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The twice annual Leeds Chelsea card fest came and went on a dank, wet Sunday afternoon; the regular sending off happened when Graham Le Saux (who takes it where the sun does not shine (allegedly)) dived two footed into the unusually placid, calm Danny Mills.
However, rather than it being one of the Chelsea six being sent off, it was David O'Leary for questioning the referee's decision to only show Le Saux a yellow card for a disgraceful challenge that could have easily ended DMIFB's season.
As usual, Alan "I want to be the father of Robbie Fowler's
children" Green spouted drivel after the game - accusing the Leeds
players of winding up Le Saux during the game. A point which is wide
of the mark and in no way providing an excuse for Le Saux's
thuggery. If anyone wound up Le Saux it was the Kop who made Elland
Road one of the noisiest places in the Premiership this weekend. Le
Saux should have been channelling his aggression by doing a Cantona
type Kung Foo kick at the fans behind the goal, not Dome Head!
In action involving the ball, the game passed by goalless, but certainly not incidentless. Chelsea twice clearing off the line when Viduka at the end of the first half and Smith at the end of the second, were thwarted by some surprisingly resilient defending.
In fact, Chelsea showed a real fight yesterday, Petit as well as Le Saux sometimes forgetting that this was football, not boxing or Kickboxing. Once again, the least effective player seemed to be Jimmy, who apparently doesn't have the stomach for it when he gets booed by every touch.
The positives from the game were that the passing seems to be getting better as the season goes on (Harte and Bowyer aside), some good football was played at times yesterday: Bakke made a couple of fantastic cross field balls, one which Harte should probably have done better with - but he dipped in and out of the game; Ollie was everywhere and did brilliantly apart seeming to want to pass to a marked man a wee bit too often; Rio had one of his best games, showed great composure both at the back - and in attack, where a fantastic turn in the area had him firing directly at my MoTM Mark Bosnich.
Bosnich pulled off a string of great saves, the pick, for me, was when Kewell was picked out on the left of the box unmarked and hit a fierce volley which was almost a spectacular match winner.
The Worthless cup game will surely be spicy, with repeat performances of classics such as:
"Six men wouldn't go, wouldn't go to Israel"
Not forgetting of course the "Should I be Chelsea, should I be Leeds" song, which apparently came over on TV with great Clarity. MoTM Bosnich? Nah - the Kop! ;-)
Copy from Football Unlimited of 21/10/2001.
Leeds will go to Old Trafford on Saturday as unbeaten leaders but still struggling to look the part. A point was enough to restore David O'Leary's side to the top of the table yesterday yet Chelsea often appeared the classier team in a scoreless but eventful encounter.
Claudio Ranieri's squad included five of the six who had opted to miss the Uefa Cup match against Hapoel in Tel-Aviv because of tensions in Israel. "Team full of cowards", chanted some Yorkshire puddings but one of those who had stayed behind, Emmanuel Petit, gave the lie to such nonsense with an outstanding midfield display.
However Graeme le Saux, another who stayed home, had turned himself into a one-man war zone. Never one to hold back from a challenge, he planted a set of studs into Robbie Keane's groin on the quarter-hour and compounded it by flying in two-footed on Danny Mills late in the half.
Copy from The Independent of 21/10/2001.
There were those who thought Chelsea should have played in a new strip yesterday, one with a thick yellow streak down the back. Instead they appeared in their regular blue and restored pride to the colours with a performance full of spirit and resolve.
However, one of their Tel Aviv "refuseniks", Graeme Le Saux, showed too much combativeness for David O'Leary. The Leeds United manager was so incensed by a two-footed lunging tackle on Danny Mills that he was dismissed from the bench for his reaction. Le Saux, in contrast, only received a yellow card.
O'Leary, whose team returned to the top of the Premiership with this point, said: "I'm not proud of myself. I did lose my temper with the ref and the linesman. But the tackle was disgraceful. Those are the tackles we want referees to make decisions on for the good of the game.
"I hope Paul Durkin, who is a decent ref, will realise why I was incensed when he sees it on television. It was two-footed and high. Danny has an unbelievable scrape from knee to hip. It is sad I was banished and someone else was not."
