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West Bromwich Albion

Premier League
Game 02: Saturday 24 August 2002

West Bromwich Albion 1 - 3 Leeds United
(Half-time: 0 - 1)
Crowd: 26618
Referee: S Dunn (Bristol)
Leeds United
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Match Facts
West Bromwich Albion Team Leeds United
Russell Hoult   Paul Robinson
Igor Balis   Danny Mills
Neil Clement   Ian Harte
Phil Gilchrist   Jonathan Woodgate Booked - 57 minutes Subbed - 61 minutes
Booked - 72 minutes Larus Sigurdsson   Dominic Matteo
Subbed - 61 minutes Darren Moore   Eirik Bakke
Sean Gregan   Lee Bowyer Goal - 53 minutes
Subbed - 73 minutes Andy Johnson   Nick Barmby
Subbed - 73 minutes Derek McInnes   Harry Kewell Goal - 39 minutes Subbed - 82 minutes
Jason Roberts   Alan Smith
Scott Dobie   Mark Viduka Goal - 71 minutes
Brian Jensen   Nigel Martyn
Sub - 73 minutes Ronnie Wallwork   Gary Kelly
Sub - 73 minutes Goal - 90 minutes Lee Marshall   Lucas Radebe Sub - 61 minutes
Bob Taylor   Olivier Dacourt
Sub - 61 minutes Daniele Dichio   Robbie Keane Sub - 82 minutes
Match Reports
Dave Woolmer Baggies - view from a pub chair
Jabba Bouncing in Baggie Land
BBC Leeds crush Baggies
The Guardian Bowyer all smiles as he makes careless Baggies pay
The Independent Kewell crew hand out a harsh lesson
The Observer El Tel's boys growing up Lively Leeds looking down on the rest
The Sporting Life West Bromwich Albion 1 - 3 Leeds United
The Sunday Times Leeds find cutting edge
The Electronic Telegraph Kewell ignites Leeds
The Times Leeds need a sign of class
Yorkshire Evening Post Terry's tactics show the way

The Times, Sunday Times and Telegraph now seem to require registration to view articles on their sites, with the Times and Sunday Times charging readers outside the UK. The Times/Sunday Times has also moved some of the older articles into an archive which requires separate registration and requires you to pay to access the content. The Independent now charges for access to articles more than a week old.

Baggies - view from a pub chair - Dave Woolmer

Mostly covered by other already, so brief thoughts..

Viduka - THIS is how we want him to be. Can't believe some muppet says he plays like this almost every week. No he doesn't! Wish he did! Maybe with Tel motivating him, and a formation that assists him, he will. Already seemed to have shed some pounds and stunning 1st touch for his goal.

Kewell - starting to re-emerge. Flicks and touches sublime at times. Can be the Footballer of The Year if he wants to be. It's all there for him if he pushes himself.

Defence - I'm not too alarmed. Yes, it was only West Brom and they did create chances - more than we'd like. But they're a passionate club, in their first home match in the tope league in many, many years. They were always going to come flying at us, and it was always a matter of riding an early storm. We need to make some of our defensive clearances a bit more emphatic at times - in particular Woody and Matteo need to work on the first time clearance of a ball coming across them, especially on their 'wrong' foot.

Bakke - a dream to play against. Stand 15 yards away and you'll get 5/6 passes a match off him. Yes, he's learning the hard man role a bit, and he does seem to be becoming quite adept at the 'sly foul to break down an attacking move before it gets too dangerous', but he's got nothing that a motivated Dacourt hasn't. Dacourt can pass.

Harte - disappointed he doesn't seem to have physically sharpened himself at all, even to the maximum of his limited capabilities. Almost as if he's biding his time until he's replaced.

Sorry to pick those 2 out again, and I'm not into boo-boys getting on the backs of individuals, but they have been the two patent weak links of the first 2 matches.

Doesn't Robbo kick his goal kicks a long way? Bet he eats 3 shredded wheat.

