Partizan Belgrade 1 - 3 Leeds United
(Half-time: 1 - 2)
|« Coventry City||Middlesbrough »|
|Leeds United||Martyn, Mills, Woodgate, Radebe, Harte, Kelly, Bowyer, Batty, Hopkin, Kewell, Bridges (Smith 70)||Haaland, Huckerby, Robinson, Bakke, Hiden, Hay|
|Partizan Belgrade||Damjanac, Savic, Rasovic, Stanojevic, Krstajic, Trobok, Ivic (Stojakovic 88), Ilic (Gerasimovski 82), Tomic, Iliev (Pekovic 69), Kezman||Duljaj, Vukovic, Pantic, Miskovic|
|Leeds United||Bowyer 26, Radebe 39, Bowyer 82|
|Partizan Belgrade||Tomic 20|
|Yellow Cards Red Cards|
|Leeds United||Bowyer, Radebe, Bridges|
|Shots on goal||14||9|
|Shirt numbers of goalscorers||11, 5, 11||?|
|Jabba||Smoke and water|
|Matt G||Where the hell are we|
|The Guardian||Partizan left in no man's land|
|The Electronic Telegraph||Bowyer at the controls as Leeds excel|
|The Times||Radebe leaves Partizan flat out|
So many things to mention, so little time to mention them in.
First of all, thanks to Guy and the Benelux branch for organising the tickets and the lift from 'dam to Heerenveen. To the good burghers of Heerenveen and the ME (Dutch riot police) who were well organised and tolerant (not that there was much for us to riot against - there were only 100-odd Partizan fans and the ones we saw seemed peacable enough). And to the squad for a pretty good display against a team that - though - remarkably - younger on average than our own, were technically accomplished and well-organised.
I was expecting to see a few more shirts and hear a few more Yorkshire accents around Amsterdam on Monday night - as it was we didn't run into any until nearly last orders. With some good beer inside, we added frites, mayo & hot-dog (with cheese of course - it seems that 90% of the food on sale in Amsterdam involves ham and cheese in some way), then back to the hotel for a well-earned rest. Tuesday morning, there were a few more Leeds fans around, some heading straight for an early Heineken, others - like us - in desperate search of caffeine and Vitamin C.
A cramped - but speedy and welcome - car journey at hypersonic speeds found us in Heerenveen by early afternoon. Having passed a couple of bars with a few Leeds fans ("Kippax Whites" flag among others outside), we ended up in the town square where they'd set up bars, food stalls, a sound system and the best-looking riot police I've ever seen (well, not all of them of course, but a certain Beermeister did have a long conversation in Dutch with one of them - don't know if he got her number ;-). A gentle amble up to the ground - I was determined to see the start of the match for the first time this season - then inside the Abe Lenstra Stadium. Think of Scunthorpe - a modern, compact stadium, just off the motorway - and you've got the measure of this. I'm reliably informed (by someone who had two of them) that the burgers were excellent, but with the match and general cheering I didn't have time to try them.
We'd got most of one end of the ground: about 2000-odd Leeds fans and 150 Partizan at the other end were joined by a few hundred neutrals and press. It seemed like we managed to make a lot of noise right through the game - with the half-time WATCOE a shirt-swinging conga-dancing highlight.
The game? You've probably seen the salient points on TV somewhere, so to summarise....Hoppo was hacked waist high in their area, but the ref decided to blow up for off-side (even though Kelly was running back and not interfering with play). Nige spilled an easyish shot into the path of one of theirs for the first - cue flares, smoke spilling onto the pitch and a bit of noise from their end. Lee Bowyer equalised with a great shot after being given too much time on the edge of their box after a Leeds corner. Lucas caught his studs in the dirt and ended up doing a stupid challenge to give away a pen - which Nige then saved superbly, redeeming his earlier blunder. Lucas then made amends with an overhead kick - while lying on the floor of their six-yard box. 2-1 to us and several of us went over 3 rows of seats as the celebrations surged around us. Bowyer's goal was the only real highlight of a quieter 2nd half, their keeper totally screwing up to let it in.
DOL came over to give us all a wave at the end, and it was time to head back to Amsterdam to relax and enjoy the night - it may be famous last words but they can't do us 3-0 at Elland Road - can they?
