TUESDAY night cup action awaits Leeds United tomorrow when Championship strugglers Blackburn Rovers make a quick return to Elland Road in the EFL Cup.
Two games in eight days between the Whites and Blackburn Rovers. Sixteen years ago tomorrow it was the first of two clashes in two months against one of the best sides in Europe in AC Milan.
Thanks to an 89th-minute horror show from Milan’s Brazilian goalkeeper Dida, United were still able to get their European campaign up and running as Lee Bowyer’s late strike sealed a famous win.
The visit of the Italian giants marked United’s first home game in Group H with Leeds handed tests against Milan, Besiktas and Barcelona who thumped United 4-0 at the Nou Camp in their Group Stage opener just the previous Wednesday.
And Milan, who had finished third behind Lazio and Juventus in the previous season’s Serie A, lined up with Oliver Bierhoff and Andrei Shevchenko up front and with Alessandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini in defence.
O’Leary was missing several players through injury with Harry Kewell, David Batty, Lucas Radebe, Jason Wilcox, Jonathan Woodgate and Stephen McPhail all on the sidelines. Mark Viduka also remained on international duty with Australia despite the Socceroos having already been knocked out of the Olympic Games.
The Whites boss recalled Erik Bakke after a four-game absence while Dominic Matteo also started, despite having been sidelined with a knee injury since joining from Liverpool in the summer.
As rain scythed down at a soggy Elland Road, Milan had the game’s first chance when Thomas Helveg hit the side netting.
But United then twice went close through Bakke who failed to convert openings created by Matteo and Lee Bowyer.
Bierhoff and Shevchenko were largely kept quiet and Leeds then had claims for an early second-half penalty dismissed when Alan Smith was sent tumbling by Jose Antonio Chamot. But Milan and Shevchenko then upped the ante with the striker forcing Nigel Martyn into a fine save just after the hour.
Danny Mills then put in a crucial tackle to deny the Ukrainian before another good save from Martyn.
And the Whites were then let massively off the hook with 14 minutes remaining when Shevchenko broke away but opted to square to Bierhoff who was offside.
The game was heading for a goalless draw but as conditions continued to worsen, Bowyer and Milan’s Brazilian goalkeeper Dida provided one final 89th-minute twist.
There appeared little danger as the ball was worked to Bowyer who was some 25 yards out on the right-hand side and the midfielder’s albeit powerful high drive looked to have been safely caught by Dida.
But the custodian somehow managed to drop the greasy ball which then slipped backwards and over the line at his near post for an embarrassing winner.
Bowyer raced away to celebrate in front of a delighted Kop and a patched up United suddenly had their first Group Stage win of the Champions League. Besiktas were next as victory against Milan paved the way for an amazing run that went all the way to the semi finals against Valencia.
Leeds United 1
AC Milan 0
Champions League, Group H September 19, 2000
Leeds United: Martyn, Kelly, Harte, Duberry, Mills, Bowyer, Bakke, Dacourt, Matteo, Bridges, Smith. Subs: Robinson, Huckerby, Jones, Hay, Burns, Evans, Hackworth.
AC Milan: Dida, Chamot, Costacurta, Maldini, Helveg, Albertini, Giunti, Coco, Guglielminpietro, Bierhoff, Shevchenko. Subs: Rossi, De Ascentis, Leonardo, Roque Junior, Sala, Serginho, Saudati.
Referee: G Benko (Austria).