Bouncing in Baggie Land - Jabba

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the roundabout that leads onto the road to hell is based on the design of the M5/A41 disaster zone just up the road from the Hawthorns. 25 minutes to get round a bloody roundabout - no sign of the police doing anything useful and drivers getting very frustrated: it's amazing there wasn't a punch-up as tempers grew shorter at the valuable drinking time wasted. And that was just in our car.

Still, made it to the pub in time for a pre-match pint or two, and it really did seem like we'd gone back in time. The pub had lots of little rooms, a gents toilet that needed waders to get close to the bowl and plastic glasses filled with electric beer (in fairness to the pub, the decent hand-pumped stuff had been cleaned out by the folks who managed to get there a bit earlier than us). Decent atmosphere in the pub - fans of both clubs and all ages and no problems at all: football like it's meant to be. Ambling towards the ground as kick-off approached there were a few dodgy-looks exchanged between some of the locals and some of the Leeds fans, but no problems despite the total absence of police from anywhere other than directly around the ground.

Staring out of every paper for the last fortnight have been two faces wearing Manchester United shirts. Normally that would be enough to get the typical Leeds fan ranting and shouting abuse at the press and all things Old Trafford. In this case, things are different: the faces belonged to the two girls murdered in Soham, and every football game around the country this weekend saw the players wearing black armbands and preceded by a minute's silent remembrance. We've not been too good at this in the past, but - apart from the inevitable intrusion of a dozen mobile phones - today it was impeccably observed.

The Hawthorns has been spruced up a bit since our last visit - and the atmosphere was a bit of a throwback too: the home fans, almost all of them wearing the current home shirt, made a load of noise and got behind their team from the off. It's been a while since I heard such a small crowd make such a lot of noise, and it was a sharp reminder to folks who have become accustomed to the Premier League standards of officious "sit-down-or-you're-out" stewards, a virtual ban on people making noise and open abuse of half of your own team as soon as you go a goal down.

"Talk about the game Jabba". Okay - if you insist.

It was the Baggies' first game in the top flight for many years and both players and fans were up for it. It was clearly Gary Megson's game plan to throw everything forward early on and apply as much pressure as possible before Leeds had the chance to settle, but equally I think El Tel had anticipated this and the instructions to the Leeds players were to relax, pass the ball and absorb the pressure while the West Brom players tired themselves out. The result seems to show who had the right idea, but West Brom were perilously close to getting it right: only a lucky deflection off the post and some abysmal finishing in the box kept Paul Robinson's goal intact for the first 20-odd minutes. Ian Harte kept on finding himself overlapped by Igor Balis or pressured by Jason Roberts, and Lee Bowyer, Nick Barmby and Harry Kewell were outnumbered in a midfield dominated by Sean Gregan. But Andy Johnson and Roberts wasted the best chances, and as half-time approached, the home side started to tire a little and Leeds got into their stride.

A long ball out of defence found Vidooks 15 yards inside the Leeds half. He held the ball, beat two players and set off up the line. The striker slipped the ball inside to Danny Mills on a charge up the inside right channel, Mills headed for the touchline, crossed and Harry Kewell produced a clinical finish at the near post. After all their pressure the Baggies were going into the break a goal down: it wasn't a fair reflection of the game, but life's unfair.

West Brom started the second half with the same enthusiasm they'd shown in the first - but with 10 minutes gone, even their noisiest fans were deflated. A fast Leeds move got the ball up to Harry Kewell on the edge of the area, he produced a brilliant backflick to Lee Bowyer, and instead of doing his usual trick of breaking into the box with the ball at his feet, he hit it first time from over 20 yards out and charged up to the Leeds fans as his inch-perfect shot left the keeper with no chance. "Sign your contract for the lads," chanted the away fans.

