Spartak Moscow 2 - 1 Leeds United
(Half-time: 1 - 1)
|« Southampton||Derby County »|
|Leeds United||Martyn, Kelly, Woodgate, Duberry, Harte, Haaland, McPhail, Bakke, Bowyer, Kewell, Bridges (Huckerby 56)||Robinson, Mills, Maybury, Jones, Hiden, Smith|
|Spartak Moscow||Filimonov, Kovtun, Khlestov, Bushmanov, Baranov, Bulatov, Titov, Parfionov, Schirko, Bezrodnyi, Robson||Smetanin Ananko, Ketchinov, Evseev, Meleshin|
|Leeds United||Kewell 13|
|Spartak Moscow||Schirko 37, Robson 64|
|Yellow Cards Red Cards|
|Shirt numbers of goalscorers||?||?|
|Jabba||No Batty, No Hope|
|The Guardian||Leeds lose their way in the smog|
|The Electronic Telegraph||Leeds till in the hunt after being caught cold|
|The Times||Leeds caught cold in Sofia|
|Express Sport||O'Leary's men have their work cut out|
|The Independent||Brazilian duo send Leeds packing|
|Yorkshire Evening Post||United live to fight another day|
|BBC||Leeds slip up to Spartak|
|Soccernet||Leeds catch a cold|
We almost got what we deserved from this game - and that was a 3-1 defeat. With Batts out with injury and Radebe suspended, the average age of the Leeds side was 23. But, as the old saw has it, if you're good enough you're old enough - and tonight we weren't really good enough for a win.
It started out fairly brightly, with a couple of early Leeds attacks culminating in Harry Kewell latching on to a through ball after a defensive mix-up and rounding the keeper to put Leeds one up inside 15 minutes. But the absence of Batty left the midfield threadbare - even though DOL had kept with his strategy of playing 4-5-1 in Europe. Alfi Haaland - who would have been hoping for an impressive game to press his claims - was anonymous, and Stephen McPhail and Eirik Bakke couldn't produce the consistency or final balls needed at this level, They both need more experience, and tonight's game will go a long way to providing that - but that's not going to give us a payback immediately. What we needed was someone in midfield who could put their foot on the ball and lay it off, and who could close down the opposition as they came forward. With Bakke, McPhail and Haaland performing a bit short of top form, Lee Bowyer tried to do what he could - but his performance was reminiscent of the pre-Batty days when he tried to cover too much ground and dulled his attacking edge as a result.
Other action: a Harry Kewell header from a corner came back out off the bar, Spartak scrambled a couple of chances clear, but as the first half wore on they dominated the game more and more. With 8 minutes to go to half time, they won a corner and managed to scramble the ball home after it bounced untidily in the 6-yard box. Nigel Martyn had little chance to stop it - but once again the player who might have been on the post for the corner wasn't there, and so we went into half-time all square.
Shortly into the second half, Michael Bridges - who'd been injured going for the ball in a 50-50 with the Spartak keeper in the first half - could no longer continue and was replaced by Darren Huckerby. This really was the end of Leeds' chances of winning the game: Bridges had been Leeds best player, providing an outlet and managing to hold up the ball when the defence hoofed it clear. Huckerby did all the usual things - ran quickly and willingly, but without much effect.
And then they scored again. After a lot of early second half pressure from Spartak, Leeds had come back into it and a couple of good blocks had just kept the scores level in the Spartak area. But somehow they engineered a quick break, and not for the first time this season (remember Wimbledon), the opposition had a spare man being watched from 5 yards behind by Gary Kelly as he tapped into an open goal.
Lee Bowyer was stopped by a well-timed challenge from their keeper as he picked up a decent through ball by Darren Huckerby, but Leeds never really looked liked getting the equaliser. DOL said after the game that he thought we'd underperformed - particularly in the second half, and you had to agree with him: with the exception of Martyn, Bridges and (fitfully) Kewell, the players were well short of what we know they can do.
Spartak had a couple of chances to extend their lead - in particular in the last minute when a woeful back pass from Alfi had to be headed clear by Nigel Martyn, but at 2-1 I think we can still get through - all it takes is one goal at Elland Road. And with Batts and Radebe back, and hopefully Bridges fit again that shouldn't be beyond us. No doubt the Russians will be crowing that all of their lies and psychological warfare had had the desired effect, but the real story of tonight was of an inexperienced and tired but talented team being edged and muscled out by a more experienced squad that took its chances well. It will be a good game next Thursday and I'm looking forward to seeing it.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 03/12/1999.
After all the recriminations, the allegations and counter-allegations, Leeds United stayed true to their word here by allowing their football to do their talking only to lose the argument to the Russian champions.
Nevertheless they will confront Spartak in the return leg of this third-round tie at Elland Road next Thursday needing only a 1-0 win thanks to a 14th-minute goal from Harry Kewell that promised much yet proved to be only a false dawn.
"People may think I would be worried but that is far from the case," said the Leeds manager David O'Leary. "This is a good result for us. I would settle for 2-1 away from home in a two-legged tie in Europoe every time."