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Copy from Football Unlimited of 18/03/2002.
Leeds, a club harbouring Champions League aspirations, have not enjoyed demotion to the Uefa Cup this season. They do not want to travel second-class again next season and yesterday they did much to invigorate their chances of reacquainting themselves with Europe's leading competition.
It was not just that this win elevated them to within five points of the Premiership's leading quartet but also the manner in which David O'Leary's renascent team showed they have overcome the self-doubt which naturally follows a 10-match sequence without a win.
Robbie Fowler demonstrated his predatory talents with two classy goals in the opening eight minutes. Mark Viduka's profligacy could be forgiven because of the amount he contributed elsewhere and Harry Kewell - who pipped his fellow Australian by four votes to become Oceania's player of the year - had his most productive game for longer than he will care to remember, scoring the third after Matt Jansen had given Blackburn a glimmer of hope.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 18/03/2002.
HE may not look much like Tom Cruise but Robbie Fowler, it seems, has decided to accept Leeds United's Mission Impossible.
The deadly striker with a licence to thrill banged in two crucial early goals yesterday to set David O'Leary's side on their way to victory in the first of nine must-win matches.
His clinical finishing was simply too good for a Blackburn side which now has a difficult task of their own - at the other end of the Premiership table as they look to avoid relegation.
The writing was on the wall for the out-of-sorts Lancashire outfit from as early as the fifth minute when the Toxteth prowler tucked his first under the body of American keeper Brad Friedel.
Three minutes later the game was as good as over when Fowler proved once again that he is the Top Gun among the Leeds ranks by sliding in to guide Alan Smith's precision cross into the net.
Add a wonderful low strike from the much-improved Harry Kewell and you have the recipe for what was in truth an easy three points for the home side.
Admittedly there was a 15-minute spell after the break when Blackburn came to life and scored through the impressive Matt Jansen. But they were never likely to prove more than an irritant on a day when Leeds finally found their lost form.
It may have come too late, it may have come at just the right time for a last-ditch glory run. Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure they can expect a much tougher test in the eight games remaining between now and judgment day on May 11.
Blackburn were truly awful and while Fowler made them pay with his goals there were more performances of note all over the pitch.
David Batty was back to his imperious best in the middle of the midfield. Rested after a difficult few months, he looked fresh and happy with his game as he ran the midfield with a powerful and disciplined display.
He will be a key player in the push for the Champions League. His experience and calmness in the heat of the midfield battle will prove crucial and O'Leary knows he is a man his players can look to for guidance over what promises to be a high-pressure few months.
Alan Smith, who has taken some harsh criticism this season, has come back the best way he possibly could, by playing some excellent football.
Out of position on the right side of midfield, he was once again in brilliant form and can have done his World Cup chances no harm in front of the watching Tord Grip.
Fowler's opening strike, picking up a poor Tugay header before racing clear to beat Friedel, set the ball rolling and gave the Leeds players the confidence to start playing the ball about with precision and accuracy.
Those qualities were certainly evident when Smith broke away down the left to pick up an Ian Harte punt forward and crossed perfectly first time with his left foot across goal and into Fowler's path.
Even Harry Kewell was fired up. The subject of much criticism from some sections of Elland Road this season, he produced a dazzling 11th-minute run which ended with a perfect cross to Mark Viduka, but the Aussie nodded the ball wide from six yards.
One fantastic period of play saw Batty, Smith and the impressive Olly Dacourt string a number of one-touch balls between them, running the Blackburn midfield ragged.
Rovers mustered just the one effort on goal in the opening 20 minutes, a low drive from David Dunn which Nigel Martyn did well to palm away.
The visitors were being torn apart and Kewell could so easily have made it three when Fowler's lofted ball forward found him on the left edge of the penalty box and his fierce volley on the turn was too hot for Friedel to handle.
Whenever Rovers did attempt to attack they were rebuffed by a United defence which had welcomed back the fit-again Jonathan Woodgate.
He proved he was back to his best when Spaniard Yordi stole a few yards on him, but the United man recovered wonderfully with a turn of pace that is rarely seen on the football field.
It was unfortunate, however, that it was Woodgate's mistake shortly after the break which gifted Blackburn a goal.
His attempted back-pass from just inside the half-way line landed at the feet of Jansen and the young striker took the ball on confidently before striking a low shot past Martyn.
Undeserved it may have been, but for Blackburn it was a way back into the match and for Leeds it was a severe test of their new-found confidence.
Rovers boss Graeme Souness had introduced veteran Mark Hughes for the second half and his steel in the middle of the park gave them some extra and much-needed bite.
Unfortunately, one source of United's energy was forced out of the game as Smith picked up a knock on his knee and was replaced by Robbie Keane.
For a few minutes it seemed that Blackburn might make a real go of things.
But Leeds soon put the match out of their reach with a touch of magic from Kewell.
His arrowed drive across Friedel was exquisite and precise and the perfect way for United to wrap up the points.