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A hot and clammy day - the "Dri-Fit" Leeds shirt sticking to your back and your legs wishing that you'd worn shorts instead of jeans. Yep, it's the start of a new season - and the start of the TV era at "Telland Road" as the unofficial T-shirts have rechristened it.
Visiting us today we had King Kev and his troops with the legions of City faithful turning the South Stand into a light blue lagoon. Give the Maine Road mob some credit: they stayed true to a seemingly hopeless cause as City tumbled from the top flight to Division 2 and they're entitled to a few celebrations on their return to the Premier League - but not at our expense.
Not too many surprises in the Leeds line-up: the advent of Robbo as the first choice custodian was well-trailed with Nige's absence from a large portion of the pre-season, Nick Barmby's arrival was seen as key to freeing up Harry Kewell to take on a more roaming role and we've not signed a new left-back yet, so Ian Harte remains in place. The only doubt ahead of 2:30 was the final midfield place alongside Bowyer and Barmby - and again there were few surprises in the choice of Eirik Bakke taking a defensive position rather than the more attacking option of Olivier Dacourt.
It was pretty tentative stuff early on, but Leeds dominated the possession and set the pattern for the game by closing down well on the wingbacks Jensen and Wright-Phillips. With essentially a three-man midfield, Danny Mills and Ian Harte were forced to be a bit more circumspect in going forward - but maybe that's what Harte needs to make him consider his defensive duties more. City nearly took the lead as Robbo palmed away a decent long-range shot from Foé, but he was quick enough to the rebound and Leeds moved back on the offensive.
With just 15 minutes gone, the first goal of the new season came with a bit of luck attached. Lee Bowyer clipped a ball into the area, but it took a slight deflection off a City leg, and that was enough to confuse Nash and his defence and to allow Nick Barmby space to nip in and volley the ball home from short range - the first debut goal for a Leeds player since Alan Smith at Anfield 4 years ago.
By halftime the lead could have been doubled or wiped out: Smithy swung his boot at a ball on the turn in a post-corner scramble but the ball crept wide of the post; meanwhile at the other end, a poor backpass from Bowyer was too strong for Robbo to control properly, but he closed down Anelka's options and Dom Matteo removed the ball from the Frenchman's feet before he could shoot.
With first half injury time beckoning, Leeds made it 2-0 as Mark Viduka's pace beat the offside trap (did I really say that?) to latch on to a great ball from Barmby and curl the ball around Nash and bask in the prospect of being able to afford an even bigger pie with his win bonus.
Not much changed in the second half: Richard Dunne replaced the injured Steve Howey, but City's defence kept on finding itself turned without ever coming under really sustained pressure. With the score still at 2-0, Berkovic hit the bar and Huckerby (on to the inevitable chants of "Run Forrest Run!") blasted over from 10 yards. A goal then might have made the difference - rattled a Leeds team with more than a few bad memories from last season - but Dom Matteo and the returning Lucas Radebe were magnificent in the centre of the defence and Robbo had a quieter game than we'd expected him to have.
One thing you can always say about Keegan's sides is that they keep trying for a goal - and as they pushed to get back into the match and with the weather starting to take a toll on players who haven't quite got themselves match-fit yet, Leeds could have made it 5-0 if a bit more coolness and thought had gone into some good situations. As it was, Robbie Keane showed his value with a delicate chip over the advancing Nash as the City offside trap was once again blown apart by a move that was started by Robbo's clearance, continued by a delicate flick from Smithy and finished in style by Ireland's World Cup hero. Further chances fell between Keane, Smith and Kewell, and more goals would have been great, but wouldn't have been a fair reflection on City's play (but hey - who cares?).
So any negative points from today? Lee Bowyer's late booking for handball was doubly pointless - coming halfway up the field with no clear danger to the goal and with the game won at 3-0. Little things like this will come back to haunt him when it comes to an injury and suspension crisis later in the season. Eirik Bakke was solid defensively - but gave the ball away too much, and Ian Harte was never pushed enough to see if he has made any improvement this summer.
