Leeds United nostalgia: Smith’s stunning debut goal was catalyst for win

Leeds United's Alan Smith proved a bit of a menace for Liverpool in the late 90s/early 2000s.
Leeds United's Alan Smith proved a bit of a menace for Liverpool in the late 90s/early 2000s.
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SOME juicy fixtures await Leeds United in the next few weeks as Garry Monk’s men return from the international break with three or four pre-Christmas crackers.

Just nine days after this Sunday’s home clash with Championship leaders Newcastle United, the Whites will visit Anfield for the first time since 2003.

A similar outcome to the one recorded 18 years ago last weekend in November 1998 would do very nicely indeed.

Under Roy Evans, Liverpool had finished third in the previous season’s Premier League campaign, six points and two places above George Graham’s Leeds.

Graham was then appointed manager of Tottenham Hotspur in October and the trip to Anfield presented a 10th game in charge for Graham’s former assistant David O’Leary whose side travelled to an Anfield ground that they had savoured just one league win in the last 26 years.

But the Red men approached the Whites fixture following a four-game winless run and on the back of two consecutive losses at Anfield – against Derby County in the league and Graham’s Tottenham side in the League Cup.

Brilliantly, a youthful Leeds side were able to condemn the Reds to a third-straight home loss that looked extremely unlikely with 22 minutes remaining. Gerard Houllier had been placed in sole charge of Liverpool in a bid to change their fortunes – with the visit of Leeds being the Frenchman’s first game in sole charge without Evans.

After Karl Heinz-Riedle had been poleaxed by Nigel Martyn, Liverpool were awarded a 68th-minute penalty and Robbie Fowler stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way.

But Leeds had two or three surprises in store, led by the introduction of 18-year-old debutant Alan Smith from the substitutes’ bench.

Rothwell-born Academy graduate Smith had only turned 18 three weeks earlier, but O’Leary had strong faith in youth and brought on the striker for Clive Wijnhard with 14 minutes to go. Remarkably, just three minutes later, Smith made it 1-1 with his first goal in professional football with his first touch of the ball.

Leeds poured forward in search of a leveller and a low shot from David Hopkins was blocked into the path of Smith who fired home from just inside the area into the bottom corner with a cool finish.

Smith was mobbed in celebration but United’s joys had only just begun as within another 120 seconds the Whites were in front as Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink answered his critics in style.

The Dutchman had scored just once in his last 10 games but showed his trademark determination and power to scythe through Liverpool’s midfield, picking up a loose ball and burying it in the 81st minute to put Leeds in front.

And things then went from bad to worse for Liverpool five minutes later when Hasselbaink picked up a long ball down the left flank before cutting inside and drilling home a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner. Home fans were heading for the exits as Leeds picked up a stunning victory that would provide a platform to a fourth-placed finish and UEFA Cup qualification spot under O’Leary. Liverool finished seventh but are now top of the Premier 18 years later, ahead of Tuesday week’s EFL Cup cracker.

STATS

Liverpool 1

(Fowler, 68 pen)

Leeds United 3
(Smith 79, Hasselbaink 81, 86)

Saturday, 14th November 1998, Anfield, Premier League.

Liverpool: James; Heggem, Carragher, Staunton, Bjornebye; Thompson, Redknapp, Ince, Berger; Fowler, Riedle (Leonhardsen). Unused subs: Kvarme, Babb, Murphy, Friedel.

Leeds United: Martyn; Halle, Hiden, Molenaar, Woodgate, Harte; Hopkin, Bowyer, Kewell; Wijnhard (Smith), Hasselbaink. Unused subs: Ribeiro, Haaland, Wetherall, Robinson.

Referee: Dermot Gallagher (Banbury).

Attendance: 44,305.

Felix Wiedwald

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