Well most of you will have seen it, but I thought DOL got his tactics dead right. Playing five in midfield stifled the room for Partizan to play in and they are a good team. Kewell, Bowyer and Kelly all did well to get forward to support Bridges.
We started well and should have had a penalty and it was a bit of a shock when Martyn fumbled and they scored, however we kept going and Bowyer scored a great volley from the edge of the area. That sinking feeling returned when Lucas hacked down one of their players, but Martyn made a great save from the penalty which proved to be the turning point. Lucas' volley from lying on his back was a comical goal but no more than we deserved. The 2nd half we were pretty comfortable and the goalie fumbling in Bowyer shot was the icing on the cake.
Not over yet - but a great start.
Martyn 7 -
Mills and Harte 6
Woodgate and Radebe 8
Kewell, Bridges, Hopkin and Kelly 7 - Hopkin is playing really well last 3 games and I'd pick Kelly over Mills.
Bowyer 9 - Unlucky to get booked, great first goal.
There were about 3000 Leeds fans around, the support was pretty noisy throughout although at times veering too much towards the nationalistic rather than pro-Leeds songs.
"Your supposed to be at home" was pretty inevitable but still funny and the strange circumstances also led to "Your army's shit and so are you" as well as "You only sing when we're bombing or something similar". The little golf cart for injured players got a few laughs and chants of Ne-Nar Ne-Nar everytime it appeared. From what I saw largely well-behaved, though the reslut obviously helped our good humour.
I'm still not sure whether Heerenveen offered to stage the match or whether it was forced upon them but I think they did a good job of it from what I saw. The beer tents in the centre of town were a good idea and there were plenty of other places open for those of us who wanted a drink away from the "No Surrender" brigade. The ground was pleasant enough, it's compact size meaning we were able to generate an atmosphere and we were able to see no problem, even from the corner pen where they put those people who had brought tickets on the day, and we were able to move over to join the other Leeds fans with no problems soon enough anyway. The police were around but kept a low profile and seemed friendly and therefore didn't generate any unnecessary trouble.
Thanks in part to Guy's invaluable tips, our trip was very smooth, flew in to Amsterdam Schipol (only 40 minutes from Stansted) then onto Amsterdam City station found hotels for all 11 of us within minutes and then headed for Heerenveen, for less than a tenner due to the group train tickets. Got to Heerenveen found the ground and bought tickets as easy as anything and headed back into town for a few drinks and food prior to the game.
Afterwards the train back to Amsterdam was pretty crowded and took a lot longer than the train there, there were rumours that it had been re-routed due to a crash further up the line, though many also thought that they were trying to delay the arrival of the fans back into Amsterdam. Once we got back a quick trip back to the hotel to freshen up and then we hit the town, and spent a lot of the time explaining to people what loads of English football fans were doing in Holland.
Judging by the numbers on the train back to Amsterdam a lot had travelled independently and I'm afraid Leeds really only have themselves to blame for this. Our trip travel / accommodation / match tickets costs us less than £150 each, I believe Leeds were charging nearly £400 for an equivalent deal. I know Leeds had little time to organise things but you still suspect they had a huge profit margin on the official trips. I know the coach trip was cheap, but there were people on the train who had come on the coach but decided to make their own way back muttering "Never again" at the thought of an 18 hour no sleep / no food journey home, those in our group who had been to Eindhoven or Stuttgart knew how they felt.
Football fans are pretty resourceful and won't take long to realise they are being ripped off. People were driving over (much quicker than official coaches), getting ferrys from Hull / Harwich etc, flying in from all over the UK, there seemed to be a lot of Yorkshire Whites travelling down to Stansted to take advantage of the cheap flights. This was no problem on this occasion, but you worry that if Leeds offer similar deals at the same prices for a game against Ajax say, there could be serious problems with people travelling unsupervised against more volatile opposition.
With a belligerent swagger that defied their inexperience on the European circuit, David O'Leary's youthful side contemptuously dismissed the challenge of Partizan Belgrade here in Holland yesterday afternoon courtesy of a courageous fightback capped by two goals from Lee Bowyer and one from Lucas Radebe.
Now, only a collapse of calamitous proportions at Elland Road can deny Leeds a place in the second round.
"It's a fantastic result for us," the Leeds manager said afterwards. "I was a bit scared beforehand because I hardly knew anything about their team, but we handled the situation admirably. We have put ourselves in a great position."