Leeds United Nostalgia: Matteo enjoys a goal-den night at the San Siro in 2000

Dominic Matteo celebrates his goal at the San Siro in 2000.
Dominic Matteo celebrates his goal at the San Siro in 2000.
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The actual lyrics might be unprintable, but the fact that Dom Matteo’s jolly great goal in the San Siro is still sung about in the corridors of Elland Road tells its own story.

This week will mark 17 years since the goal earned Leeds the point they needed to qualify for the second group stage of the Champions League at the expense of little-known Spanish outfit Barcelona.

Dominic Matteo scores Leeds United's goal at AC Milan.

Dominic Matteo scores Leeds United's goal at AC Milan.

Whilst many of the events following that famous night make 17 years feel like a lifetime for many Leeds fans, the images of Matteo’s darting run to the front post are crystal clear.

The leap, the craned neck, the look of astonishment as the ball hit the back of the net; it’s one of the most iconic moments in the history of Leeds United Football Club, a spine-tingling vignette of the whirlwind David O’Leary era.

A star-studded AC Milan side were of course the opposition on the night, a club who lost out on a £1.6m bonus payment from Barca by failing to win the match...if rumours were to be believed.

Indeed, it was Milan who would go on to secure the top spot in the group, and with Barcelona’s win against bottom side Besiktas little more than a formality, Leeds travelled to Italy knowing a point would be enough.

It’s difficult to fit ‘extraordinary backs-against-the-wall performance in the San Siro’ into a pithy football chant, of course, but it is that that earned Leeds the draw they needed every bit as much as Matteo’s header.

Andriy Shevchenko had missed a penalty early on in the piece for Milan, and after Leeds had gone in front on the stroke of half-time, the hosts threw everything at the Whites, mostly through Brazilian winger Serginho, who equalised on 68 minutes.

Had O’Leary’s men held on to their 1-0 lead they would have qualified as group winners and bonus or no bonus, Milan were desperate to stay top and avenge the last-minute winner they suffered from the boot of Lee Bowyer just a few weeks earlier.

Leeds themselves had experienced their own final throes frustration a fortnight before, too, when Rivaldo had equalised for Barcelona in the 94th minute at Elland Road to keep the group alive. Few would have been truly shocked at another hard luck tale forming this time out.

Attacks came and went for the home side, and on a pitch that fell a long way short of the standards which that iconic stadium should merit, legs grew tired on both sides. With Matthew Jones the most experienced player on David O’Leary’s bench, the Irishman passed on the opportunity to make any changes. Milan, on the other hand, threw on the legendary Zvonimir Boban on the hour.

It was those moments that best sum up the nature of Leeds’ incredible run in Europe that year. Sure, it was a top side, one of the best in the esteemed history of the club, but on a fixture card including the giants of Milan, Barca, Real Madrid and Lazio, they didn’t so much punch above their weight than attack it with a sledgehammer.

None of those nights have lived quite as strongly in the memory as much as that famous draw at Milan, however. Matteo did indeed score a jolly great goal in the San Siro – and may Leeds fans sing about it for many years to come, using whatever words they like.

MATCH STATS

AC Milan 1 (Serginho 68)

Leeds United 1 (Matteo 45)

Champions League group stages , Wednesday, Nov 8, 2000

AC Milan: Dida, Junior, Chamot, Maldini, Helveg, Gattuso, Albertini, Serginho, Leonardo, Shevchenko, Bierhoff.

Subs: Abbiati, Boban, Jose Mari, Ambrosini, Guly, Sala, Coco.

Leeds United: Robinson, Kelly, Radebe, Mills, Harte, Bowyer, Bakke, Dacourt, Matteo, Smith, Viduka.

Subs: Milosevic, Jones, Hay, Burns, Maybury, Evans.

Referee: Kim Milton Nielsen (Denmark).

Attendance: 52,289.

Leeds United head coach Thomas Christiansen.

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