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The margins are so fine in football.
The saying goes - "If 'If's and 'And's were pots and pans there'd be no need for tinkers"
what IF Koller had scored into an unguarded net soon after we'd equalised ? What IF Matteo had actually tried to do something ? What if Bowyer's taxi had broken down on the M62 ? What if Martyn hadn't made that smart save down to his left in injury time ? What IF Leeds had lost ? What IF Cantona had stayed ? What if there hadn't been any monkeys - who would we have all descended from?
With 25 minutes to go Anderlecht pinched a goal. It was an excellent goal too. Full of movement and skill. Martyn, along with his defenders, stood and admired it. It was the sort of goal we used to score.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 14/02/2001.
It could hardly have been scripted. Two months without Champions League activity appeared to have dulled the senses of Leeds United here last night before they hauled themselves back to the brink of further European glory in the most extraordinary of circumstances.
Not only did David O'Leary's side enhance their ambitions of a quarter-final place by recovering from a goal down with barely a quarter of an hour left to play but the winner was converted three minutes from time by, of all people, Lee Bowyer.
Along with Jonathan Woodgate, one of his co-accused at Hull crown court, Bowyer had been driven the 60 miles or so along the M62 to remain in O'Leary's plans. And when Bowyer surged into the penalty area to collect Alan Smith's pass and rifle an angled shot beneath Zvonko Milojevic the explosion of relief inside Elland Road was almost drowned out by the shouts of "rewrite" in the press box.
Copy from The Independent of 14/02/2001.
Lee Bowyer's angled winner with three minutes remaining, his fifth goal in this season's Champions' League, earned Leeds United an unlikely but no less thrilling victory over a superior Anderlecht outfit as Europe's premier tournament brought its heady blend of drama and suspense back to Elland Road last night.
Almost exactly five hours after dashing by car from Hull, where he is appearing in court, Bowyer raced on to Alan Smith's through-ball with Didier Dheedene desperately trying to force him wide. But the Leeds midfielder, who had secured the decisive goal against Milan at a similar stage during the first round, managed to steer his shot back across goal and through Zvonko Milojevic's legs into the far corner.
Remarkably, Bowyer is now the leading scorer among players still involved in the competition. However, the serious charges he faces mean that he would not have been present for next Wednesday's return fixture in Brussels even if he had avoided the suspension incurred by his stoppage-time booking.
Bowyer's intervention, which came minutes after a dreadful, clumsy miss by Jan Koller, who scooped a free shot high over the bar, was greeted by a mixture of rapture and relief. Leeds had faced another home flop when they fell behind to Alin Stoica's beautifully worked 65th-minute goal. Yet they stunned the Belgian leaders within nine minutes when Ian Harte's sweetly struck free-kick from 25 yards squeezed past the goalkeeper on his near post.
A Leeds "double" would eliminate Anderlecht and leave Lazio needing to win their last three Group D games to have any chance of advancing. It will be no formality: Aime Anthuenis' side have won their last 10 European home games and their record in Brussels this season reads: played 20, won 20.
On Leeds' last visit to Anderlecht, under Jimmy Armfield's managership, Billy Bremner's winner confirmed their passage to the semi-finals in 1975. David O'Leary's side can not claim to possess the class of Bremner and company, but they share one trait: a refusal to accept defeat.
Leeds were often outclassed but never outfought. Anthuenis' ploy of pushing Stoica, a Romanian international, forward in support of the front two befuddled Leeds, who were chasing shadows as early as the eighth minute. Bertrand Crasson's cross not only evaded Koller and Nigel Martyn but also Bart Goor as he slid in a second late at the far post.
Ironically, despite his difficult circumstances, many of their better moments stemmed from the industry of Boywer, though David Batty increasingly asserted his experience. While Smith and Mark Viduka showed only occasional signs of an understanding, the former's neat touch under pressure did allow the Australian to swivel and put in a shot which Milojevic did well to push behind.
The aerial threat of the 6ft 7in Koller who can not have impressed the watching Sunderland manager, Peter Reid -- went largely unfulfilled. Rio Ferdinand and Lucas Radebe played him well, but had more trouble policing the darting runs the diminutive Tomasz Radzinski.
When Leeds' flatness persisted at the start of the second half, O'Leary summoned Harry Kewell from the bench. With virtually his first touch, a powerful shot which Milojevic beat aside, he lifted fans and colleagues alike. The tempo immediately increased. Milojevic clawed a Kewell cross from beneath his bar, while Bowyer claimed a was rightly denied a penalty.
It was Anderlecht who made the breakthrough after a build-up brimming with deft touches and fluid movement. Stoica ran at the defence before finding Goor, whose back-heeled return carried the former into the Leeds box. Stoica's calm, low finish from 10 yards reflected his team's overall ascendancy.
Such matters cut little ice with Leeds, though, and the finishing prowess of Harte and Bowyer, allied to Martyn's fine last-minute save from Radzinski, means that a season characterised by O'Leary as "frustrating and indifferent" is still replete with possibilities.