Whichever way you look at it, three points is all you can get from your first game and it's the best start you can have to the season. Now we only need 37 more to avoid the drop!
Well, a fairly comfortable (and slightly flattering) 3-0 home win is pretty good start to the campaign I'd say. There were few surprises in the line up, with Robbo replacing Martyn, and Barmby slotting in the left of a midfield 3.
Robinson Mills Radebe Matteo Harte Bowyer Bakke Barmby Smith Kewell Viduka
Leeds tried to stroke the ball around all afternoon, and when it came off, it was good to watch. Still I think there was some confusion at times to where exactly people were supposed to be. Lets hope this is just transitional. There certainly seemed a little more movement off the ball, and a desire to receive it, which I think was lacking toward the end of DOLs reign. Lacked a bit of steel in midfield though, and Id definitely prefer a fully fit Dacourt to Bakke in midfield. Smith and Kewell seemed to interchange well, but Harrys much lauded free role didnt bring out the best in him today. City were average (though they did hit the woodwork twice) and we were the better side, but not by three goals. Still we took our chances, and they didnt.For whats it worth, heres my marks out of ten.
Robinson 7 I think his distribution is better than Martyns and he pulled off a couple of decent saves. Not afraid of coming for corners either. Had one horrible moment dealing with a poor back pass
Mills 6.5 A fairly decent game. Managed not to separate anyone from their legs which helps. Didnt seem to get the by-line much, and the one cross I can remember was crap. Bit slack in possession too.
Harte 6 Same as ever really, hed be quite good if only he had the pace of my Gran. Couple of poor set piece deliveries.
Lucas 8 What a bloke. Completely biased cos I think hes a legend, but he was pretty damn good today, tidying up at the back, popping up at crucial moments, and generally playing like the fine centre half he is.
Matteo 6.5 A solid dependable game from a fairly solid centre half. Got caught a few times for pace though against Anelka.
Bowyer 6.5 Not at his best, but still never stopped running.
Bakke 6 Had a quiet game. Played the deepest out of the three midfielders, and while he seemed comfortable enough for the most part he didnt do anything special.
Barmby 8 Completely surprised me. I thought hed be rubbish. Much more industrious than I thought hed be, and even though hes not the best ball winner in the world, he didnt stop trying. I was very impressed with his passing and general awareness of where other players were and the runs they made. I thought he had excellent vision. And he scored which is always handy on your debut.
Smithy 7 Usual game from the lad. Ran his socks off, and looked quite happy playing on the right hand side of the front three. If only Viduka had his work rate. Won most of his challenges in the air and chased just about everything. Seemed to tire a fair bit in the second half.
Viduka 6.5 I know he scored, but the man does frustrate me. He didnt win that much in the air, and when hes dispossessed he hardly ever seemed to bounce back up and try and win the ball back. Stood still at one point when all he had to do was exhale to put Barmbys cross/shot into the back of the net.
Kewell 6.5 Not at his best, but then he hasnt been for a while. Seemed much more keen to use his upper body strength which is good to see, and his workrate seems to have increased a bit. Lets hope he gets better under Mr Venables
Keane (for Viduka) 7 Well taken goal, shame about the sitter he missed, and another opportunity he had to put Kewell clean through. Still looks eager to be a regular though, and someone I wouldnt want to lose.
Johnson(for Barmby) 6 Didnt have the time to do much.
Overall then, a promising start to the season, and a fair performance. Oh, didnt think much to the much lauded City Supporters, they were pretty quiet, and nice to see Elland Road full too.
Reasons to be cheerful...
- just thank christ Keegan's not our manager... spend £13 on a decent forward and give him no support... forget that defending is an important part of the game too... we think Pieman's large (although he looked trim today to be fair) what about Dunne - pub footballer...
