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The BBC's Dave Woods
"Leeds will disappointed after starting so promisingly"
 real 28k

Leeds manager David O'Leary
"It wasn't perfect, but 2-1 isn't a bad result"
 real 28k

Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 21:42 GMT
Leeds slip up to Spartak
Harry Kewell Stunning start: Harry Kewell fires Leeds in front

Spartak Moscow 2-1 Leeds

Leeds' European hopes took a dent as they squandered a superb start in Sofia and finished the first leg of their Uefa Cup third round tie with a one-goal defecit.

David O'Leary's side were so impressive in the early stages of the match - which was staged in Bulgaria after the Moscow leg was frozen out last week - that anything other than a Leeds win seemed improbable.

A fine goal from Harry Kewell gave the nominal visitors an early lead.

Match facts
14: Kewell gives Leeds a vital away goal
38: Schirko levels the score
65: Robson hands Spartak a first leg lead
But Spartak hit back in fantastic fashion and at the final whistle Leeds were relieved to only be trailing by a single goal.

The result leaves the tie hanging in the balance when the teams meet up again at Elland Road next Thursday.

Fears that the game would turn into a grudge match, after a war of words between the two clubs over the manner of last week's postponement, proved unfounded.

Instead some 6,000 committed Bulgarian neutrals, mainly cheering on Leeds, were treated to a clean contest, full of fine attacking football.

English assault

Leeds once again showed they refuse to respect the reputation of European teams, as they took the game to Spartak straight from the kick-off.

And they were almost rewarded with a goal after just five minutes, but Kewell's glancing header from Ian Harte's corner crashed against the bar.

Nigel Martyn Leeds' Martyn claims the ball under pressure from Bezrodniy
Spartak were clearly rattled by the opening onslaught - and Leeds went in front in the 14th minute directly as a result of one of a series of defensive howlers.

A terrible back pass from Dmitri Khlestov landed at Kewell's feet, and the Australian neatly took the ball around the keeper and netted with style from a narrow angle.

United, with Michael Bridges lively on his own up front, continued to dominate proceedings, as Spartak struggled to make any impact on the contest.

But just when it seemed Moscow's threat was being blunted, Leeds themselves suffered a costly blunder at the back after 38 minutes.

A Spartak corner caused a mix-up between Alf-Inge Haaland and Kewell, and the ball was allowed to reach Alexander Schirko, who turned and beat Nigel Martyn with a sharp strike at the near post.

Spartak shine

Suddenly the whole complexion of the game had changed, and it was Spartak, clearly determined to finish the first leg in front, who continued to press after the break.

Corners, free-kicks and one genuine penalty appeal - Michael Duberry bringing down Egor Titov - found the English side almost at breaking point.

We've got the away goal and hopefully that will stand us in good stead. It could prove very important come the end.
Leeds boss David O'Leary
Leeds still had their chances, though, and Kewell should have re-established the lead from another clear-cut chance - but after weaving his way into the heart of the Spartak area, his toe-poked shot was saved by Alexander Filimonov's out-stretched boot.

But moments later another hammer blow from Spartak put the "home" side ahead for the first time in the match.

Leeds were caught on the break by a flowing 65th minute move, which culminated in Schirko's excellent through-ball, and Brazilian striker Luis Robson comfortably beat Martyn from eight yards out.

By now Spartak were in complete control of possession and a series of flowing, one-touch moves opened up Leeds through the middle.

With 10 minutes left Schirko fired over the bar after more skillful build-up had presented him with a fine chance.

Five minutes from time Moscow keeper Filimonov denied Lee Bowyer with a crunching challenge after a cross from substitute Darren Huckerby had sent him clear.

In the last minute Leeds almost fell further behind in farcical fashion, as Haaland's mis-hit back-pass was headed off the line by goalkeeper Martyn.


Spartak Moscow: Filimonov, Kovtun, Khlestov, Bushmanov, Baranov, Bulatov, Titov, Parfionov, Schirko, Bezrodnyi, Robson.
Subs: Smetanin, Ananko, Ketchinov, Evseev, Meleshin.

Leeds: Martyn, Kelly, Woodgate, Duberry, Harte, Bakke, Bowyer, McPhail, Haaland, Kewell, Bridges.
Subs: Robinson, Mills, Maybury, Jones, Huckerby, Smith, Hiden.

Referee: Anders Frisk (Sweden)

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See also:
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25 Nov 99 |  Football
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28 Nov 99 |  FA Carling Premiership
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Leeds are masters of Moscow
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Links to other Football stories are at the foot of the page.