tickets were in the North Stand, and looked like they were in the tier below the Leeds section. Game on. Went back to the bags (left at the station), changed, ate, and headed for the Nou again.....
Cunning plan. Decided to try and get in the Leeds end with the Barca tickets. No problem getting through the police cordon (speaking English did that) and the stewards didn't bat an eyelid at the 'wrong end' tickets either. Were held by another police cordon before being allowed round to the North Stand but on arriving presented our tickets (Access 100) at the Leeds gate (Access 85....)
'Beep' went the bar code reader. 'MAL VALIDO' (or summat like that). The security bloke just sprayed a diatribe of Spanish at us while the gate man continued to scan the tickets like a Tesco's checkout girl on autopilot in the hope they'd stop beeping at him. We stood and shrugged. Eventually he looked at the queue behind us, muttered the Spanish equivalent of 'Bollocks to it' and legged it round to open the turnstiles manually. We were in.
After climbing up the equivalent of two MNES's we were presented with the amazing sight of the Nou from the top. Approximately 35 miles away in the same section of the South Stand were more Leeds fans. About 8,000 feet below, or something, was the pitch. The stand filled up, with the stewards opening more and more sections, until the whole part was full and there were people standing in the aisles. Basically, the policy seemed to be if you were a Leeds fan and you had anything resembling a ticket, in you came....
Well, it's been commented on at length here, so I won't add much more. Quick
The half time WATC-COE was one of the best I've seen. Singing all the way through despite events on the pitch. One small ugly scene where a chair was chucked at a Barca fan in the tier below who was hurling abuse. A couple of miscreants dragged away, seemed OK after that. Little racist stuff - good. Only kept in for 25 minutes!!
Met up with the usual suspects at Bar Zurich. Main topic of conversation was the mythical Cumbrian bread riots that were reputedly breaking out in the UK, which was actually quite a sensible topic for the assembed company, I thought. Moved down Las Ramblas when it closed, and managed to stretch out drinking time until around 3.30
A slow wander all the way across the city killed another hour - early morning is great for sightseeing, no bloody tourists! :-) and arrived at the station shortly before it opened at 4.30. Slept on the train, got off, slept on another train, got off, slept on the plane and then drove home with eyes glued half shut. Roll on the next one....
Copy from Football Unlimited of 14/09/2000.
Leeds United's opening venture into elite territory ended with heavy legs and even heavier hearts as Barcelona ruthlessly brought home the reality about life at the top with an awesome display that had David O'Leary's players gasping for every snatch of air.
Before the game Leeds had lodged an official complaint with Uefa after discovering the pitch was 10 yards too long and seven too wide. The boundaries were brought in but unfortunately for O'Leary the measurement of Nigel Martyn's goal remained the same.
Outclassed all the way, the west Yorkshire club were undone by first-half goals from Rivaldo and Frank de Boer before a late double from Patrick Kluivert gave the score a more accurate reflection.
Copy from The Independent of 14/09/2000.
For 20 minutes here last night the only sound to be heard was the raucous triumphalism of Leeds United's travelling 2,000. Sadly for David O'Leary, it came long before kick-off, when the Nou Camp was eerily empty. In the 90 minutes that mattered, Yorkshire voices were drowned out by a Catalan cacophony as Barcelona subjected their side to a punishing introduction to the Champions' League
The Leeds manager had admitted to fearing that his severely depleted team might take "a drubbing". Two individuals, above all others in an awesome collective effort by Barcelona, guaranteed they received one. Rivaldo, the World Player of the Year, was in imperious form, plundering an early goal and tormenting midfielders and defenders alike with his twists and turns, vision and precision.
Then, when the great Brazilian had left the stage, with Barcelona cruising at 2-0 following a second goal by Frank de Boer from a free-kick earned by Rivaldo, Patrick Kluivert claimed two ruthlessly executed goals in the final 15 minutes.
Leeds' misery was compounded when their captain, Lucas Radebe, was rushed to hospital for X-rays with his neck in a brace after a collision with Michael Duberry.
