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Oh dear oh dear oh dear.
Last Tuesday the mighty AC Milan were slain at the death by a rejuvenated Leeds
Today 10-men Derby out-fought and out-thought Leeds to gain a well deserved point from a scrappy encounter.
A win would have flattered Leeds. A wonderful free-kick from Ian Harte separated the teams at half-time and a trip on Bridges just before the break saw the dismissal of influential Derby defender Carbonari.
Life is a rollercoaster....and supporting Leeds at the moment would appear to be like riding the Corkscrew and The Big One at the same time. On Tuesday night, we battled like fury and pulled off a slightly lucky - but ultimately deserved win. At Pride Park we thought we could coast it and paid the price.
The game started reasonably well, and Leeds had the better of the opening exchanges, with Poom the busier of the two goalies, and the welcome return of Lucas Radebe made the Leeds defence look slightly less frail. With just over half an hour gone, Derby conceded a pointless free kick on the right wing, and what was either one of the better free kicks or worst crosses of the year from Ian Harte found the back of the net.
Two minutes later, and the ref - who had a total 'mare - was forced to make one of the few correct decisions of the match by his assistant, who had seen Carbonari's hack as Michael Bridges headed through on goal after a dodgy back pass. Carbonari saw red, and for the rest of the half, Leeds looked like they were finally going to turn the screw.
Just before half-time, Michael Duberry was fouled - but the ref played on, and as Duberry got up to chase after the ball he went into another challenge, went down awkwardly and ended up being stretchered off as the half-time whistle blew.
Jim Smith organised his team well at half-time, and Derby didn't look like they were a man short after the break. Leeds nearly made it two, as Smith and Matteo came inches away from deflecting a shot into the goal, and twice Michael Bridges hurried himself and failed to find the target. Worryingly, Malcolm Christie was making a nuisance of himself in the Leeds half, and the fullbacks seemed to be continually drawn out of position to give Derby space. When Jim Smith decided that Christie was to be one of the three players substituted, the Derby fans didn't like it, and - as at Boro - we joined them in chanting for the head of their manager.
As happens in such circumstances, the switch worked a treat for Smith. Two minutes after coming on - and one minute after nearly doing it, Kinkladze left Ian Harte and Olivier Dacourt looking stupid and curled a shot into the far corner of the net. We'd thrown a lead against 10 men. This wasn't the last of the Derby attacks - and they started to leave themselves open as they went for a win against the odds. Leeds had a stone cold penalty turned down as a Derby defender slid in to stop a cross with both arms raised and pushed the ball away, but we never quite made it work. Eirik Bakke had spent at least 15 minutes looking exhausted, but DOL left him out there until two minutes from time, before trying his own tactical switch and bringing Stephen McPhail on. Surely against 10 men with 15 minutes to go and a goal needed, he could have made this switch earlier or - heaven forbid - brought on Darren Huckeby for a bit of headless chicken running: at least it might have confused their defenders enough to let Smith or the otherwise fairly anonymous Lee Bowyer to nip in for a goal.
The whistle blew. Two more points gone: Two points scored out of the last twelve against opposition that must be respected but which you'd still expect to see in the bottom half of the table. Probably more worrying is the fact that we're making too few chances in open play, and that Michael Bridges desperately needs to score just one goal - a deflection off his knee will do - to get some confidence this season. Duberry's injury will cause us still more problems, but no doubt we'll make do and mend before making a real push for the Worthington Cup in November :-)
And to cap it all, we had a good old-fashioned police-escorted march back taking the long route to the train station. They held us in long enough to allow any Derby fans who might have wanted to have a go to organise themselves and helpfully took us under several bridges so that the locals could drop coins on us and spit on us. The "Scab" chants at the crowd will be with us for a long time - with this back-to-the-80s attitude from the constabulary, it's hardly surprising - and the only real shock is that they didn't get the reaction from the Leeds fans that they were clearly looking for. Pillocks.
Oh dear, the euphoria of Tuesday quickly punctured.
The Derby fans in the pub in Donnington pre-game asked us to go easy on them but we reminded them we'd managed to lose to Ipswich and I'm afraid todays performance wasn't much better than that one. Lucas back for Mills otherwise same team as Milan.
Towards the start it looked like it could be an easy game - Derby were giving the ball away at regular intervals but we weren't doing much with the possession ourselves and their confidence grew. They should have scored when a free header went over from 6 yards and nearly did when Harte gave the ball away and Christie's first time shot was well saved by Martyn. At this point we'd made few chances, the full-backs were getting plenty of space but we seemed to just get stuck 35 yards from goal.
