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Leeds United 6, Besiktas JK 0
Champions League, Phase 1 Group H
After beating AC Milan 1-0 United had only managed a 1-1 draw at Derby County, and United had slid down to tenth in the Premier League, but back on Champions League duty United responded magnificently with a 6-0 annihilation of Besiktas at Elland Road with Lee Bowyer, Mark Viduka, Dominic Matteo, Eirik Bakke and Darren Huckerby on the scoresheet in an almost faultless display, to head the Group from AC Milan who had won 2-0 at Barcelona. Besiktas were not the world-class opposition that the stars of Barcelona and AC Milan had provided but never-the-less any team that could beat Barcelona 3-0 had to be respected. United, with Lucas Radebe back for Michael Duberry and Mark Viduka back for Michael Bridges, looked a more potent threat and so it turned out as United showed Besiktas little respect and hammered them 6-0.
Power-play of the greatest ferocity, intensity and explosive dynamism propelled Leeds United into a European night to rank among their greatest. They simply swept aside a token Turkish challenge with a display which planted them firmly on top of Group H at the halfway stage and would have sent reverberations around the continent. Leeds were the talk of the tournament, not merely because they had turned the most difficult group of all on its head but more because of the clinical, merciless way in which the finished off a wooden outfit, which long before the end, looked very sorry indeed. How could they have beaten Barcelona 3-0? How could Leeds have lost 4-0 to Barcelona? It was a very strange quartet and with Leeds crushing the Turks and with AC Milan winning 2-0 at the Nou Camp, it was getting stranger by the night.
On that particular evening Besiktas were like lambs to the slaughter. It was all over bar the shouting after only twenty-two minutes, by which time Leeds were already 3-0 up against a team that was playing on English soil for the first time in seventeen years. Before the kick-off each Turkish player had presented a bouquet of flowers to the crowd in memory of the two Leeds fans who had been so tragically murdered in Turkey the previous April. After Miroslav Karhan had let loose a twenty-yard drive that was too close for comfort, United were stung into action and went ahead after only seven minutes. Ian Harte crossed and, after Alan Smith had failed to connect, Lee Bowyer was there to tuck the ball home for his fifth of the season. Mark Viduka should have increased the lead three minutes later, but he shot too close to the keeper who was able to push it over the bar. He made full amends in the twelfth minute when he planted a firm header past Ike Shoronmu from a perfect Gary Kelly cross to score his first competitive goal for the club.
United were now rampant and the Turks in total disarray but on eighteen minutes they were given a reminder of the Turks reputed ability when Pascal Nouma crossed from the left but Ahmet Dursan shot straight at Nigel Martyn from eight yards. The reply was a stinging long range shot from Mark Viduka which the keeper had to tip over for a corner and from the flag-kick United went three up after twenty-two minutes. Olivier Dacourt’s cross from the right caused mayhem in the Turkish defence and with players queueing up for the final touch, it was Dominic Matteo who succeeded to register his first goal for the club. Besiktas still had the odd moment of menace with Lucas Radebe making a timely tackle after twenty-nine minutes when Uzulmez Ibrahim and Ahmet Dursan combined and then Ibrahim shot woefully wide ten minutes before the interval. United came back and Dominic Matteo headed against a post and Lucas Radebe was only just wide from the rebound
Six minutes into the second half Eirik Bakke danced down the right wing and sent over a perfect cross for Alan Smith, but he put a simple header wide. Ahmet Dursun should have scored at the other end but Nigel Martyn saved with his legs, then Uzulmet Ibrahim played in Bozkurt Umit, but he shot wide. Eirik Bakke was the next Leeds player to register his first goal for Leeds after Alan Smith had played in Mark Viduka and the big Aussie squared the ball into the path of the Norwegian who blasted the ball home at the near post in the sixty-fifth minute. Yellow cards were issued to Alan Smith and Pascal Nouma in separate incidents but it meant both would miss the return game in Turkey. United sent on the speedy Darren Huckerby to take advantage of the Turks’ tired legs with ten minutes to go and it soon bore fruit. Eirik Bakke was denied when the keeper saved his header at the expense of a corner but from Lee Bowyer’s flag-kick Ian Harte headed on and substitute Darren Huckerby swivelled to bury his shot in the far corner to make it 5-0 in the final minute. In injury time Huckerby weaved some magic down the left before crossing to the far post where Lee Bowyer was ready and waiting to gobble up the chance to make it 6-0 and seal an emphatic victory.
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Besiktas were like human practice cones.
Won’t see the like again for many years if ever.