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Wednesday, 14 March, 2001, 21:41 GMT
Leeds held by Lazio
Leeds United 3-3 Lazio
Leeds United posted an ominous warning to their Champions League rivals as an under-strength side delivered a hugely impressive show against Lazio at Elland Road.
David O'Leary's team have emerged as the competition's surprise package this season - and they will fear no-one as they completed an impressive passage into the quarter-finals.
Lazio may have snatched a draw with an injury time equaliser from Sinisa Mihajlovic, but Leeds proved again they are posing a growing threat to the elite of European soccer.
Leeds came from behind twice in the first half in an exuberant and occasionally heated encounter that belied the fact that nothing was riding on the result.
Former Middlesbrough striker Fabrizio Ravanelli and a penalty from Sinisa Mihajlovic twice gave Lazio a first half advantage, but defiant Leeds responded with levellers from Lee Bowyer and Jason Wilcox.
Mark Viduka looked to have settled matters with a header after the break, but Mihajlovic scored a brilliant free-kick in the dying seconds to add a point to Lazio's tally.
Leeds and Lazio had little other than professional pride to fight for with their contrasting fates settled - but it did not show in a fiercely competitive first half.
Lazio defender Francesco Colonnese had already meted out hefty treatment in the early stages before he was inevitably booked for a clattering challenge on Harry Kewell.
The Italian champions were playing with impressive freedom in attack, and took the lead with a sweetly worked goal from Ravanelli after 20 minutes.
Manchester United transfer target Pavel Nedved made it easy for the veteran "White Feather" with a perfect cross which only required a nod of the head, a simple task Ravanelli performed with relish.
They were also without Rio Ferdinand and Olivier Dacourt, but it did not matter as they were level seven minutes later, courtesy of a brilliant strike by Bowyer.
Kewell headed the ball inside to Bowyer, who surprised the Lazio defence and goalkeeper Luca Marchegiani with an instinctive right foot clip into the far corner of the net.
The celebrations had barely subsided before Lazio restored their lead within a minute from the penalty spot after Ravanelli fell under the merest contact from Dominic Matteo.
Leeds' protests were waved away by Austrian referee Konrad Plautz, and Yugoslav Mihajlovic sent Paul Robinson the wrong way from the spot.
O'Leary's side refused to be shaken, and after Bowyer's header produced a brilliant save from Marchegiani, Wilcox put Leeds level three minutes before half time.
And Leeds were in front for the first time on the hour, when Viduka muscled his way on to the end of Ian Harte's free kick in typical fashion to score with a well-executed downward header.
It was the giant Australian's final contribution, as he departed to a standing ovation as he was replaced by Tony Hackworth.
Leeds goalkeeper Robinson had been under-employed in the second half, but demonstrated his massive potential after 72 minutes when he dived to his right to make an outstanding stop from Mihajlovic's free kick.
But he was fortunate to escape with three minutes left when subsitute Marcelo Salas turned sweetly but watched in agony as his shot bounced off an upright and into the arms of Robinson.
Leeds were not so lucky when Mihajlovic swept home a brilliant free-kick from 20 yards in injury time - but O'Leary will once again be proud of his team.
Leeds: Robinson, Kelly, Harte, Mills, Matteo, Bowyer, Burns, Maybury, Wilcox, Viduka, Kewell. Subs: Martyn, Dacourt, Woodgate, Batty, Hay, Hackworth.
Lazio: Marchegiani, Colonnese, Mihajlovic, Couto, Stankovic, Castroman, Baronio, Pesaresi, Nedved, Lopez, Ravanelli. Subs: Orlandoni, Negro, Salas, Crespo, Pancaro, Luciani, Ruggiu.
Referee: Konrad Plautz (Austria.)
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