Liverpool were once left spellbound by Leeds’ wizard from Oz and as they head back to Elland Road tonight, we remember Mark Viduka’s FOUR-midable display in an epic clash that went down in Premier League folklore
- Leeds United take on Liverpool in the Premier League at Elland Road tonight
- It evokes memories of Mark Viduka’s incredible four-goal scoring feat in 2000
- Australian striker ripped Liverpool to shreds to earn Leeds an unexpected win
- Seven-goal thriller saw David O’Leary’s side twice come back from behind
- Two classy goals in the space of a couple of minutes saw Viduka win the game
Mark Viduka didn’t enjoy the most auspicious start to life as a Leeds United player.
Bought from Celtic for £6million in the summer of 2000, the Australian’s integration into David O’Leary’s youthful and ambitious squad was first delayed by work permit complications.
Chairman Peter Ridsdale blamed the morass of red tape on the fact the 24-year-old hadn’t played regularly enough for Australia over the previous two years.
Mark Viduka is mobbed by his Leeds team-mates during their epic 4-3 win over Liverpool
The Australian striker carries off the match ball after an unstoppable display in a 4-3 thriller
An irony then that within weeks of Viduka’s arrival at Elland Road, he was jetting off 10,500 miles to the other side of the globe to represent his country at the Sydney Olympics.
O’Leary wasn’t at all happy at the interruption early in a campaign in which Leeds were expected to push Manchester United for the Premier League title and were also in the Champions League.
Viduka’s absence saw him miss red-letter occasions against Barcelona and AC Milan.
At least Australia bombed out early, losing all three games, and Viduka shook off the jet lag with five goals in three matches upon his return.
Leeds and Liverpool meet at Elland Road on Monday night but it’ll have to go some to match the November 2000 classic. Pictured is Steven Gerrard (centre) taking on Olivier Dacourt (left) and Eirik Bakke (right) of Leeds
But it wasn’t until one sun-dappled Saturday afternoon at the start of November that Viduka finally won a place in the hearts of the Leeds faithful.
His astonishing four-goal haul in a thrilling 4-3 win over Liverpool, in a match everyone expected O’Leary’s side to lose comfortably, won an instant place in Premier League folklore.
If tonight’s fixture between the two sides in West Yorkshire is half as good, we’re in for a real treat.
Two decades ago, hopes of keeping pace with Man United at the Premier League summit were quickly fading for Leeds – they’d lost 3-0 at Old Trafford in late October – and O’Leary was grappling with an injury crisis.
Leeds forward Alan Smith is dragged back by Liverpool defender Markus Babbel
LEEDS UNITED 4
FA Premiership; Saturday November 4, 2000
Elland Road – attendance 40,555
Leeds United (4-4-2): Paul Robinson; Gary Kelly, Jonathan Woodgate (Danny Hay 16), Dominic Matteo, Ian Harte; Lee Bowyer, Eirik Bakke, Olivier Dacourt, Jacob Burns; Mark Viduka, Alan Smith
Substitutes not used: Danny Milosevic (GK); Matt Jones, Gareth Evans
Manager: David O’Leary
Scorer: Viduka 24, 47, 73, 75
Liverpool (4-4-1-1): Sander Westerveld; Jamie Carragher, Markus Babbel, Sami Hyypia, Christian Ziege; Dietmar Hamann, Gary McAllister (Steven Gerrard 68), Danny Murphy (Robbie Fowler 68), Patrik Berger (Nicky Barmby 74); Vladimir Smicer; Emile Heskey
Substitutes not used: Pegguy Arphexad (GK); Stephane Henchoz
Manager: Gerard Houllier
Scorers: Hyypia 2; Ziege 18; Smicer 61
Booked: Ziege, Berger, Babbel, Carragher
Referee: David Elleray
Key men Harry Kewell, Lucas Radebe, Danny Mills and Nigel Martyn were all absent for Liverpool’s visit and Leeds were only able to name four players on the bench.
It was a desperate situation and it became worse inside two minutes when Liverpool captain Sami Hyypia rose completely unmarked to head home Patrik Berger’s free-kick.