Claudio Ranieri, the Chelsea manager, said: "It was a normal English tackle." O'Leary retorted by suggesting Ranieri obviously needed to continue brushing up on his English.
Ranieri was, however, making a statement of fact. There are still far too many two-footed tackles, at every level of the game, and this week's decision by David Elleray not to reconsider his inaction over the worst one of the season, by Mauricio Taricco on Thomas Gravesen, is unlikely to help.
O'Leary, who stressed he did not use foul or abusive language, said he will have his say at Soho Square at the inevitable Football Association hearing. It was the second time he had been dismissed from the bench. The first was in his last match as assistant to George Graham, in Madeira, in the Uefa Cup. The subsequent ban meant he had to watch his first game in charge, against Roma, from the stands of the Stadio Olimpico.
The furore detracted from a decent game which only ended scoreless due to excellent goalkeeping at both ends. Chelsea, with another non-traveller, Petit, outstanding, were the classier side, but Leeds had the better chances.
Chelsea, who also included Eidur Gudjohnsen and William Gallas of the stay-at-home six, were greeted with chants of "where were you on Thursday night?" When visiting fans voiced their support this was followed by "you only sing for the cowards".
Not that any challenges were shirked. In a match of 35 fouls Le Saux was soon engaged in combative action with Lee Bowyer, Mills and Robbie Keane. Celestine Babayaro clashed with Bowyer while Petit and Sam Dalla Bona, for fouls on Olivier Dacort, became the first of five bookings.
None of this was surprising given the animosity between these teams in recent years. Ranieri, a quick learner, had wisely left his more diminutive players on the bench.
In front of them, Dalla Bona and Petit dominated the early stages, but Chelsea, for all their possession, created few openings. Nigel Martyn saved from Gudjohnsen in the first minute, but good defending meant he was not directly tested again until the 42nd. Then Gudjohnsen finished a mazy run past three defenders with a tame shot.
In the meantime, Mark Bosnich, making his Premiership debut for Chelsea, had denied Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Keane and Mark Viduka. He had also been helped out by Gallas in the 32nd minute, the Frenchman clearing Viduka's shot off the line.
As the half ended, Le Saux committed his assault on Mills. Durkin, otherwise excellent yesterday, was too lenient on this occasion.
Not that Mills is an innocent. Eight minutes into the second half he trod on Petit's chest. An accident? Only he knows. Petit clearly thought otherwise.
The incident roused him to even greater efforts but, with Olivier Dacort increasingly prominent, Leeds gained an edge. Ian Harte, Viduka, Harry Kewell and Alan Smith brought good saves from Bosnich with the latter also having a shot cleared off the line by John Terry. Yet the final word was nearly Petit's. His last-minute free-kick surprised everyone, but Martyn recovered sharply to tip it over.
Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn 7; Mills 6, Ferdinand 6, Matteo 6, Harte 6; Bowyer 4, Bakke 4, Dacort 4, Kewell 3; Keane 3 (Smith, 76), Viduka 6. Substitutes not used: Robinson (gk), Kelly, Woodgate, Johnson.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Bosnich 8; Melchiot 6, Terry 5, Gallas 5, Babayaro 5 (Zenden 4, 62); Lampard 6, Dalla Bona 7, Petit 8, Le Saux 5; Gudjohnsen 5 (Forssell 86), Hasselbaink 4. Substitutes not used: Evans (gk), Zola, Ferrer.
Referee: P Durkin (Portland) 7.
Bookings: Leeds: Bakke, Dacort. Chelsea: Petit, Dalla Bona, Le Saux.
Man of the match: Petit.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 22/10/2001.
BANISHED David O'Leary was forced to sit in the stands as his Leeds United side edged their way back to the top of the Premier League table.
A point against fellow challengers Chelsea was good enough to see them nudge past Arsenal and maintain their outstanding start to a campaign which offers more and more hope of glory with every passing 90 minutes.
Unbeaten this season and with only three league goals scored against them, Leeds have the look of a side ready to mount a serious challenge for Manchester United's crown.
And if ever any evidence were required of just how difficult it is to beat Leeds this season then yesterday's super Sunday clash provided it.
They have now played all but one of the serious title contenders - only Manchester United remain next week - and they are still unbeaten.
