Competition: English Premier League.
Referee: Mr G. Poll (Tring, Hertfordshire).
It was getting to the time of the year when everyone looked forward to opening the contents of Santa’s sack, and Terry Venables could now look forward to his Christmas without having to worry about a sack of a different nature. Once again indifferent and inconsistent form had left United facing the now not uncommon situation of knowing that defeat would have left them level on points with their opponents, deep in the relegation mire.
It may not have been an exhibition of free-flowing football, and it may not have been as clear-cut as the score-line suggests but the victory at Reebok Stadium was the perfect early Christmas present for United’s under-fire boss. A 3-0 win over strugglers is not normally the kind of result on which a season turns but it was to be hoped that the win might act as a catalyst for a sustained upturn in fortune for Venables’ side. Any win would have been acceptable after a run of just one success in eleven from the previous league games, but there were plenty of positives to take from a much improved United performance.
There was general passion and desire for a
start. Much had been written about how much
Leeds were helped by two screaming goals, Danny Mills and Jason Wilcox would not score better ones if they tried all season, and an inspired penalty save from Paul Robinson, but were worthy winners in the end. There was no need to get too carried away, Bolton were mediocre at best and, at times decidedly poor, but Leeds finally showed how far old-fashioned effort could take them in a modern game supposedly so far removed from such prosaic values.
Terry Venables might have guessed his luck was in when he was handed a late boost before the kick-off with Australian International Harry Kewell shaking off a virus to partner Robbie Fowler in a makeshift attack. There was no place for Lee Bowyer though, with the United midfielder relegated to the bench with an ankle injury amidst the furore that followed his stamp on Malaga midfielder Gerardo’s head during the recent UEFA Cup tie at Elland Road.
Leeds endured a nervous opening ten minutes as Youri Djorkaeff tested Paul Robinson with an early strike, before Nigerian midfielder Jay Jay Okocha was given the time to dance his way to the edge of the box before also firing a shot straight at the United custodian. The Whites desperately needed a confidence-booster after their recent loosing run and, when it arrived it came from the most unlikely of sources.
Danny Mills, without a goal since scoring
against former club Charlton Athletic exactly fifteen months previous, set off
on a barnstorming run from the halfway line and played an intricate one-two
with Harry Kewell before curling a wonderful
left-footer past Jussi Jaaskelainen
from twenty yards after twelve minutes. The
That was good for United but they were in
wonderland just four minute later when poor defending from Jussi
Jaaskelainen and Bruno Ngotty
handed them a two goal advantage. Ian Harte floated
in an innocuous looking ball towards goal but the duo both misjudged its flight
as it bounced against the far upright. Harry Kewell
was the first to react to the rebound and, while Jaaskelainen
recovered to parry his close-range header, Robbie Fowler was on hand to prod
home his ninth goal against
“We’re going to win the league” sang the
Leeds were having to fight tooth and nail at
the back to keep out the intelligent runs of Youri Djoerkaeff and Jay Jay Okocha, but they continued to threaten at the other end
with Gary Kelly shooting narrowly over after twisting and turning on the edge
of the box. For once the boos at half-time had nothing to do with Leeds, and
the mood of the home fans almost worsened in the early stages of the second
half as Gary Kelly flashed a dangerous cross-shot across the Bolton goal. Youri Djorkaeff saw another
penalty appeal turned down after a theatrical tumble shortly afterwards and, as
There seemed little on when Jason Wilcox picked up Gary Kelly’s pass on the left touchline, but he cut inside on to his right foot before dispatching an unstoppable twenty-five yarder into the top right-hand corner. It was Jason Wilcox’s first goal for two-and-a half years and was a fitting reward for the midfielder’s best display of the season.
Danny Mills sets off on his run down the wing and then unleashes the shot that gave United the lead
Danny Mills turns after scoring and shows his joy
Jonathan Woodgate is first to congratulate Danny Mills, with Jason Wilcox, Ian Harte and Teddy Lucic close behind watched by
Terry Venables and Brian Kidd
Robbie Fowler salutes his success from the penalty spot Harry Kewell and Robbie Fowler celebrate watched by
Ivan Campo and Gudni Bergsson
Erik Bakke joins the celebrations as Per Frandsen and Stig Tofting commiserate
Harry Kewell and Robbie Fowler celebrate
Jason Wilcox lets fly for the third goal and then turns and celebrates
Jason Wilcox is congratulated by Paul Okon and then Harry Kewell
Jason Wilcox celebrates his goal before being mobbed by Harry Kewell, Jonathan Woodgate,
Paul Okon, Robbie Fowler and Ian Harte
Harry Kewell, Jonathan Woodgate, Paul Okon, Robbie Teddy Lucic, Harry Kewell, Jonathan Woodgate, Jason Wilcox, Robbie Fowler,
Fowler and Ian Harte celebrate with Jason Wilcox. Danny Mills and Ian Harte celebrate
Eirik Bakke gets a grip on Per Frandsen Ian Harte is adjudged to have handled in the box
Youri Djorkaeff’s penalty is saved as Danny Mills, Gary Kelly and Teddy Lucic watch
Harry Kewell rounds Bruno N’Gotty
Ian Harte cuts inside Per Frandsen
Gary Kelly, Teddy Lucic, Harry Kewell, Harry Kewell goes close
Robbie Fowler, congratulate Jason Wilcox
Terry Venables has something to smile about
Paul Okon closes in on Youri Djorkaeff
Mills, Robbie Fowler and Jason Wilcox scored the
Harry Kewell had a hand in two goals Ian Harte’s cross resulted Gary Kelly started the move
in a goal for the third goal
Paul Robinson saved a penalty Lee Bowyer was relegated to the bench Gudni Bergsson came into the back-line
Gareth Farrelly, Jonathan Walters and ex-Leeds player Mike Whitlow came on as substitutes