Anyway nice steady start to the season, tucked away a few nice goals and kept a clean sheet. Got say Barmby made a good impression looked busy, willing to track back, scored a neat goal - which was borne of being able to read the game faster than most - and put through the lovely ball for Viduka's.
City came out being very positive as you'd expect from a team that's just come up, scoring loads and with Wor Kev in charge, but they didn't really carry a potent threat. Anelka had no support, Barnabia was fitfully impressive while Huckerby was in his best position. The only move that seemed to unsettle Cap'n Dom & Co was the run to the byline and pull back for someone on the edge of the box - but as the City shooting practise has obviously mainly involved taking down seagulls on the wing, Robinson wasn't ubduly tested. When he had something to do he did it well - except for that chest down to Anelka's feet in the first half - that was a lucky escape. We scored after about 20 mins when a deflected cross in from the right, and Barmby nipped in front of the keeper 6 yards out to guide the ball home. Nice start young man. City's Chinese right back - who had a tidy game - lashed a right foot drive from 25 yards that slapped audibly against Robbo's post with no-one moving - 2 inches to left and it would have been a top goal, he really leathered it - another lucky escape.
Really surprised that Wright Phillips or Anelka weren't told to run at Harte though.
The game ebbed and flowed a while with few clear cut chances right up to the final minute of the half when Barmby again on the left in our half clipped a ball forward over City's Easter Island defence and Viduka ran on to it, drew the keeper and slotted the ball into the far corner. 2-0 Half time - Balti Pie - lovely game football.
2nd half we were much more controlled and although they hit the bar and had a decent penalty appeal turned down, it never felt like we would lose it. We even made a couple of unforced subs. Keane for Viduka (I can think of one two who'd smile at that) and Seth for Nicky. With Viduka off and City pressing Leeds suddenly decided to do the sensible thing and leave quick forwards up front for the outlet ball - and by Christ did this work - we should have had at least 2 more. Keane finished expertly from a Smith flick on (route 1 Terry?), chipping the keeper from the edge of the box. He looked hungry and full of confidence and between him and Kewell the defence (what there was of it) were being torn apart. Keane then missed a sitter from a Kewell slide rule pass across the box and also wafted at another reasonable chance. This is what is so frustrating about the guy. Kewell should have done more when out on the right he cut inside onto his left foot and produced nothing. It was good to see him and Smith playing off each other around the box... now let's just hope we can get Bridges match fit.
Moment of the day was the reception for Radebe. It took the roof off. Brilliant. I really hope we can win something this year just as a reward for him and his service to this club cos he's been a bloody marvel and a wonderful ambassador for us.
The result was much better than the performance which if youre honest was completely average especially in the first half. Having said that I enjoyed the game more than I enjoyed the whole of last season. Things didnt quite work at times, the usual suspects were up to their old tricks but we had energy and it was good to see a hungry Leeds team and a lively bench again. We started with what looked like a straight 4-3-3 to me with Kewell supposedly given a free role but it seemed like Smith and Kewell were doing some sort of rotation but I couldnt work it out. Anyway, it didnt work and having 3 up front left us painfully short in midfield. City dominated the midfield area for most of the first half. Berkovic completely ran the show and it wasnt until he was taken off second half that we started to get a grip in midfield. City created all the chances and we relied on some decent keeping to get us out of trouble. The defence at times looked a bit slow to react although Matteo made an amazing challenge to deny Anelka after Robinson had fcked up after trying to control a ridiculous back pass from Bowyer.
Robinson played well and didnt do a lot wrong. After the mistake he made sure the resulting corner was cleared with a great two fisted punch. He recovered well - good keeping.
I thought Matteo and Radebe warmed to their task. First 20 minutes a bit dodgy but later on they were magnificent and at times Radebe looked back to his best. Id give him the man of the match for some of his interceptions in the second half. Majestic. Cant drop him after that !
Harte was awful. City didnt expose him as much as I thought they would but he looks slow and lacking in confidence. Mills had a very average game.