The scoreline matched the one by which Manchester United were mauled at the same venue in 1994, when Rivaldo's compatriot Romario similarly ran amok. "We played a world-class team and we were truly beaten," reflected O'Leary. "It's as simple as that."
Leeds' second Group H fixture petrol crisis permitting pits them against Milan atElland Road next Tuesday, with two games against Besiktas to follow. After this torrid initiation, even the return to Istanbul may seem less daunting.
Olivier Dacourt had the short-straw task of shadowing Rivaldo. He soon found he was, in fact, chasing shadows. Yet for a few moments after Alan Smith's fierce first-minute challenge had left Barcelona's playmaker writhing and requiring treatment, it looked as though the ploy might not be necessary.
Rivaldo recovered with a vengeance. With just nine minutes played, he was dispossessed by Dacourt. The ball ran straight to Simao Sabrosa on the right and when the Portuguese winger's pass came in, Rivaldo audaciously dummied Duberry to set up a left-footed shot. As his 15-yard drive caressed the corner of the net, Nigel Martyn was beaten for placement as much as power.
Leeds glimpsed the possibility of an equaliser after 12 minutes, only for Marc Overmars, contradicting his Highbury stereotype, to dive and head clear as Lee Bowyer arrived to meet Michael Bridges' deft cross. It was a rare respite. Rivaldo found space apparently at will, orchestrating moves which used the full width of the pitch and saw the ball switched around as if in an arcade game.
The second goal duly arrived in the 20th minute after Dacourt, not for the first time, had felled Rivaldo. From 25 yards, De Boer's free-kick moved the ball in the air like a seamer on a misty morning at Headingley. Martyn was left floundering by the same post, with no time to reflect on the irony of left feet inflicting fresh damage on the English.
Leeds were fortunate to reach half-time without being breached again. Dani and Rivaldo, proving his mortality, failed to convert free headers, the latter was denied by Duberry's textbook sliding tackle; and Martyn saved with his legs as Gerard surged clear.
An assertive start to the second half testified to Leeds' team spirit. Fifty seconds in, Ian Harte connected powerfully with Bridges' deep cross but Richard Dutruel somehow got his body in the way of the ball.
Another reckless challenge, by Smith on Philip Cocu, brought Leeds' second caution. That the Dutchman's replacement was the £10m Emmanuel Petit illustrated the disparity in resources and quality on an evening when Danny Hay and Tony Hackworth made their first-teamdebuts as late substitutes.
If Leeds thought that the worst had passed with Rivaldo's exit, Kluivert swiftly disabused them. Within two minutes the previously languid Netherlands striker stole in ahead of Duberry to steer another Simao cross past Martyn.
Barca were still not sated. With six minutes remaining, Kluivert took Ivan de la Peña's through-pass and contemptuously shrugged aside Danny Mills and Radebe before angling a brutal fourth goal beyond Martyn. The sight of Leeds' defensive linchpindeparting on a stretcher merely added injury to insult.
Copy from SportLive of 14/09/2000.
SportLive is no longer operational. Should it return to the web, this report will be removed and the link restored.
Lucas Radebe suffered an horrific neck injury as Barcelona taught Leeds a Champions League lesson at the Nou Camp on Wednesday night.
The South African defender clashed heads with team-mate Michael Duberry and Barca's Alfonso in the closing stages.
He was carried off on a stretcher wearing a neck brace in the worst possible end to a tough evening for an already-weakened Leeds side.
Manager David O'Leary had feared his young side might be on the receiving end of a drubbing. It was not so much a statement of submission but more an attempt to alleviate any burden of expectation on his players.
Barcelona, inspired by Rivaldo, took control of this opening Group H match almost effortlessly, establishing a two-goal lead within 20 minutes and firing another two late on.
Rivaldo set Barcelona's momentum with a stunning goal in the ninth minute and, as painful as it must have been for O'Leary, even he must have been impressed by its sheer majesty.
Then Frank de Boer gave Barcelona a second goal with a gloriously-executed free- kick. Patrick Kluivert added two more in the last 15 minutes.
