2000/01: LUFC Champions League – Deportivo Moment
During Leeds United’s amazing run to the semi-finals of the Champions’ League in 2000/2001 one moment stood out in particular. The choice might seem strange with so much to pick from. It was, perhaps surprisingly, not a goal, not even Dom Matteo’s effing great goal in the San Siro and it wasn’t a great tackle by a Leeds defender, a goal-line clearance, a stunning save or that blooper by A.C. Milan’s goalie that allowed Bowyer’s 89th minute shot through. There were plenty of all these great memories which have since been firmly absorbed into United’s folklore.
The moment that stood out for me happened away in north-west Spain when we played Deportivo de La Coruña on Easter Tuesday 2001. Almost a fortnight earlier, Leeds had demolished Deportivo 3-0 at home with goals from Harte, Smith and Ferdinand. We went with great confidence to the second leg, knowing that we stood on the brink of a place in the semi-final for the first time in 26 years. However, for the second occasion in Spain during the Champions’ League run (0-4 to Barcelona was the first), the team looked out of its depth as Depor took the game to Leeds right from the start. They were the Spanish champions and had recently stunned the football world by coming back from 3-0 down after 55 minutes to Paris St German in their last home match to win 4-3. This, naturally, gave them great hope that they could do the same against Leeds.
We knew we were up against it when Kewell gave away a penalty after 9 minutes. Then followed a right battering. Leeds seemed to have no idea how to deal with it and yet, we somehow got through to half time still only one-nil down. The inevitable happened after 74 minutes when Depor scored their second. Watching the game in Woodie’s, Headingley, we braced ourselves for the final onslaught, extra time and Champions’ League exit. Only it didn’t happen. In the minute after the second goal, just when we expected unbearable pressure, it became apparent that Depor had run out of steam. The storm had abated. United picked this up pretty quickly and played out time with increasing confidence. When the game ended, they knew they were a beaten side and we knew we were in the semis.
Author: Graeme Garvey