Then the game looked to change on half an hour, a free-kick on the right which Harte swung in and it flew into the top corner. I think it may have been something of a fluke, one of those where he was looking for a header and hit it to high; but with Harte at 14-1 with Bluesq I wasn't complaining. We were still celebrating when Bridges ran through onto a poor back pass and was brought down from behind. After talking to the linesmen the ref eventually sent Carbonari off and Harte blasted the free-kick into the wall.
Only other thing of note to happen in the half was Duberry appearing to land on his head just before h-t, he got up after treatment but soon crumpled in a heap and was stretchered off as the rest of the team left the pitch. During half-time Paul Cadd got all the pies - so we've decided to let him have Gav's away season ticket for the rest of the year (while Gav researches obscure Celtic words).
Second-half Mills replaces Duberry. At this point a team that can beat Milan should use the numerical advantage to spread the ball around and control the game, except we didn't. We lacked width and the ability to keep hold of the ball, maybe this was the time to bring McPhail on and use his passing ability in a 4-4-2. The game stayed pretty even, Martyn made a wonderful save to tip Burton's shot onto the bar and down our end Bowyers cross was touched by Smith, missed by Matteo and bounced back off the post.
It looked like we'd get away with our poor performance as Derby took off their best player Christie, to initiate Smith Out chants from the Derby fans, who as ever had been noisy throughout. Unfortunately Kinkladze was one of the subs and soon nipped between Harte and Dacourt and curled the ball into the far corner and Jim Smith's popularity soared. We could still have won the game, Bridges collected an overhit cross, cut inside and his shot was nearly caught by the defender but the ref failed to give the penalty. Bridges then skipped past a couple of defenders on the edge of the box and having done the difficult bit blasted over with the keeper to beat. McPhail came on for Bakke with a minute left. Hmm.
Should have won. Didn't.
Ref - Terrible. Needed linesmen help before sending Carbonari off, plenty of mistakes on throw-in / corner decisions and didn't use the advantage law well.
BTW - On the way home a real Leeds fan who thought we'd been playing Coventry phoned into 606 to complain about how the Arsenal fans were moaning about Wenger. "You won't find any Leeds fans having a go at O'Leary after a couple of poor results". Obviously not a lister then.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 25/09/2000.
As a test of endurance the Premiership has got Leeds United huffing and puffing like a marathon runner developing cramp after the first couple of miles. Unless David O'Leary's team can build up a new head of steam they are in danger of hitting the proverbial wall.
In the past three weeks his team have picked up two points from 12 - against Manchester City, Coventry, Ipswich and now Derby, clubs for whom preserving top-flight status is anything but a foregone conclusion.
For Leeds, facing a team who have yet to win this season, this should have been as routine as they come once Ian Harte had scored from a free-kick, the more so after Derby's Horacio Carbonari was dismissed a minute later.
Copy from The Independent of 24/09/2000.
Two minutes were all it took for Georgi Kinkladze to make his point to his manager and at the same time earn Derby County a point and keep them off the foot of the Premiership.
The gifted Georgian started this game on the bench, having been dropped after his efforts in the Worthington Cup in midweek, but after 73 minutes Jim Smith made what he would call an inspired substitution, and others a desperate last throw of the dice.
Only instants later the former Manchester City and Ajax midfielder, who had come on as part of a triple substitution, ghosted past the Leeds defence and curled his shot past Nigel Martyn with sublime ease from near the byline. There was still time for Dominic Matteo and Michael Bridges to spurn good chances to win the match for Leeds, although that would have been harsh given Kinkladze's late offering.
What was harsh, however, was the injury to the defender Michael Duberry, a suspected ruptured Achilles tendon. The Leeds manager, David O'Leary, reflected later: "It's sad, and it's probably him out until next season. The lad was playing well." O'Leary felt his players were tired four days after playing Milan and added: "It was a point gained today, but the team looked tired. It's what the Champions' League does to you."
On the basis of the first half-hour O'Leary was right, but things took a turn for the better after 34 minutes. From a seemingly innocuous position, even for the left foot of Ian Harte, the full-back curled a wondrous 35-yard shot from out by the touchline straight into Mart Poom's top right-hand corner.