From that opening goal, however, it became a matter of damage limitation. Without Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Eirik Bakke, Jon Woodgate and Jason Wilcox, O'Leary suspected his inexperienced team would struggle. Leeds desperately needed a good start but failed miserably.
Alan Smith attempted to unnerve the world player of the year in the first minute when he held nothing back in the tackle. The challenge forced a winded Rivaldo to leave the action briefly. As soon as he returned, he was fouled by Olivier Dacourt.
But Rivaldo is not one to be intimidated and in the ninth minute he produced a magnificent demonstration of his sublime talent, striding through the Leeds defence to give Barca the lead.
It was a goal straight out of the Maradona archives and explained why Rivaldo is now bracketed in such exalted company.
He received the ball midway inside the Leeds half and produced a stunning drag-back towards Kluivert. Dacourt intercepted, but the ball went straight to right- winger Simao.
Rivaldo, who had continued his run, took the cross in his stride, then made a mug out of Michael Duberry with a stunning dummy, which created a chasm of space for him to exploit. He did so ruthlessly.
Dacourt attempted to retrieve the situation but by now Rivaldo was inside the penalty area and, with his eye focused on the corner of the goal, produced the most assured of left-foot shots to send the ball beyond Nigel Martyn.
Although stunned by the manner of Rivaldo's efforts, Leeds might have equalised inside two minutes, but Marc Overmars appears to have learned the art of defending since his £23million summer move from Arsenal.
Michael Bridges worked a yard of space on the edge of the Barcelona area and was quick to spot Lee Bowyer galloping into the box. Bridges crossed well but Overmars chased back and nicked the ball away just as Bowyer was shaping to test Barca goalkeeper Richard Dutruel.
It was a rare Leeds sortie into Barcelona territory because for most of the first half, they were left attempting to stem the tide. At times, though, they chased shadows. In the 16th minute, Overmars displayed superb acceleration to run beyond Gary Kelly. He then pulled the ball back to the unmarked Dani, who scooped his shot over.
The respite was brief because four minutes later, Barcelona claimed their second goal when Dacourt brought Rivaldo down again some 28 yards from goal.
Rivaldo stood menacingly over the ball, but Dutch defender De Boer stepped up and curled the ball high into Martyn's left-hand corner.
Barcelona, now with a two-goal cushion, manipulated the ball around the pitch with devastating precision. Most of the Leeds players will never have experienced football of such high technique played at such a pace before.
There were occasions when they almost seemed to be hypnotised by it all, not least Kelly in the 38th minute when he lost his bearings completely and played the ball straight to Rivaldo instead of clearing. Fortunately for him, Rivaldo was unusually hurried and, instead of dribbling forward, opted for a first-time shot from 20 yards and hoisted the ball over.
The interval could not come too quickly for Leeds. Yet two minutes into the second half they at least showed they were not completely devastated by the experience and were unlucky not to score.
Bridges crossed from the right, Harte came in on the blind side and struck the ball first time from six yards. Instinctively, Dutruel stuck out a leg and cleared on his goal-line. But it was only a matter of time before Barca extended their lead.
Kluivert obliged in the 75th minute and struck again eight minutes later.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 14/09/2000.
A BREATHTAKING display of football played at a swagger by a Spanish giant which believes it will be crowned champions of Europe this season gave Leeds a full appraisal of just how tough it is at the top.
Simply oozing class, Barca had United chasing shadows for much of a sultry Spanish evening, claiming a rude amount of possession with precision passing and going into overdrive at will.
With Marc Overmars blazing trails down the left, Simao prolific on the right and Rivaldo and Dani threatening danger every time they got the ball, United were given a torrid time.
There was simply no way back from being two goals down inside 20 minutes against this quality of opposition, especially when Unitede were confined to only sporadic raids.
There was a new midfield role for Ian Harte as manager David O'Leary shuffled his pack into a 4-4-2 formation, with Danny Mills' inclusion at left back aimed at reducing the effectiveness of Portuguese speed merchant Simao.
