Leeds United nostalgia: Remembering when Matteo scored famed San Siro goal

Dominic Matteo scores against AC Milan in the San Siro.
Dominic Matteo scores against AC Milan in the San Siro.
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COMMEMORATED in a highly individual song which is now part of Leeds United folklore, THAT choice moment from Dominic Matteo in the San Siro arrived 14 years ago yesterday.

Time’s winged chariot has largely been unkind to United since and few would begrudge Whites supporters luxuriating in delectable memories of former nights of glory like that evening in Lombardy, given what has largely happened since.

Match six in Group H of the Champions League proved one to savour for the travelling hordes, 6,000 of whom headed to northern Italy to see their United heroes do battle with AC Milan on November 9, 2000.

The Rossoneri had the backing of not just home supporters, but also those in Barcelona, desperate for Milan to do them a favour by beating Leeds, which would potentially enable them to qualify for the next stage of the Champions League if they got the right result against Besiktas at the Camp Nou.

But it wondrously turned out to be United’s night.

The San Siro represented something of a graveyard for English teams, with Milan having never been beaten by a team from these shores, with their record of six wins and four draws heading into the game a strong one.

In addition, there was the added context of Leeds having never won in six previous visits to Italy, with their only goal arriving in the Fairs Cup final second leg against Juventus when Paul Madeley and Mick Bates scored in a 2-2 draw in the Stadio Comunale in Turin.

The tallest of orders it was on an occasion when it was likely that every Leeds player would have to excel.

After a quiet start, the game burst into life on 25 minutes and it was a development of nightmarish proportions that Leeds could have seriously done without when the hosts were awarded a penalty.

It was Gary Kelly who incurred the wrath of Danish referee Kim Milton-Nielsen when he brought down buccaneering Brazilian full-back Serginho, only for the Irishman to heave a sign of relief when Andriy Shevchenko’s spot-kick smashed against Paul Robinson’s right-hand post.

It represented the first indication that it might be Leeds’ night.

On the half-hour, Robinson saved Demetrio Albertini’s well-struck free-kick before in a rare foray at the other end, Dida kept out a set-piece from Ian Harte.

Robinson then had to show his mettle again to make a flying save to deny dangerman Serginho before the magic moment arrived.

Mark Viduka won a corner and Lee Bowyer’s cross from the right was headed home majestically by Matteo in the sweetest cameo of action imaginable if you are a Leeds United fan.

The second half was also likely to herald a comeback from stunned hosts and so it proved, but thankfully Shevchenko, having one of those evenings, left his shooting boots at home with the Ukrainian missing a good chance before Serginho also fluffed his lines.

Robinson then denied Gennaro Gattuso with an excellent save before saving Oliver Bierhoff’s header as Milan laid siege.

Shevchenko then finally hit the target, connecting with a firm header following a cross from sub Zvonimir Boban, but Robinson again excelled himself to make a stunning save.

But the pressure eventually told on 68 minutes when the hosts levelled when the impressive Serginho ghosted past Kelly before firing home.

The final 20 minutes represented a true test of character, but United, gloriously, held out to claim the second qualification spot behind Milan and thwart the hopes of Barca, who slammed five goals without reply past Besiktas, but to no avail.

As for the Matteo goal, a true ‘where were you when’ moment...Happy days indeed.

Thomas Christiansen.

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