Suddenly Derby, who lost their Cup game against West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday, were in disarray and Leeds, who beat Milan in midweek, broke forward again. The last line of defence, Horacio Carbonari, tangled with Bridges on the edge of the Derby penalty box and after the assistant referee had alerted the referee, Carbonari was sent off to complete an unhappy week for the Argentinian, who was dismissed against West Brom. From the free-kick Harte, looking for his second goal, sent his effort against the wall and wide.
That dismissal was the cue for the game to take on a more cynical aspect, as bookings then followed for Leeds' Ian Bowyer and Olivier Dacourt. However it also brought Derby to life; hitherto they had struggled to make headway against a Leeds defence that featured the fit-again Lucas Radebe, 10 days after he picked up a neck injury against Barcelona. But just before the break Duberry, under no pressure, fell awkwardly and was stretchered off.
Despite that disastrous 60-second period in the first half, Deon Burton fired a warning shot across Leeds' bows just four minutes after the restart. The Jamaican striker went at the visitors' defence, which had lost Duberry at half-time, and from 20 yards saw his curling shot tipped by Martyn on to the post.
But, in turn, Leeds then fought back to hit Derby's woodwork, leaving the Rams lucky in the extreme not to go further behind. Bowyer slid in a cross from the right but despite Alan Smith and Matteo running in, neither could get a touch before the ball hit the post and was cleared. Having enjoyed the luck in midweek when the Milan goalkeeper, Dida, fumbled the ball into his own net to gift Leeds their victory, here was proof that O'Leary's side were not having it all their own way, and Duberry's injury was further evidence of that.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 24/09/2000.
The comeback kings struck again yesterday as Derby, a goal and a man down, came back to claim a point. Leeds proved unable to make their superiority tell but, given their recent results, that will have surprised no one.
Leeds have not had the perfect start to their season, as their home defeats to Manchester City and Ipswich proved, but they have not been without their moments - just ask Milan, despatched pointless from Elland Road in midweek.
They had been struggling for goals and would have seen this encounter, against the Premiership's leakiest defence, as a lip-smacking opportunity to right that wrong. But if the form book promised a goal feast, the first half-hour served up a meagre ration.
Copy from SportLive of 23/09/2000.
SportLive is no longer operational. Should it return to the web, this report will be removed and the link restored.
Georgi Kinkladze came off the bench to heal the wounds Leeds defender Ian Harte inflicted by firing home a 35-yard free-kick. Kinkladze's first goal of the season preventing his side from plunging to the foot of the Premiership.
Pride Park was prepared for the worst when Harte beat Mart Poom with his scintillating shot 11 minutes from half-time.
Horacio Carbonari's sending off just a minute later was a further setback from which Derby seemed destined not to recover.
A goal behind and down to 10 men, the writing was seemingly on the wall. But Jim Smith is always game for a gamble.
With 16 minutes remaining he brought on Kinkladze, Dean Sturridge and Chris Riggott to replace Otto Bragstad, Malcolm Christie and Stefano Eranio and miraculously within two minutes his inspired intervention had worked a treat.
Kinkladze gained possession to the right of the Leeds penalty area, sold a couple of dummies and unleashed a strike that rocketed inside the far post.
Of all the memorable goals he has scored, few have been more important.
Fresh from the win over AC Milan, Leeds were expected to lead the Rams to the slaughter. Beat the mighty Milan and the anticipation is you will beat everybody, especially opponents yet to win a Premiership match this season.
First Division West Bromwich Albion made a bad opening to the campaign even worse for Smith's men by inflicting a 2-1 Worthington Cup defeat at Pride Park on the same night as Leeds were beating the Italians. Derby clearly faced an unenviable fight.
Leeds' Premiership form, however, is not easily predictable. Defeats at home to Manchester City and Ipswich tested both manager O'Leary and the Elland Road faithful's patience.
Slow out of the blocks and never coming close to reaching their formidable potential, Leeds never quite did enough to win. But Derby remained defiantly belligerent to the end.
The Rams served warning of their danger when former Manchester United youngster Danny Higginbotham sent over a superb cross from the left into the Leeds penalty area which defender Bragstad headed over.
Then Deon Burton spurned two chances in rapid succession. A well-struck volley from Christie's astute pass went over Nigel Martyn's bar before another solid shot by the Jamaican international striker was turned round the post by the England goalkeeper.
Derby were quickly made to pay for failing to take these opportunities.
When Eirik Bakke was fouled outside the Derby penalty area and near the touchline the immediate threat was not apparent. But Republic of Ireland international Harte knows how to strike a free-kick and has rarely struck one better.
