Action replay 1990: Leeds United v Chelsea

13 most definitely wasn't the unlucky number as far as Leeds United were concerned back on Boxing Day 1990.

Leeds United 4

Chelsea 1

Division One

Elland Road, December 26, 1990

After a start as stodgy as a Christmas pud against their loathed capital rivals, Howard Wilkinson's high-fliers found their second wind to deliver a zestful display which proved too much for Chelsea, who came into the Elland Road test on the back of seven successive victories in league and cup.

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United's vital statistics were even more alluring, with the hosts' proud unbeaten record remaining intact at the final whistle, with their run without defeat extending to a majestic 13 matches.

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Wilkinson's troops lit the blue touch-paper five minutes before the interval following a sluggish opening half-hour in rain-hit conditions with the unmarked Mel Sterland cashing in on some charitable seasonal defending by the Blues before drilling home his third goal in four matches following some good work from Gordon Strachan.

It provided brief respite from the elements for the United faithful in a season's-best crowd of 30,893, with the saturated conditions far from condusive to flowing football, with incessant rain leaving pools of water standing on large areas of the pitch when the players re-entered the fray after the sodden interval – when conditions took a turn for the worse.

But the deluge proved no pain for the Whites, who handled the conditions like ducks to water, quickly surging into a three-goal lead inside a three-minute spell at the start of the second period.

And top scorer Lee Chapman could have been forgiven for breaking out into an impromptu chorus of "Singing in the Rain" after netting two quick-fire strikes to break the spirit of stunned Chelsea.

The big frontman first struck within a minute of the restart, rising salmon-like to glance home a well-directed header past Dave Beasant following Strachan's floated free-kick.

On 49 minutes, he effectively made the game safe for United with their third – and killer – goal, with the alert frontman picking Andy Townsend's pocket after the Blues midfielder attempted to steer a loose ball back to Beasant, with the forward sliding in for a fine opportunist strike to take his seasonal tally to 12.

Chapman was then only a fraction away from claiming a hat-trick when he just failed to reach Strachan's cross from the right.

Stamford Bridge goal poacher Kerry Dixon did reduce the arrears for the Londoners on 65 minutes with a fine header following Gordon Durie's left-wing cross – and Dennis Wise, later to become Leeds manager, could have made life distinctly uncomfortable for the hosts if he had managed to convert an inviting 75th-minute opportunity, instead ballooning the gift-wrapped chance over the bar.

The hard-working Carl Shutt went close to adding a fourth for United, but that honour left to an unlikely source, in the shape of full-back Mike Whitlow. And it was a milestone moment for the defender, who provided the icing on the cake for the hosts by virtue of a superb long-range effort two minutes from time.

Having entered the fray for Gary Speed 10 minutes from the end for his first appearance since suffering a head injury in the Rumbelows Cup game at Leicester City in September, Whitlow claimed another welcome Christmas present after blasting home his first ever goal in first division football.

UNITED: Lukic, Sterland, Snodin, Batty, Fairclough, Whyte, Strachan, Shutt, Chapman, McAllister, Speed (Whitlow 80).

Thomas Christiansen

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