Just a quarter hour in and defender Jonathan Woodgate was added to the injury list, replaced by the inexperienced Danny Hay.
Nobody was in the slightest bit surprised when Christian Ziege nodded in a Gary McAllister free-kick for his first Liverpool goal and the writing was very much on the wall for this threadbare Leeds team.
‘After 2-0 down, you know what it’s like, your confidence goes down,’ Viduka told Leeds Live recently.
‘I think a little bit of hope came when I scored the first goal.’
That came on 24 minutes when Alan Smith charged down Ziege’s clearance, the ball rebounded straight to Viduka, whose dinked finish went over Liverpool keeper Sander Westerveld, across goal and in.
Nonetheless, Liverpool should have been home and hosed before half-time. Vladimir Smicer and Dietmar Hamann both missed clear-cut chances and Gary Kelly cleared Emile Heskey’s header off the line.
And Viduka would make Gerard Houllier’s team pay two minutes after the break. The 6ft 2in Aussie drifted into a pocket of space between two defenders to meet Kelly’s cross and flash home a commanding header.
The game was hanging in the balance at this point but it was Liverpool who appeared to strike the decisive blow just after the hour.
Ziege advanced down the left and fed a ball into Berger, who cut back for Smicer to apply an assured finish after taking the ball away from Dominic Matteo.
But Leeds were far from bowed and the drama was far from finished. Viduka’s hat-trick goal for 3-3 was arguably the best of the bunch.
Taking a pass from Olivier Dacourt, he spun 360 degrees to wriggle away from Berger before rolling the ball home.
That was in the 73rd minute. Two minutes later, the thrilling turnaround was complete and Viduka had become the first Leeds player to score four in a league game since Allan Clarke against Burnley three decades earlier.
Sami Hyypia celebrates with Patrik Berger after opening the scoring just two minutes in
Dacourt powered a ball forward that Viduka stole ahead of Hyypia, who believed the striker was offside, before beating Westerveld with the most delicate of dinked finish to send Elland Road into dreamland.
Viduka celebrated by spraying his man of the match champagne over his team-mates in the dressing room and, having slept badly the night before, went home for a nap before watching his feats back on Match of the Day.
‘That game I scored four goals, yes, but I wasn’t really happy with my play in terms of on-field play,’ Viduka recalled.
‘In a way I’ve had much better games when I’ve scored and my on-field play would be a lot better.’
And even O’Leary had to admit that, with the benefit of hindsight, that early season excursion to the Olympics was a good thing.
Viduka is shown appreciation by his manager David O’Leary as he leaves the field
The Aussie was also able to soak up the acclaim of the Elland Road crowd after his four goals
The match programme cover for the game
‘There’s no doubt the Olympics got him fit. He went and cleared his head,’ the manager said.
‘This is a bigger and better league than he was in before and it’s tougher to score goals. But what I liked about him was the hunger he had to test himself.
‘He wanted to show people he could score goals down here as well. The only way to answer critics is to throw down the gauntlet on the field of play and that’s what he’s done.’
Viduka would end up with 22 goals in his first season in English football but it was a mixed bag for Leeds.
They defied the odds to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League, losing to Valencia, but their fourth-place Premier League finish – one point behind Liverpool – saw them miss out on Europe’s elite competition.
That failure left a cash shortfall that would ultimately expose just how far the club had overstretched in their efforts to win football’s most prestigious honours.
Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier and assistant Phil Thompson celebrate Vladimir Smicer’s goal – but it would prove to be a disappointing afternoon for them
Viduka, who’d joined Leeds in a £6million move from Celtic, scored 22 goals that season
They spiralled downwards into a financial oblivion and would suffer relegation from the top-flight three years later, only returning under Marcelo Bielsa’s management last season.
As for Liverpool, that season saw them claim the kind of silverware that Leeds had so craved. They won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup in a handsome trophy triple.
But on that one afternoon at least, they were well and truly left spellbound by a wizard from Oz.
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