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Bloody long walk from the town centre through some of the more wonderful areas of Manc and of course it was raining, to, what has to be admitted is a fantastic ground. No atmosphere at all though. Its like they have dispersed whoever used to make up their "kop" all over the ground. Is this the future of football?
We were so uninspired, so defensive yesterday that I was amazed to learn that we'd got 3 shots on goal all night. The forward players looked so lethargic - Viduka was like some kind of off-shore platform, just visible on the horizon but completely out of reach. All night we lumped the ball somewhere up field, anywhere, in the vain hope that he might get to it. Whenever Pennant or Milner got the ball they too were isolated. At least Milner ran his socks off, Pennant looked disinterested. Perhaps they were both being asked to sit a bit deeper as cover for the fullbacks.
The defence did a good job most of the night - Radebe and Doobs in particular were huge last night. We could well be screwed without Lucas for 8 weeks. Looks like we're going to have to play either Camara or Kilgallen - personally I'd go for Camara who looked OK in most of his earlier games. Matteo needs to stay in midfield just to give it that extra muscle. The midfield was where we suffered yesterday - Batty had the worst game I've seen from him for ages, he still got the tackles in most of the time but his passing was absolutely dreadful - Smith was almost anonymous for the whole 90 minutes just getting stuck into the spadework of midfield tackling and covering - Matteo is great at covering, blocking, closing down and all that which we need, but he is nowhere when he has the ball at his feet and so he needs other "real" midfielders around him if he is to achieve anything for the team. Despite being 5 men in there we were just overrun at times. There seemed to be little space between the midfield and the back 4, so far back down the field were our midfield playing and as a consequence there was no-one to play the ball out to when we did win it. Most of the second half was spent hoofing the thing into touch - continuously surrending possession which is just not the way to win (or even draw) most football matches. Against opposition who could shoot we'd have been murdered last night.
McPhail and Bridges came on and did nothing.
The ref completely lost the plot in the last 10 minutes - when some guy went after Smith and started shoving him around which the 4th official saw and stepped into but the ref did nothing about; Bridges and one of their defenders had a wrestling match in the box which then brought about Bridges kicking the guy on the way back to halfway line; Batty was (admittedly) strolling off when being substituted and so Wanchop stepped up and started shoving him and then berating the referee - why wasn't he booked?
Still we keep picking up points and that is the one and only important thing for us right now. Role on Villa and Wolves.
Another point towards safety and another match undefeated. That's 4 now and you'd think we'd be happy but in my opinion there was only one word for our performance last night - NEGATIVE ! I dont think I've seen such a defensive performance from a Leeds team ever. It really was attack and defence for 90 minutes.
I suppose you have to keep thinking back to performances like Leicester and Pompey and be happy but we were playing an out of form City team who'd hardly managed a goal and a point in their last 5 games, and it showed. Fowler and Mcmanaman looked like washed up players who were ready to complete their careers in the lower leagues and although Anelka did a lot of moving about he was completely ineffective up front. Having said that I thought we defended well.
With Batty , Smith and Matteo ALL sat just in front of the two centre backs you'd hope we would. In the last 3 games we have played a similar system but have pushed up when possible and relied on Pennant and Milner to get down the wings. That didn't really happen last night cos Pennant was playing as an extra right back and Milner as an extra left back. It really was backs to the wall stuff. I really believe we had enough quality in the team to have played them 4-4-2 and beaten them. Pennant, Smith, Viduka, Milner are all attacking players. Why curb their natural game? Yes we have been struggling but we weren't up against a team who were going to hurt us. You only have to look at that first half to realise that. Did Robbo have to make a save?
Up front Viduka was so isolated and off his game that we were never going to score. In fact if City hadn't gifted Viduka is one and only chance we'd have come away from this game with exactly what we deserved - NOWT.
First half they never troubled us, second half we got stretched and I thought the legs started to go a bit. Their goal from the away end seemed like one of those hanging headers that take and age to go in. All I could see was Robinson's attempt to get over for it and not even getting near. Is he too fat?
15 minutes to go , Radebe gets injured (what happened?) Matteo goes to centre back and Mcphail comes on ! Well, that put paid to us getting an away win cos that little runt never plays on a Leeds winning side. We drew the game, enough said and Mcphail treated us to 15 minutes of err, err, .... nothing. Oh sorry, he did put a beautiful ball into touch with that magic left foot.
Robinson - 6, One good saves towards the end, a few dithers around his box but that's the norm now isn't it?
Kelly -6. Backs to the wall , 100% effort.
Harte -7. Thought he did well against Wright-Phillips. Says more about him though than Harte in my opinion.
Duberry 7. Again he did ok but showed his good and his bad sides. One minute he's all over the shop and playing the City winger on-side, next he's on the goal line getting his lump of a body in the way of a certain goal. Won a lot in the air.
Radebe -8. Another fantastic performance. Would we have won if he hadn't got injured?
Batty -5. First half I thought he did really well and kept us ticking along , second half I thought he was awful. Very unBatty like. Kept giving the ball away and just looked a yard too slow on many occassions. Just more games for Batty I think.
Smith -6. Showed his limitations as a midfielder but helped us put many times in defence.
Matteo -6. Again I think this game showed his limitations as a midfielder. Yes he covered the ground, yes he covered for Duberry many times when Duberry goes missing but when he gets the ball in space goign forward he hasn't a f*cking clue what to do with it.
Viduka - 5. Gifted a goal but took it very well. Apart from that I thought he was second best all night to the city defence. For a big man he gets easily muscled off the ball by much smaller defenders. He didn't hold the ball up at all and never gave us any options. No pace at all. Having said that he was so isolated it was untrue.
Pennant 6. Worked hard. Not his type of game and not how we should be using him.
Milner -7 Worked unbelievaly hard and managed to get down the wing a few times. Last minutes he was through and I thought that it might have been a pen, he had no reason to go over.
Mcphail - not giving him a mark cos he didn't do owt.
Bridges - ditto
Crowd 47,000 but I'd say thats the worse atmosphere I've been in this season. We were extremely quiet. I don't think it helps been in two tiers. A bit of tiffing with the loud mouth Mancs outside the ground. Big, long walks to and from the station in the pissing down rain. Fun watching Leeds int it?
Copy from Football Unlimited of 23/12/2003.
Sir Alex Ferguson was a first-time visitor last night to the City of Manchester stadium, the place he has apparently taken to calling the "Temple of Doom". If it was to scrutinise the form of Mark Viduka, the talented but troublesome Leeds forward might have played himself closer to the trans-Pennine switch that is being mooted. Viduka's goal will have left Manchester United's manager with plenty to ponder in the VIP seats and it would have taken Leeds out of the relegation quagmire for the first time in two months had it not been for a late equaliser by the substitute Antoine Sibierski.
In doing so, the French midfielder spared the blushes of his compatriot David Sommeil, whose error had led to Viduka scoring the goal that for so long looked like inflicting more punishment on a City side without a win now in nine matches.
It has been a wretched sequence, one that prompted Kevin Keegan to use his programme notes to assure the fans of his commitment, and a rarity in these parts - the sight of empty blue seats.