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As an esteemed colleague of mine said last night "they really are bastards this lot they do just enough to keep the torture going for another few weeks".
First half was more or less even between 2 s**t teams. We counted a series of 6 or 7 consecutive passes that went directly to an opposition team member - so Leeds to City who passed it to a Leeds player who passed it back to a city player etc - it was awful. There were a few scuffed half chances for both teams. Anelka looked a (disinterested) racehorse amongst a bunch of beach donkeys. They seemed to start with Anelka alone up front and Fowler playing behind him - but he was too slow to have any effect in the midfield and seemed to be pushed further forward after a while. We seemed to have a good outlet with Pennant down the right - we frequently put pressure on down there without ever delivering the final ball.
After much ineffectual huffing and puffing McPhail went across to the right wing to take a free kick - I thought this is where he scored from against Chelsea - and bugger me a carbon copy. A flighted free kick that lots of people went for and missed before the ball drifted in at the far post. Lucky - but we'll take owt right now. This seemed to scare our boys and galvanised city who's midfield pressed forward with much more purpose; SWP becoming a much bigger threat. Eventually after several goes at gifting the ball to their forwards our defender's inability to clear their lines effectively bore fruit for City - Caldwell followed up a weak header with a wafty challenge the ball was threaded through to Anelka who thumped it low and hard into the bottom corner from 20-odd yards.
1-1 at halftime - just about fair.
Second half was all city - chance after chance - we once again adopted the doughnut formation. Their midfield, and defenders at times quite simply carried the ball forward through our ranks unchallenged to the edge of the box - or sometimes for variety they went round us. Yes McPhail did win a header or two and a few well timed tackles plus when he did have the ball he usually passed it well - however he is not in the game for 80% of it; it simply passes him by. Johnson on the other hand did win a few tackles but his distribution was quite simply a masterclass in incompetence - I may be exaggerating but I honestly can't recall a successfully completed pass to a team mate by him - Olemebe must wonder what in high hell he's done to upset Eddie.
This lack of a midfield has two consequences - firstly the already shaky defence is massively and repeatedly exposed - it is only a matter of time before the opposition score and secondly Viduka and Smith are stranded. The pair of them hardly received the ball to feet at all last night. Sometimes it was punted to one or other of them and those two apart there wasn't another Leeds player within 40 yards. You can have the best strikers in the world but if you don't pass to them and support them then you are not going to score many goals.
So half way through the Alamo the ball is suddenly on the edge of the city box - via a Viduka flick I think - Smith and defender charging into the box, there's contact, Smith is down and for the first time this year we have a penalty. The defender has to walk - last man - terrible shame and all that. Fair play to Viduka he had the balls to step and slam the ball home. Very big show of kissing the badge in front of the Kop - I do think that this matters to him right now. Cue 30,000 people s****ing themselves for 15 minutes. But somehow we held on and got the points. 'Bout time we had a bit of luck. Don't think Krasner knew who'd won at the end though.
City had also messed about with a 3-5-2 formation for some of this half - crikey King Kev did enough tactical fiddling to make didders cream himself - still lost though ya whining little get didn't you?
Robbo - decent enough - some good saves - why doesn't he come for crosses? Kelly - run around - hump it long Domi - pretty good game - overlapped beautifully once and almost produced a goal - showed what can happen if you get to the by-line Dom - excellent game - good covering - good spirit. Caldwell - I'm not convinced - hangs too far off his man, let's them turn when he needs to be up their arse - which is where Lucas would be.
McPhail & Johnson - where are Batty & Olembe Pennant - lots of tracking back, tackling etc, bloody useless with the ball though - ran up far too many dead ends - should watch SWP Milner - put in a lot of work - occassionally threatened - generally kicked a lot by City's lumping great CHalfs - is Dunne the only man in football that makes Viduka look slim?
Smith & Viduka - good effort for little support or reward.
Eddie - get the team selections sorted and we can do this.
Daylight (or under the lights) Robbery. That's the only way you could describe the way Leeds nicked 3 points from this game. I was beginning to get fed up with King Kev's sob stories of City's bad luck but now I am inclined to believe him. Having said that I think he should have a look at his midfield's goal scoring capabilities. They missed a hat full.