Two minutes later Derby were in turmoil when Carbonari received his marching orders for the second game in succession, having also been red-carded in his side's humiliation by West Brom.
Referee Barry Knight, after consultation with one of his assistants, penalised the Argentinian for upending Michael Bridges just outside Derby's penalty area.
Leeds defender Michael Duberry, linked up again with Lucas Radebe, who showed no ill-effects of the neck injury he sustained in the Champions League, but this time it was the former Chelsea man who suffered, being taken off on a stretcher with an Achilles injury.
The visitors were not fazed, Lee Bowyer offering a low cross which both Alan Smith and Dominic Matteo failed to connect with, the ball coming back off the post.
Drive quietly round Leeds on Monday, don't slam any doors and if you could kindly keep your voices down David O'Leary would be very grateful.
The Leeds manager is putting up the 'Do not disturb' signs in a bid to revive his wilting players ahead of Tuesday night's Champions League clash with the Turks of Besiktas.
"It's all about trying to freshen people up, and doing as little as possible," said O'Leary.
"That's all you can do. We have to wrap them in cotton wool."
And this Pride Park performance provided a vivid illustration of the depth of Leeds' fatigue as they failed to hang on to their 1-0 lead against a Derby side reduced to 10 men for the final hour after defender Horacio Carbonari was sent off for the second time in four days.
To add to Leeds' woes Michael Duberry joined their ever-lengthening sick parade with a ruptured achilles tendon that is likely to rule him out for the rest of the season.
"We could certainly have done without that," said O'Leary. "As soon as we get somebody back another one seems to go down. We're down to the bare bones at the centre of defence.
"But even if we had not got all these injuries we haven't got a big enough squad yet to get by in the Champions League and the Premiership.
"We got a marvellous three points against Milan, but it surprised me that the game took so much out of my players.
"If we'd been away to Istanbul or somewhere I could understand it, but I thought we'd be fresher afterwards.
"Now we have got another difficult game on Tuesday. I've seen Besiktas play and they'll be tough.
"But this is what you strive for and you've got to accept that when you get into the Champions League the games come hard and fast.
"It puts demands on you and it makes it harder to qualify for the Champions League again next season - but it is a good learning process."
With an Olympian effort needed, Leeds could have the very man back in their ranks tomorrow night - Mark Viduka having finally returned from the Sydney Games.
Derby have injury problems of their own as they continue their search for their first victory of the season. But their 10-man point-saving effort proves there is no lack of spirit at Pride Park.
Ian Harte's superb curling 40-yard shot proved a real kick in the teeth for Jim Smith's side and the veteran boss was coming in for stick from the fans as his team failed to convert several chances to equalise.
But wily old Jim got it right again - throwing on three subs and seeing one of them, Georgi Kinkladze doing the trick within a minute of his arrival on the pitch.
Smith was jeered by supporters for taking off top scorer Malcolm Christie, who seemed to be Derby's biggest threat.
But Smith said: "Christie had a virus. He was shattered and he asked to come off."
The Bald Eagle also laughed off chants of "sack Smith" that began midway through the second half. "It wasn't too bad because it was the Leeds fans chanting," said Smith. "They were just being a little bit naughty."
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 25/09/2000.
ONE of life's imponderables concerns how a team like Leeds United, having beaten a European giant in AC Milan only four days previously, could fail to overcome a team like Derby County, even when holding all the aces.
A goal up and, numerically, a man up at half-time, it was surely only a matter of consolidation for Leeds for them to breeze away from Pride Park with their heads held high.
The reason for their failure to do so is best explained by the likeable and admirable Derby boss Jim Smith, an old-school manager who has been there, done it and wears the shirt.
"You see," said Jim, "there is so much at stake in the game, particularly this season in view of the megabucks through television rights next year. Survival in the Premiership is everything to everybody and teams like Leeds will find that their every game is a cup final.
"Clubs must, repeat must, remain among the elite and that is why on Saturday nine games are played in the Premiership and there is not a single home victory among them.
"It used to be that the big teams built fortresses of their home grounds, instilling fear into all-comers and winning championships on the basis of what they did in their own back yards.
"Not now. There is no fear of opponents. The real fear is for survival."
Gentleman Jim went on: "I was proud, really proud, of the way we battled back from adversity and, in the end, I thought we had done enough to shade it."
