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Robinson 9/10 - He did everything needed with a few lifesavers.
First off let me say I enjoyed this game... just pure and simple enjoyed watching some people playing a decent game of football.
I had no idea what to expect from Tel Aviv - they clearly aren't muppets from their UEFA progress last year - but for the first 25 minutes or so they were a revelation. Fast incisive passing, the ball was pinging about our midfield was nowhere while Woodgate and Kelly looked totally bemused. Their midfield were lifting the ball over Woodgate's head into the space between him and Kelly, tima and again, where the fast No. 7 was bolting through like shit off the proverbial... This guy was good enough to get a round of applause when he was subbed off towards the end following a car-parking off Lucas. Never mind Lucas losing pace, this guy was leaving Woodgate for dead. The only reason we were still in the game after 30 minutes was that Lucas and Robinson were on their toes.
Slowly we did begin to press Smith, Kewell and Barmby coming more into it. Barmby will never be a great defender but he does show flashes in and around the box that are encouraging - his bicycle kick which hit the post was very unlucky. Viduka picked up speed as the game went on and was a link in many of our better moves but it was really Kewell and then Smith that got us going. This was Kewell's most influential game of the season, it was a joy to watch him get the ball infront of him and run. There were a couple of false starts where he ran into defenders but once he got going - especially once Bridges had come on - he started really causing problems... And he was hungry for the ball. Great to see.
Once again the difference in the game was brought about by Smith's getting at the defenders, causing mistakes and raising the tempo of the game and the crowd. Proving once again that they don't like it up'em. Once again Smith got a stupid booking, And he really didn't want to go out to the right when Bridges came on. And once again our initial problems at getting to grips with the game were due to the 4-3-3 formation and the midfield. We just gave them so much time and the ball too cheaply and had no bite. Dacourt was flying around challenging all and sundry but being very wasteful with the ball. Bakke was headless.
The most annoying thing about the midfield yesterday was that no-one seemed to know where they should be - several times you could throw a ring of about 10m diameter around all 3 of them, and they trundled around in this formation often miles away from the ball.
3 efforts off the woodwork and more good moves that nearly came off bodes well for the return.
All the forwards looked very happy to have Bridges back who had 4 quality touches in 20 minutes.
robinson 7/10 made good saves when required. not too many lengthy spells of action, as not needed. made great throw out to smith (who was offside)
woodgate 7/10 pretty much solid as ever. nuff said.
radebe 7/10 had a good game. quality tackles/clearences as usual but to be fair, is starting to show signs of losing pace now. (yes, even more!)
harte 6/10 nothing special. but did manage to hit the woodwork with a free kick. crossing was ok. still a bit slow. and somehow managed to hit a wall that only had 2 men in it.
kelly 6/10 lost his pace maaaan! left space behind him when going forward. pretty much dissapeard in second half as we went to 4-4-2. difference between him and mills?.... mills is faster getting up and then getting back. plus mills has more weight behind him when challenging for the ball.
bakke 4/10 worst player on pitch. poor pretty much in everything. you name it: passing, heading shooting, awareness....
dacourt 7/10 boy do we need him week in week out. made a few errors with possesion but in all, solid. sound passing and got stuck in.
barmby 6.5/10 i can see what folk are saying BUT the guy is good. it goes back to what i said the other week regarding TV not playing a hard game like O'leary and other LU managers. barmby is not a hard player. he does however have bags of energy and good awareness. add this with the odd good pass and shot on goal and he can make a difference to a match. we're a team that seems to be 'halfway' suited to a player like barmby. the question is whether TV is gonna be able to transform the team all the way.
kewell 6/10 ok. was simply harry kewell when playing ok ie. infrequent signs of the skill that he has but no commitment/enthusiasm etc etc.... more importantly: this guy is not a striker! how many did he miss?? thankfully he was played in correct position tonight but still nothing special.
viduka 8/10 nobody ever gets 10/10. the only thing he did wrong tonight was not score. class in a big white shirt. sublime touches (you should have seen the faces of the crowd in slow mo as they were watching some of his moves), fantastic vision. it would be good though if he could actually run.
smith 8/10 would have been 9/10 if he'd have just kept his big gob shut. worked his knackers off. class up front... very much like shearer, back to goal, holding ball. great commitment. differences between him and shearer/sheringham: they can both score goals with ease ie. fantasic at shooting plus they keep their mouths closed and just get on with it. smith does neither the first as well nor the latter at all.
mcphail 5/10 and i'm a mcphail supporter. but i can see what people are getting at. negatives: the guy can somehow stay in one spot for up to 10 minutes. he attempts to challenge for the ball but tries to disguise it ie. he comes nowhere near to getting it or the player who has it but makes movements and gestures like he did. wierd. positives: he can pass the ball better than any player play on the pitch. simple as that. he makes it look piss easy. although, a negative related to this, which is probably gonna sound contradictory to what i just wrote.... he's in a midfield position with the whole pitch open to him. BUT why the hell does he not try and make some play? why does he not try and thread balls through the middle up to the front? all he did with his passing is play it back or to the side. not once that i can remember, did he try and make play through the middle. i'd still give him more time but if no improvement, come christmas..... C'ya.
bridges can't really rate him out of ten as not on long enough. rusty. needs a few 90min games and hopefully will get'em soon.
mills nice throw then a great shot at goal. why wasn't he playing? needed resting, my arse.
summary. unlucky as F*ck. could have been 4 up at half time. but 'no luck' seems to be leeds utd's game at the mo. I think TV and the team are turning things round but it ain't gonna happen overnight. more importantly: it's reasuring having a manager who knows what to do during the 90 mins when things aren't going right.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 31/10/2002.
Languishing in their worst Premiership position for almost two years, Leeds United found solace in the form of Harry Kewell's late but decisive contribution here last night.
His winning goal did not disguise the fact that this was another poor and largely frustrating performance from Terry Venables' team, but at least they have rediscovered the winning touch, just as it seemed to have deserted them.
This was their first victory in seven attempts and they will head to Florence for the second leg in 13 days' time - Uefa has decreed that it cannot be held in Israel because of the security implications - in the knowledge that only an embarrassing collapse will prevent them from reaching the third round.