Barcelona had a formidable all-round look about them, with every name on the teamsheet familiar throughout world football, and it was important for Leeds not to be overawed and concede in the early stages.
There was a minute's silence before kick-off as a mark of respect to Barca's former physio, who died on the eve of the match aged 92.
As early as the second minute Rivaldo needed extensive treatment after crumbling under a challenge from Alan Smith and when the Brazilian returned to the action Olivier Dacourt, too, sent him crashing.
Overmars had Nigel Martyn at full stretch with a fine effort but when Simao's corner came over Mills relieved the pressure with a fine header.
Philip Cocu was well over the top with his seventh minute strike then, when Rivaldo tried to link with Patrick Kluivert on the edge of the box, Michael Duberry's block was effective.
Leeds' worst fears were realised in the 10th minute when Simao picked out Rivaldo in the box and the reigning World and European player of the year turned Duberry inside out before rifling a blistering left foot drive into the bottom corner.
On 15 minutes Barca should have stretched their lead when Overmars nipped past Gary Kelly and cut the ball back invitingly into the path of Dani, whose well-struck shot was just too high.
Four minutes later the second goal came when Dacourt tripped Rivaldo 25 yards out and Frank de Boer's magnificently-hit free kick bent over the wall and zipped in off the underside of the crossbar.
Duberry, his tackle immaculately timed, came to the rescue on 27 minutes when Dani tried to get Rivaldo through with the goal at his mercy, and he again did well to be first to Simao's menacing cross.
On the half hour Simao won a left wing corner, but Smith was back to provide relief.
Then Gerard turned and twisted his way through successive challenges before unleashing a drive which Martyn did well to keep out with his legs.
When Leeds retaliated Kelly's long-range shot was straight at Dutruel.
The last thing United needed was to become a charity outfit, but Kelly only succeeded in picking out Rivaldo with his attempted clearance and breathed a sigh of relief when his shot cleared the bar by inches.
Three minutes before the break Mills was yellow-carded for a lunging tackle on Simao, a sign of frustration as Leeds struggled even to get touches of the ball.
United's big chance came in then first minute of the second half when Bridges received Dacourt's pass out on the right and flung over a great cross for an unmarked Ian Harte to find the finishing touch. But he didn't connect properly and Dutruel was able to keep it out.
Then Kluivert was just as guilty at the other end, skipping through only to toe-poke his shot straight at Martyn.
Smith, showing great presence, held off Cocu and then danced past him before curling his shot wide and Harte was next to try his luck with a fine shot from 20 yards which was much closer.
Smith found himself in trouble after ploughing into Cocu, receiving a yellow card. The Barca man's participation was over and he was replaced by Emmanuel Petit.
Lucas Radebe's last-gasp tackle on Rivaldo was the pre-cursor to a string of Barca attempts on goal, notably a splendid header from Gerard which only just cleared the bar and a cross-shot from Simao which Martyn went full length to keep out.
Martyn then spilled Overmars' shot into the path of Dani but his recovery was excellent.
Within seconds of 73rd minute substitutions on either side - Tony Hackworth making his debut for Leeds with Stephen McPhail coming off and Alfonso replacing Rivaldo - the Catalans were three up. Simao's cross was along the ground and Kluivert nipped ahead of Duberry to send his shot spinning past Martyn.
United could have pulled one back when Smith crossed near-post for Bridges, but he couldn't find the angle. And Lee Bowyer, with time on his hands, chose to shoot from distance and skied it.
United were shown at the other end how it should be done, De La Pena picking out Kluivert to the right of the box with an exquisite pass and the Dutchman eliminating Mills and Radebe as he shot powerfully into the far corner.
His goal celebration, which saw him leap into the crowd, brought a yellow-card rebuke.
And United were dealt one final blow as the final whistle approached.
Skipper Radebe appeared to have suffered a bad injury as he rose with Duberry and Alfonso for a heading duel and collapsed. After a long period of treatment he was fitted with a neck brace and stretchered off.