Not that O'Leary was smiling too much.
He was still seething over referee Paul Durkin's decision to only show a yellow card to Chelsea defender Graeme Le Saux when he clearly crunched Danny Mills with a horrible two-footed lunge.
It should have been a straight red for the England left back, but Durkin, yet to send any player off this season, gave him the benefit of the doubt.
O'Leary, watching the replay on a TV monitor, went berserk and shouted at the referee as they entered the tunnel at half-time.
The result was that O'Leary had to watch the second half in the director's box and Durkin is likely to report him to the FA disciplinary committee.
Leeds, it seems, are a side you can count on for good old-fashioned drama. And there was plenty of it at a packed and very wet Elland Road.
In what was a good old-fashioned English contest there was controversy, action and some pretty decent football as the title contenders from either end of the country cancelled each other out.
The only thing missing was a goal or two, however, finding the net was always going to be a difficult business when you have two keepers like Mark Bosnich and Nigel Martyn in top form.
Bosnich, playing his first Premiership match for the Blues since joining them last January. pulled off three or four brilliant saves to deny Leeds while Martyn also got in on the act with a pair of belters at the other end.
It was by no means the best of displays from United who had their new £7m man Seth Johnson sitting on the bench for the first time.
Given the tough-tackling nature of the encounter and the rather tough reputation of the new signing, it was perhaps a wise move to leave the former Derby star out of the limelight.
Indeed O'Leary kept the same side which had beat Troyes 4-2 in the UEFA Cup last Thursday.
Chelsea, chastised in midweek for letting some of their players stay at home instead of flying out to play in the UEFA Cup match in Israel, banished any thoughts of a rift in the Stamford Bridge camp with a lively display.
However, Leeds created the majority of the chances and there was a strong feeling at the end of 90 minutes that it was indeed two points dropped rather than one gained.
The fact that United did not earn all three was mainly down to the efforts of Bosnich.
He was called into action within the opening five minutes when he saved a low drive from Kewell and that was the signal for a busy afternoon.
Rio Ferdinand was next to be denied when a long Ian Harte ball from the left dropped kindly for the United skipper and a drop of the shoulders gave him space to shoot on goal, but Bosnich made a good block with his legs.
When the keeper was beaten there was some quality defending on hand.
William Gallas pulled off the most amazing acrobatic scissor-kick clearance to prevent Mark Viduka's cheeky lob from crossing the line.
Five minutes before the break Viduka had a great opportunity to give Leeds the lead when Bowyer's strike was deflected into his path. Although he manoeuvred space to shoot he was always falling backwards and he hooked the effort over the bar .
At the other end there was just as much luck for the Chelsea strikers.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink - returning to his former club - had an afternoon he would probably wish to forget and Eidur Gudjohnsen showed flashes of quality without really troubling Martyn.
Gudjohnsen almost broke the deadlock five minutes before the break when he broke through the Leeds back line, beat Matteo three times and then skinned Ferdinand and Mills before firing straight at Martyn.
A Harte free-kick was well tipped over by Bosnich in the 52nd minute and when the irishman fired over a corner two minutes later it seemed Ferdinand's knock back would be perfect for Bakke to put away but the Norwegian headed over.
Martyn pulled off the first of his stunning saves on the 65th minute as Gudjohnsen played in Hasselbaink but the Leeds number one got down sharply to block the Dutchman's effort.
Bosnich matched it a few minutes later to deny his fellow countrymen once again, this time diving to his left to palm away a powerful header from Viduka and then leaping away to his right to beat away a spectacular volley from Harry Kewell.
Again when he was beaten there was some super defending to back him up. Substitute Alan Smith forced Gallas into a poor backpass and the young striker was onto it like a flash.
The first effort was saved but not held by Bosnich and as Smith fired the rebound towards the empty net, the brilliant John Terry was on hand to scramble the ball clear.
Martyn did have the last word of the two keepers and it was a crucial one, diving full stretch to his left to keep out a cheeky long-range effort from Petit who had shaped to cross from the right but who instead went direct for goal.
A winner for Chelsea would have been devastating, the draw at least keeps United's confidence high as they prepare for the ultimate test of all at Old Trafford next week.