Date: Saturday, 19th November 2005.
Venue: St Mary’s,
Coca-Cola Football League Championship.
3 Leeds United 4
Pahars, Quashie (2, 1 pen).
Leeds United: Butler,
Blake, Healy, Miller.
Southampton: Niemi; Delap, Svensson, Lundekvam (Hajto), Higginbotham;
Oakley, Quashie, Wise (Fuller), Pahars
(McCann); Walcott, Omerod. Unused Subs: Belmadi, Smith.
Leeds United: Sullivan;
Kelly, Butler, Kilgallon, Harding; Richardson (Healy), Derry, Miller, Lewis;
Blake, Hulse. Unused Subs: Pugh, Walton, Douglas,
Referee: Iain Williamson (Berkshire).
requested by Sam Bunn of MOT forum)
When people talk about the greatest comebacks ever, this
will rank with the best. When they talk of significant turning points it would
also rank high on the list.
To be dead and buried at 3-0 at half time then rise like
Lazarus was a miracle indeed. Its significance to Leeds went deeper
than that. It showed that fighting spirit and determination can affect matches.
It turned around the whole attitude of Leeds United from a bedraggled
inconsistent outfit, seemingly going nowhere in another season of mediocrity
into a phoenix rising from the ashes of total destruction. In twenty minutes,
it gave the team the belief that they could perform consistently at that level
and proved a springboard for the resurgence of their push towards regaining
their EPL status.
To put the game in its true context, for seventy minutes
Leeds were truly awful and clearly second best to an outfit that had totally
dominated the first half and were good value for their 3-0 lead. Marian Pahars, returning after long–term injury, gave Southampton a well deserved
lead after twenty-seven minutes in a move straight from the training ground,
when scoring from close range. Nigel Quashie, who
dominated the midfield for over an hour, made it 2-0 after teenage sensation
Theo Walcott had tied Matthew Kilgallon in knots. The
third came on the stroke of half-time, when Dan Harding got himself into a
panic, after Matt Oakley’s header caught him out and the defender inexplicably
blocked it with his hands. The referee was left with no alternative than to
point to the spot. Nigel Quashie made no mistake with
the penalty kick just on half time and the Leeds fans were left
wondering just how humiliating the defeat would be. It was observed that
Chairman Ken Bates left at half time but Charity benefited when the Mirror
jumped to a wrong conclusion that he had left because he could not bear to see
Half-time saw vital changes take place as the reason for Southampton’s first half dominance
was disrupted. Their midfield of Matt Oakley, Nigel Quashie,
Dennis Wise and Marian Pahars had so dominated, that
they were able to pour forward at will through an almost non-existent Leeds engine-room, to
exert pressure on an overworked defence. Marian Pahars was replaced by Neil McCann, after running out of
steam and Tomasz Hajto and
Ricardo Fuller replaced Claus Lundekvam and Dennis
Wise, causing Southampton to lose their total dominance. Still there was no sign of things to come
as Neil Sullivan was twice called upon to make stunning saves to keep United
from total capitulation.
After sixty-seven minutes United made the move that was to
be the catalyst for the game being turned on its head. The ineffective Frazer
Richardson was withdrawn and David Healy came on and instructed to push up
front. His arrival gave United what they had been lacking. He provided
inventiveness; and Liam Miller suddenly came to life and became a major
influence on the game.
Even when the never-say-die Paul Butler headed home a Gary
Kelly cross with nineteen minutes to go, it appeared
to be no more than a consolation goal. “We’re going to win 4-3,” chanted the travelling faithful, more in jest than any firm belief.
Six minutes later the tireless Robbie Blake got his reward
as David Healy set him up for the second goal. It gave United
thoughts of salvaging a draw. Danny Higginbotham, whose confidence had severely
wilted in the United onslaught, gave Leeds that chance
when he handled a David Healy shot and the Irish International made no mistake
from the spot after eighty-four minutes.
It was 3-3 and still six minutes left, the great escape
had happened and United would have had every reason to be happy with a draw.
Not likely! They just kept on attacking as Southampton defended
desperately. Rod Hulse unselfishly laid the ball back
into the path of the onrushing Liam Miller and the loan player celebrated his
second match by firing the ball unerringly into the Southampton net to make it
4-3 in the eighty-sixth minute.
The comeback was complete, and the Southampton players looked
to the heavens for inspiration while the Leeds players
celebrated as if they had won the World Cup.
Setting aside the first seventy-three minutes, such was United’s dominance in the last twenty minutes that it is
doubtful that any CCCL team could have lived with them. There was a swagger and
verve about their play and an amazing self-belief, which had not been apparent
in the first seventy minutes when they did not threaten the Southampton goal. One could
only feel sorry for Southampton, unbeaten at home previously and having only conceded two goals all season,
they could be forgiven for thinking they were home and dry against such abject
opposition as the clock ticked past the seventy minute mark. Leeds simply ran Southampton ragged, when it
mattered most, and the previous seventy minutes were erased in style.
Liam Miller celebrates the winning goal
Paul Butler, Robbie Blake, David Healy and Liam
Miller were the United scorers
Marian Pahars and
Nigel Quashie (2, one from the penalty spot) scored
Neil Sullivan twice made stunning saves
Theo Walcott tied Matthew Kilgallon Daniel Harding got himself The
ineffective Frazer Gary
Kelly crossed for the
into a panic Richardson was withdrawn first goal
Rob Hulse unselfishly
laid on Antti
Niemi was in the Rory Delap
and Danny Higginbotham were the full-backs
the winning goal
Claus Lundekvam and
Michael Svensson were in central defence Theo Walcott and Brett Ormerod were the strikers
Matthew Oakley, Nigel Quashie,
future United Manager Dennis Wise and Marian Pahars
started in midfield for Southampton
Tomasz Hajto, Ricardo Fuller and Neil McCann were
the substitutes used
Paul Smith and Djamel
Belmadi were the unused substitutes