I thought City were by far the better team throughout this match. They played all the football and their midfield completely outplayed, outran and outbattled are fragile central midfield pairing of Johnson and Mcphail. Sibierski is a proper midfielder. Yes he should have scored but he passes, moves , tackles , makes run, tracks his man. Our midfielder do only one or at best two of these. City play with 3 at the back with 2 wing backs pushing on. This gives them a central 3 in midfield. Cause for concern perhaps especially when you saw how Fulham completely outplayed us in that area of the park. No problems for Eddie though, just pick the same team and they'll come good -.. and they did. Well, in result only and biggest concern about this win is that is give false hopes and also gives justification to pick exactly the same team against Brum on Saturday. Oh dear. I heard Eddie Gray's post match interview on Radio Aire today.
Can you believe it picked out Mcphail for an outstanding contribution to the team and criticised Milner for not doing enough on the ball ! Shocking.
Maybe it's all down to expectations. When we went one up through Mcphail's floater we decided to do what we always do when we go one up. Defend - badly. It was like attack and defence with City stroking it around in midfield completely bemusing our two statuesque central midfielders and picking their moment. After a while Anelka dropped deep and decided to have a go 1-1. You could feel the resignation in the crowd. We then actually wasted time until half time. It was unreal. We had no ideas, we just kept giving the ball away. Viduka and Smith made no runs , the midfield never got hold of the ball and the defence just kept clearing ineffective long balls. When we did get the ball we were clueless. Mcphail, our playmaker was content to play neat , little 5 yard balls to a man under pressure or alternatively just give it away.
Johnson was worse. He gave the ball away repeatedly and in some pretty crucial areas of the pitch. This was Johnson's worse game for Leeds. He was dreadful.
The dream partnership of Viduka + Smith failed to prosper. Both gave no options especially Viduka who was static in attack , happy to get the ball at his feet with his back to goal. He then proceeded to fall over on his arse. Somebody described is performance as awesome. Jeez, he was AWFUL. The only way he was going to score was a penalty and so it was. Smith also had his worse game ever in a white shirt. No control, and no pace - he looked like a journeyman. Is he fit ? Even with 10 men City gave us problems and ran the midfield. It was embarrassing. Our defence creaked all over the place despite Matteo and Domi having good games.
Robinson - 7. Good saves to keep us in it.
Kelly - 6 . Effort 10 , attainment 1
Domi - 7 . Did well against Phillips.
Matteo - 8 . One man defence at times.
Caldwell - 7. Solid for most of the time but loses his man on occasions.
Mcphail - 4. Yes we won and he started and he scored but watch him closely when he hasn't got the ball. He's so static it's untrue. Like playing with 10 men. Seriously out of his depth. Just not an athlete in any sense of the word.
Johnson - 4. He was worse than Mcphail. That says it all. He should be ashamed. Headless chicken , giving the ball away at every opportunity. Also I noticed his fitness was lacking and at times he was almost trailing along with Mcphail (only a yard ahead). His best contribution was mopping up at the back a couple of times and then giving it away.
Pennant - 6. Poor distribution but did actually give them concern and make them make extra men available to cover him.
Milner - 6. Top quality effort if he didn't really threaten too much. Running backing the final minutes to tackle was inspirational.
Smith - 5. Good run for the penalty but really struggled.
Viduka - 6. Looked slow and ineffective. Held his bottle well with the pen. Smith and Viduka partnership does not work. Have I told you that before ?
Why didn't Eddie Gray use a sub. Mcphail + Johnson were both f'cked after 65 mins.
Crowd : It wasn't complete jubilation at the final whistle. I think most people realise that that team is the worse in the league.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 23/03/2004.
Describing relegation as a "remote possibility" was possibly not the best way for Leeds United's incoming chairman Gerald Krasner to start if he wants to be taken more seriously than some of his predecessors, but the new regime at Elland Road can at least believe they are blessed with good fortune - bucketloads of it.
Having taken the lead with a fluked goal from Stephen McPhail, the new men in power must have squirmed in discomfort from the directors' seats as they watched Manchester City equalise through Nicolas Anelka and then create enough chances to blow a gaping hole in all the talk of a brave new era for Leeds.
It was not the profligacy of Kevin Keegan's team that ultimately proved to be their undoing, however, but a critical misjudgment by the referee Alan Wiley. Leeds needed a helping hand as they stumbled towards the closing stages and, on one of their sporadic breaks out of defence, Wiley provided it by mistakenly deciding Daniel van Buyten had brought down Alan Smith inside the penalty area.