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Copy from Football Unlimited of 21/01/2002.
This is fast becoming Manchester United's benefit month. Two of their closest rivals, Newcastle United and Liverpool, failed to win on Saturday and two more, Leeds United and Arsenal, shared a drab draw here yesterday.
If Sir Alex Ferguson's team beat Liverpool at Old Trafford tomorrow night they will open up a five-point gap at the top of what is supposed to be the most open Premier League for years. As it is only Newcastle are now within striking distance of the champions while Arsenal have lost the advantage of their match in hand.
Leeds and Arsenal each looked worth a modest each-way bet for the title yesterday, nothing more. Much of the game was affected by a strong, swirling wind that made first-time control tricky and judgment a lottery when the ball was booted into the air.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 21/01/2002.
GAMES between Leeds and Arsenal are very rarely this dull.
But in a week when both sides were lambasted from all quarters for their poor disciplinary records, maybe it was no surprise that almost everyone was on their Sunday best behaviour.
It was just a shame that with the menace eradicated from their football, neither team had the heart to go for the kill in what was a strangely quiet 90 minutes played in a howling West Yorkshire wind.
The records prior to kick-off showed that bad blood existed between the championship-chasing duo. A staggering 48 yellows and four reds had been shown in the past seven encounters, while the previous three matches had seen the likes of Patrick Vieira, Martin Keown, Danny Mills and Lee Bowyer pick up misconduct charges.
It was more than a little surprising then that, as everyone held their breath waiting for the next instalment of this bitter rivalry, it passed with barely one controversial incident.
The fact that there were only 34 fouls and four yellow cards is great credit to referee Mark Halsey who never shirked a decision and ruled with a rod of iron throughout and, importantly, with a smile on his face.
However, the now customary clash between Mark Viduka and Keown could lead to the FA reviewing video evidence of a possible elbow in the face from the Australian.
There was also an impetuous kick off the ball from Robert Pires on Batty. Incidents which, in any other game, would have seemed dramatic. But when you are watching Leeds against Arsenal such things do indeed seem to be small fry.
However, if the lack of disciplinary incident was a surprise, then the fact that the match turned into a drab ground out draw was a real shock.
Boasting some of the best players in the world, these teams usually produce decent, quality football as well as the odd bust-up or two.
That, however, was also in short supply as the well organised defences in both the red and the white corners won the day and ensured a stalemate which can only benefit the reds of Manchester in the title chase.
Arsenal, led by the combative Keown and with Sol Campbell also in determined mood, looked solid at the back and there was very little opportunity for the home side to break through and create chances.
At the other end, Leeds too looked comfortable. The return of Rio Ferdinand so soon after he limped out of the action at Cardiff with ankle ligament damage spoke volumes for the high regard manager David O'Leary has for him.
He may have been rushed back and he may not have been 100 per cent fit but he was, without a doubt, his usual brilliant best.
Jonathan Woodgate was also in good form and Dominic Matteo seems to be growing in confidence with his new left back role. The only thing Matteo can't do quite like Ian Harte is shoot - his first half effort flying high and harmlessly wide into the crowd.
On a day when four of the best central defenders in the country were on duty, it was perhaps right that only the best strikers in the game could have stood a chance of scoring.
In Robbie Fowler Leeds United have such a player.
His arrival in West Yorkshire has given O'Leary's side a timely boost and his goal, his seventh in as many matches, proved why so many rate him among the best finishers in the business.
Jason Wilcox was the manufacturer. The winger who for so much of his Leeds career has had to play second fiddle to Harry Kewell took his chance to shine by skipping past Oleg Luzhny on the left and knocking over an inch-perfect cross.
Fowler, who had delayed his run to the far post expertly, ghosted in un-marked behind Ashley Cole to direct a powerful header past goalkeeper Richard Wright.
The goal had come after just six minutes and somewhat against the run of play as Arsenal had made a lively opening through a Dennis Bergkamp shot and a Thierry Henry run.
Lee Bowyer saw a shot fly wide and Fowler again missed the target as Leeds had the better of the first-half chances.
But just as it seemed United would enter the break with a deserved lead, they were pegged back by a goal of sublime quality from the Gunners.
Pires started and ended the move, playing the ball into Bergkamp from the left flank he then darted into the box where he picked up a return ball from the Dutchman via a cute Henry dummy.
The presence of mind from Henry to let Bergkamp's pass drift through untouched was quite brilliant and as Pires burst into the area unmarked he blasted a precision left foot shot into the near-side roof of the net.
At 1-1 the game should have been set up for a grandstand finish. But Leeds and Arsenal came out for the second half seemingly content with their point.
The ineffective Vieira headed over the bar and Fowler shot high and wide but chances were at a premium as the strikers failed to break down such stubborn defences.
One truly worrying moment for Leeds came in the 67th minute when substitute Giovanni van Bronckhorst's long-range drive deflected off Mills, sent Martyn the wrong way, but then trundled just wide of the net.
Henry then saw a decent curling free-kick rise just over the bar and Viduka's appeal for a penalty fell on deaf ears when his header struck the arm of Vieira.
But that was really it as far as chances went and while Leeds can boast four points now from two matches against the Gunners this season it was Premiership leaders Manchester United who will have been much the happier with the stalemate.