To the midfield and this is where we struggled. Bakke what on earth is going on here ? How come that Bakke has suddenly been penciled in as our holding player ?. I thought is strengths (!!??) were supposed to be his aerial ability and getting from box to box. As a holding player he is crap. Yesterday he was awful. Everytime he got the ball he either s*** himself and passed backwards or just gave it away. He doesnt follow runners from midfield either. The groans from the crowd everytime this useless twat got the ball said it all. Get him off, Get Dacourt on. Jeez , a 40% fit David Batty would have done this job much better than Bakke. He is awful and WE WILL NEVER WIN ANYTHING WITH ERIK BAKKE IN THE TEAM !
Barmby took the first goal brilliantly and showed loads of commitment and effort but I dont think it was the dream debut that the press reported and I thought he looked a bit unfit and rusty at times. Not surprising really. Definitely a good signing.
Bowyer decent game. More involved centrally but with 3 strikers and Barmby in the team he didnt spend too much time going forward which is his strength. Theres definitely some sort of balancing act that needs to go on here.
Up front Smith and Kewell were both lively if unspectacular. Kewell was more involved and on occasions found himself in positions where he should have done better. The best thing for me is that he actually had those opportunities and wasnt shackled by 3 defenders. Kewell up front will work. Viduka to me is still the problem. I thought we were playing with 10 men from the start yesterday. Viduka was a passenger. Completely unfit and completely out of the game. He never won a ball in the air and he didnt even hold the ball up well which is his greatest strength. Its says a lot about the organization of the City defence that he was allowed to break free and superbly slot the ball in the back of the net. How many time has Viduka (an unfit Viduka ! ) done that ? City have good individual defenders but as a unit they were a shambles. Forget the goal , Viduka should be dropped. His fitness level is a disgrace.
Venables finally put the Viduka cannot be subbed cos its in his contract myth to bed by dragging him off to be replaced by the excellent Keane. (What was DOL playing at ?) I love this bloke. I just wish hed have got the hat-trick he should have. Great goal though.
West Brom Batty for Bakke, Johnson for Harte Drop Viduka , Kewell (free role) and Smith up front with Dacourt coming in to make the extra midfielder that we will need against the battling Baggies.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 19/08/2002.
Prosecution lawyers will begin arriving at Manchester City this week, just when the club might be better employed recruiting an expert in defence.
Nobody expected City to combine litigation and relegation in one season but, for as long as the manager Kevin Keegan plays into the hands of greater tactical minds such as Terry Venables, it could be a close thing.
Keegan's first game in the Premiership since leaving Newcastle early in 1997 epitomised everything that is beguiling and bewildering about his approach to football.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 18/08/2002.
Terry Venables and Kevin Keegan began new chapters in their eventful careers with their respective teams producing performances that were all one might expect. For Keegan's Manchester City, a bright, ambitious attacking display was undermined by woeful and disorganised defending; for Venables and Leeds United, further evidence of his self-styled Midas touch.
With Keegan at the helm, there will assuredly be goals and drama around City this season but, by the time Robbie Keane chipped in Leeds' third goal from Harry Kewell's 80th-minute pass, a reminder had been served as to why Keegan failed to win silverware at Newcastle United and proved so inadequate as England manager.
The style of the match was hugely predictable and no less entertaining for it, Keegan's City foraging forward confidently in numbers, showing the same fearless approach that brought them more than 100 league goals as First Division champions last season.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 19/08/2002.
ELLAND ROAD'S new boys took a giant leap to proving they were up for the fight on Saturday as both Nicky Barmby and Terry Venables revelled in a debut victory.
Questions have been raised over both individuals in recent weeks, but surely such doubts will soon be long forgotten if Leeds can continue their season as it began against newly-promoted Manchester City.
Suggestions that Venables had only got the job as a stop-gap and that he would not fit into the northern way of life have already dispersed in the main. There is no doubting his enthusiasm, enjoyment and love of the game.