Ian Harte's first-half wonder goal was cancelled out by substitute Giorgi Kinkladze, leaving United manager David O'Leary to lament: "There are a lot of tired bodies in the dressing room. That's what involvement in the Champions League can do to you.
"But I thought it was a point gained rather than two lost because of the way we played. We had a few chances but we didn't play particularly well."
Skipper Lucas Radebe was back for his first taste of action since his knockout blow in the Champions League defeat in Barcelona in the only change to the team which beat AC Milan.
That meant a relegation for Danny Mills to the bench, where he was joined by fit-again Stephen McPhail, though Mills was called into second-half action after Michael Duberry suffered so bad an Achilles tendon injury that he is likely to be out for the rest of the season.
Derby were seeking their first victory of the season and United were looking for their first Premiership victory in four outings.
Neither keeper was troubled in a tentative opening 10 minutes and the first decision for referee Knight to make was to yellow-card Stefano Eranio for a crunching tackle on Ian Harte.
When Smith tried a left-foot drive which whistled past the far post things were livening up. Bridges was checked by Bragstad out on the left on 19 minutes and Poom was emphatic with his punch to safety from Bowyer's free-kick.
Derby had a fine chance in the 31st minute when Christie juggled the ball before passing over the top to Burton, whose first-time shot flashed narrowly over. Then Christie's snapshot had Martyn sprawling to turn it for a corner.
They had cause to regret the misses because in the 33rd minute, after Bakke had been fouled, Harte, miles out on the right, let loose a left-foot free-kick which sailed into the far top corner with Poom rooted to the spot.
A minute later Horacio Carbonari scythed down Bridges on the edge of the box and could have no complaints, as the last man in defence, when he was sent off. It was his second successive dismissal following his early bath in the Worthington Cup home defeat by West Bromwich Albion.
Harte's blasted free-kick cannoned off the wall for a corner.
As the second half got underway Mills took the ball off the threatening Christie's toes and when Leeds came forward Bowyer's tantalising cross was met by the sliding Smith and as it hit the post Matteo was unable to turn in the rebound.
Bridges, put through by Harte, tried his luck but his shot bobbled wide, and when Bakke battled well to win the ball for Harte the full-back's shot screamed just over.
Leeds had a fine chance to extend their lead on 71 minutes, but Matteo's header from Bowyer's precise cross didn't have enough power behind it. With 18 minutes left Derby made a triple substitution, with Sturridge, Kinkladze and Riggott on for Christie, Eranio and Bragstad.
And within three minutes Derby were level, Kinkladze taking a pass from Sturridge in his stride before firing his shot across Martyn and into the far corner.
Matteo threaded his pass through to Bridges, giving him a glorious opportunity nine minutes from time. But anything that can go wrong for the striker at the moment invariably does and his shot towards the far top corner drifted agonisingly wide.
Champions League ambitions remain intact for Leeds, but successive failures to beat Manchester City, Coventry, Ipswich and Derby in the only league that really matters are profoundly worrying.
Nigel Martyn: Critical super saves 8
Gary Kelly: Toiling 6
Lucas Radebe: Satisfactory comeback 7
Michael Duberry: Injury agony 7
Ian Harte: Wonder goal 7
Eirik Bakke: Faded 6
Olivier Dacourt: Battled away 7
Lee Bowyer: Action man 7
Dominic Matteo: Solid effort 7
Alan Smith: Woodwork sickener 7
Michael Bridges: Badly needs a goal 7
Danny Mills: For Duberry, 46
Stephen McPhail: For Bakke, 88
Subs not used: Huckerby, Robinson, Jones
Mart Poom: Beaten from distance 7
Horacio Carbonari: Bad boy 6
Otto Bragstad: Taken out 6
Stefan Schnoor: Good competitor 7
Danny Higginbotham: Good all over 8
Stefano Eranio: Wayward 6
Simo Valkari: Moderate 6
Craig Burley: Poor distribution 6
Seth Johnson: Hard-edged 7
Deon Burton: Industrious 7
Malcolm Christie: Lively 7
Chris Riggott: For Bragstad, 72
Giorgi Kinkladze: For Eranio, 72
Dean Sturridge: For Christie, 7
Subs not used: Jackson, Grant.
REFEREE: Mr B Knight (Orpington).
BOOKINGS: Eranio, Burton (derby); Dacourt, Bowyer (United).
SENT OFF: Carbonari (Derby).
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The views expressed and hosted on this site belong entirely to their individual authors.