Rovers lost their impressive centreback Darren Moore to an injury just on the hour, with Jon Woodgate - already booked and nursing his knee injury - replaced by Lucas Radebe (being gentle on an injury of his own) at the same time. 10 minutes later and the game was over - a good few of the home faithful headed for the stands after Mark Viduka beat the offside trap (that's twice in two weeks!) dummied the keeper and rolled the ball home. West Brom made a double change to try to rescue the game (sadly no appearance for Bob Taylor who remained on the bench) but failed to make an impression until injury time when Lee Marshall's strong run got a spot of luck from a pinball of legs on the edge of the Leeds area and the young striker slotted the ball past Paul Robinson. The home fans celebrated as if they'd won: we looked so morose you'd think we'd lost.

The final whistle went and left us top of the league - but that means nothing at this stage. We've taken our chances well against two of the promoted teams - teams which are expected to struggle a bit in the top flight. The next two games should be similar affairs, but September brings some serious challenges from Newcastle, Man U and Arsenal, and the big question is: will this new freer formation be effective against such sides. I'd love to be proved wrong, but I do think that El Tel will need to switch some more strength into the midfield when the top teams come up against us: neither Barmby nor Kewell are known for their defensive abilities, and leaving just Lee Bowyer and Eirik Bakke to carry that burden against decent 4-man midfields could leave us badly exposed. For the moment though, let's just sit back and bask in the happy glow that the new man is bringing to the players and fans alike: two games, two wins, six goals and a set of players who seem to want to win games for Leeds United. It seems a very long time since we've been here, though the time-distorting capabilities of poor performances are well known: if you're playing badly it seems like you've been playing that way forever.

One final negative comment about this match. The police presence was concentrated on the ground, to the exclusion of almost anywhere else. So when an argument between a few Leeds and West Brom fans turned violent barely 100 yards from the ground, there was nobody there to stop it, and nobody there to stop the cowardly WBA fan who took a run up and kicked a Leeds fan in the head as he laid on the pavement - already unconscious after slipping and cracking his head on the ground. A large number of the other WBA fans told the thugs what they thought of them - so credit to those folks who, like most of the Baggies fans we met yesterday, were great football fans. But why on earth couldn't the West Midland police deploy a few more people around the area to stop this sort of thing from kicking off or at least to be around so that someone could point out who was to blame after the event. No idea what happened to the lad who got kicked - hope he's not too badly hurt. Next week we're at St Andrews with a - police-requested - midday start. Let's hope the WMC get out of bed in time for that one, because with past experiences as a guide, it might not be a very pleasant experience.

Bowyer all smiles as he makes careless Baggies pay - Simon Burnton

Copy from Football Unlimited of 26/08/2002.

For a team whose recent success has been founded almost entirely on parsimonious defence, West Bromwich Albion find themselves in a position of some difficulty. Of their 27 league wins last season, 15 ended 1-0. The last time they conceded three goals at home was in December 2000, more than a season ago.

But those clean sheets are proving somewhat harder to come by in the Premiership. "We've got to find a way of playing that keeps us tight at one end and creates chances at the other," said Gary Megson, their manager. Simple as that.

As Megson pointed out, there is little chance of winning 1-0 without scoring first and West Brom will rarely have a better chance than on Saturday. Andy Johnson and Jason Roberts were principal culprits, blazing wide and high respectively, each from less than eight yards, during an opening 35 minutes of impressive domination. "All that happened was that in the first 40 minutes, when we played as well as we have in my time here, we didn't score," said Megson. "It's a fine dividing line." His opposite number Terry Venables admitted: "It was a bit hairy."

Read the rest...

El Tel's boys growing up - Amy Lawrence

Copy from Football Unlimited of 25/08/2002.

No talk of babies, of naivety, of learning. Leeds United do not need excuses any more because - with age and a sprinkling of Terry Venables's nous - they are evolving into a very smart team.

They prospered here with a brand of athletic and aesthetic football which makes the manager's ambition to win a trophy this season credible. It's early days, but you can't get much more promising than six points bagged, six super goals scored, just the one consolation conceded.

Read the rest...

Terry's tactics show the way - Matt Reeder

Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 26/08/2002.