It was an oddly reassuring experience to see him in the home dug-out. Strange in that it was not a tall Irishman standing there, and yet nice to know that the man pulling the strings was possibly the best coach to have ever managed in the Premiership.
He has answered his critics well - so much so that there are hardly any discontented souls left now, or at least none who would dare to speak up.
Even at this early stage they have noticed a change in their team's style. With his undoubted knowledge of the game he is slowly turning United into a more street-savvy Premiership outfit - one which must now be odds on to win something this season.
The 40,000 capacity crowd were certainly not moaning about their new boss as they lapped up the start of the new Venables era in the sun-drenched surroundings of Elland Road.
Always going to be an emotion-charged afternoon - Venables leading his first game against a newly-promoted Kevin Keegan side would be enough to get anyone interested - the baking heat seemed to just add to the intensity.
Venables, who sat in the stand for the opening 15 minutes to check on his side's formation, spent the entire 90 minutes gesturing and plotting from the sidelines. Certainly not looking like a man who, as some have suggested, is not in this for the long-term.
Venables is desperate for success, of that there is little doubt, and when he emerged from the changing rooms at full time it was easy to see the exhilarating relief on his face. Here for at least two years, it has been suggested from the very start that should United prosper in such a period then his contract would be added to in time. Well, if Venables was looking for such an increase in his deal then he went the right way about it.
Proving that he is his own man, he made big changes to the way the side had ended up so limply last season.
Playing Paul Robinson in goal for starters was a brave move while switching to his 4-3-1-2 formation provided Leeds with a steady defence and a more potent midfield and front-line.
Part of that middle unit was Barmby. Playing his first home match in front of the Leeds fans he produced two flashes of brilliance which not only assured three points but also saw him elevated to Kop favourite in record time.
Pouncing on a deflected cross from Lee Bowyer he flicked United into a lead on the quarter-hour mark with the type of near-post finish that Venables knew he would get when he snapped him up from Liverpool.
Barmby's touch and passing improved throughout the game and he showed any doubters that he is indeed a quality purchase.
Some, including former Leeds boss David O'Leary, have publicly criticised the player for not being able to stay for too long at clubs and suggesting that he should not be good enough to play for Leeds if he was not good enough to be picked by Liverpool's Gerard Houllier.
However, a key player in the England set-up throughout the World Cup preparations, he will have done enough in front of the watching Sven Goran Eriksson to prove he can still do an international job.
His delightful pass over the top for Mark Viduka to chase and eventually slot away just before the break all but ended the game as a contest. Perfectly flighted, it dropped at the big Aussies feet in time for him to take it on a step or two, draw the keeper and guide it into the bottom corner.
Robinson had been the busier of the keepers in the first half as Keegan's boys proved they will be a handful for anyone in the division this season.
The trio of Nicolas Anelka, Ali Benarbia and Eyal Berkovic linked well with the large frame of Marc Vivien Foe and gave the keeper a number of opportunities to shine.
His save down to the left from Foe was particularly impressive as he then reacted smartly to snaffle the loose ball.
Unfortunately for City, however, their players showed the failings of every side who make the jump to the Premiership promised land - a lack of quality fire power.
Chances were created left, right and centre but with Robinson in form and Anelka and Co not wearing their shooting boots it left the way open for United to cruise home.
City had made life tough for Leeds throughout, but after former Whites man Darren Huckerby had blazed over and Robinson had saved from Chris Shuker, there was one-way traffic leading toward the visitors' goal.
Kewell should have scored when he skinned Richard Dunne but then saw his low shot squeeze between keeper Nash and the post but roll along the line and out again.
Substitute Robbie Keane, however, was just the man to take advantage of City's tired legs, running through onto a Smith flick the diminutive Irishman clipped the ball on the half-volley delightfully over Nash and into the net.
By the time that goal went in, the heroes of the day - Venables and Barmby - were sitting on the Leeds bench watching the action unfold. Both will no doubt have been pleased that their debuts gave so many people, even their doubters, so much to cheer about.