"Luck played a part," sighed a philosophical Anthuenis afterwards. "Long may this adventure continue," beamed his Leeds counterpart.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 14/02/2001.
HOW do aeroplanes stay up there? How do tortoises procreate? How do budgerigars sleep?
And how, on earth, do Leeds keep scaling the heights against the dream teams of Europe as though they were some minor impediment on a purposeful journey?
The Belgian champions went the same way as Italian giants AC Milan and Lazio at Elland Road.
The bigger the reputation of the opposition the bigger the performance from Leeds and if, after an hour or so of satisfaction, Anderlecht thought they had got this all taped then they could not have been more mistaken.
They reckoned without two of United's most portent forces; the deadly accuracy of (most of) Ian Harte's free-kicks and the uncanny predatory instincts of Lee Bowyer.
Allied to a compelling, raw-edged midfield performance from David Batty, the extraordinary talent of Harry Kewell and the assuredness of central defenders Lucas Radebe and Rio Ferdinand, these were insuperable strengths.
By reputation perpetual fallers by the wayside on their travels, Anderlecht gave no hint of those propensities and with high-speed, one-touch football often threatened to navigate a way through.
Too often, though, they failed to deliver on what they had promised and were left bitterly regretting their obsequiousness.
After four minutes Bowyer had time to line himself up for a volley following good work on the left by Matteo, but his effort dipped well over the bar.
Batty scythed down Goor 25 yards from goal but Dheeden's free-kick came off the wall for Stoica to lash in a shot which Martyn held.
United had a lucky let off on nine minutes when Crasson's low cross from the right was missed first by Koller and then by the sliding-in Goor.
Smith got in a good header from Dacourt's free-kick but Milojevic, diving to his right, saved well.
Smith's little flicked headers were becoming a feature as United gradually found their stride and he won their first corner on 16 minutes, though Bowyer's cross was readily cleared.
Next, Smith floored strike partner Viduka as they clashed when contesting Bowyer's free-kick from the right.
Some clever work by Batty on the edge of the area looked promising, and he cut the ball back for Harte to lash in a drive from distance which Milojevic saw late and did well to save at the foot of a post.
Smith worked hard to release the ball to Viduka, whose shot was turned for a corner, and when Bowyer's cross came over Matteo was not far away with a decent header.
Stoica's speculative effort from wide on the left on the half-hour was always drifting wide, then Dacourt's free-kick drifted harmlessly over as honours remained even.
Radebe was in smartly to whip the ball off Goor's toes as he shaped to shoot then Ferdinand stumbled in a race with Radzinski, whose finish was poor.
An intricate move on the edge of the box ended with a Vanderhaeghe shot which Martyn handled comfortably and when play switched to the other end Matteo laid on a glorious ball for Viduka, whose skied finish was dreadful. After a promising start the game gradually lost its shape and the half-time stalemate was an accurate reflection of the paucity of clear-cut chances.
After the break De Boeck courted trouble with three successive clearances which were over-casual and when Vanderhaeghe was guilty of the same Viduka was presented with a chance which he hit tamely at Milojevic.
A huge roar greeted Kewell's entry from the bench just nine minutes into the second half and he announced his arrival with a drive to the near post which Milojevic had to be alert to keep out.
Kewell had a quiet word with Crasson after the Belgian gave him a nasty nudge and next there were vain appeals for a United penalty when Bowyer went down in the area.
Anderlecht were ahead against the run of play on 65 minutes when Goor and Stoica played a neat one-two and Romanian international Stoica calmly picked his spot from 10 yards.
The Belgians, cock-a-hoop, embarked on a sustained period of possession football having poached the advantage, but when United broke free on 74 minutes they were level.
Harte carefully weighed up his free-kick from 25 yards before unleashing a fierce drive into the near bottom corner, leaving Milojevic clutching thin air.
Radzinski's cross only just eluded the giant Koller when the Belgians broke nine minutes from time, and when they repeated the raid a minute later Koller got his angles all wrong and ballooned the ball over.
They were two fine chances and United were living dangerously.
But they stole it four minutes from the end when Vanderhaeghe stumbled, De Boeck hesitated and Smith nipped in between to find Bowyer running on.
Bowyer, despite his awkward angle, fired the ball across Milojevic and into the far corner to send Elland Road into raptures.
Bassegio's shot was brilliantly turned round the post by Martyn in injury time and the victory was assured.
Said United manager David O'Leary: "Poor defending by us led to us giving a goal away and he has simply walked the ball into the net. It shocked us and we went a bit flat after that and so did the crowd.
"They took the heat out of the game and it took us a while to get going again, but we got the momentum going again, with the spark came from a wonderful free-kick, and we went on from there.
"It lifted us and it was game on again and I'm just so delighted for Lee Bowyer.
"When the free-kick went in we had been mugged at the other end. It came out of the blue. You've always got a chance of scoring a goal with the side I've got and I keep impressing on them the need to keep clean sheets in Europe.
"Anderlecht are a good side. I didn't think there was going to be much in it and there wasn't but it's nice to beat them."