THE season may only be two games young but already manager Terry Venables is earning his corn.

One of the more frustrating aspects of David O'Leary's management was his seeming reluctance to change a system or make a substitution when things were clearly not going United's way.

New man Venables proved once again on Saturday that he not only had the guts to switch things but also had the knowledge and tactical know-how of what to do to get the desired results.

With 30 minutes gone inside a buzzing Hawthorns, Leeds found themselves under the cosh and struggling to cope with a lively West Brom outfit.

Clearly on a high as they looked to give their fans something to celebrate at their season's opening party, the blue and white stripes surged forward with wave after wave of attack.

Had their finishing been any better than pathetic then United could have been three or four goals behind within that opening spell.

Jason Roberts, a close holidaying pal of Leeds goalkeeper Paul Robinson, was one of the main culprits as he fired high and wide on numerous occasions when presented with clear sights on goal, while Derek McInnes and Andy Johnson were also guilty of some wayward marksmanship.

United's main problems stemmed from a busy home midfield which capitalised on the visitors' lack of width and constantly set wing-backs Neil Clement and Igor Balis raiding down the flanks.

Eirik Bakke is enjoying his new role as defensive midfielder, while the work- rate of Lee Bowyer and Nicky Barmby is unquestioned. The only problem here was that Leeds did not have the width to counter West Brom's wing-backs and Venables was quick enough not only to spot it but to change it.

He moved things from the new 4-3-1-2 to a more regular 4-4-2. Almost immediately Leeds looked a sounder and more capable unit.

Indeed, it would be truer to suggest that they now have two units within the one team. The defensive set of the back four and Bakke concentrate on nothing but defending, while the attacking five of Harry Kewell, Alan Smith, Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Barmby are charged with finding the goals.

Venables' task is to ensure that he can click those mechanics into place on a regular enough basis for his team to actually become the all-conquering side they have threatened to be.

With these players at his disposal, and the years of experience in his head, Venables has most of the tools needed to ensure there are no break-downs to the extent of last season's second-half crumble.

After gifting West Brom a host of opportunities, Leeds then taught the top- flight new-comers the harshest of all lessons possible.

With the glut of chances no doubt playing on the minds a little, United, almost dismissively, showed them just how it should be done with three goals from the very highest of drawers.

Kewell was the first to strike. The Aussie who delights almost as much as he frustrates had already treated the fans to a myriad of skills and tricks when he tucked away Danny Mills' perfect cross from the right.

There were only five minutes remaining of a very one-sided first half when United broke the deadlock and the noisy reception given by the home side proved which team had been in the ascendancy.

However, if the lesson before the break was to take your chances when provided, then it was obvious that West Brom had not completed their education.

Another three or four went begging without Robinson needing to make a save before Leeds once again kicked up a gear and took complete control.

Ian Harte struck the bar with a swinging cross while Kewell found the base of the post via keeper Russell Hoult's knee before they struck what will surely be one of the goals of the season.

It may well only be August but when Bowyer ran onto Kewell's back-heel and stroked a quite brilliant curling chip over Hoult and into the top corner, it had even the home supporters clapping.

The chants from the Leeds fans at the other end of the ground made it quite clear that they would now like their man to sign the deal on offer to him and stay long-term at the club.

The questions over Bowyer's future will no doubt continue to be posed until such a decision is made. Until then he has promised to give it 100 per cent and if this is him giving his all then Leeds fans won't mind.

Bowyer set up a third goal for Viduka when Albion's Phil Gilchrist dallied over a bouncing ball and he nipped in before crossing perfectly for the big Aussie to almost walk into the net.

The Leeds defence, once again marshalled by the outstanding Dominic Matteo, deserved a second clean sheet of the season.

But alas that was not to be as a scramble on the edge of the box after United had failed to clear their lines left substitute Lee Marshall with the easy task of placing the ball beyond Robinson.

It was little more than a moment to remember for the home supporters. Had they found that goal anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes earlier then maybe it could have meant so much more.

The report used to be available online here.

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