Happy Birthday, Mark Viduka!
The Australian celebrates his 43rd today (October 9) so what better excuse than to recall two of his more treasured moments for the Whites. Our writers Joe Urquhart and Alex Miller tell the tales of two phenomenal days for the man who bagged 72 goals in 166 appearances for United.
Leeds United (Mark Viduka) 4-3 Liverpool (November 4, 2000)
By Alex Miller
From the moment the ball fell to him via Alan Smith’s charge down of Christian Ziege’s laboured clearance, the match became a one-man mission to fell the then four-time European champions.
It was the performance of a striker at the peak of his powers, the stunning quartet showcasing every asset of his arsenal; power, aerial prowess and above all, an incredible ability to make putting the ball in the net look easy. His second came just after the break in trademark style thanks to a typically accurate Gary Kelly cross. Striding forward, Viduka timed his run perfectly to find the space between Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher and glance the ball into the far corner; 2-2.
This was where the Elland Road crowd came into life. Sensing something special, they rose to the occasion, joining Viduka on his solo quest to steal three points from their top table contemporaries.
Neither side settled into a rhythm until Liverpool’s Vladimir Smicer gutpunched Leeds once more to make it 3-2 on the hour. Both sides had suffered 120 minutes of League Cup action just days previously, and before long, the one-man mission became like a laboured bar brawl, both sides trading attack after attack with neither able to land a blow. That was, of course, until Viduka shot into life with 17 minutes to go.
He had played every minute of Leeds’ midweek encounter, an extra-time defeat to a Tranmere Rovers side who would go on to finish bottom of the second tier. Indeed, Leeds had led 2-0 in that match, their fifth without a win. Liverpool, on the other hand, had overcome Chelsea in their fifth win on the spin, with Gerard Houllier’s bright young things fancied as title contenders.
That title charge was dented when the big Australian completed his hat-trick to level the scores once more, twisting and turning his way through the Liverpool defence after gliding onto an Olivier Dacourt through ball. It was the most iconic of the four goals, a Sky Sports montage staple that many misremember as the winner. The winner it wasn’t.
That came in sensational fashion just moments later, when a tiring Reds defence fell victim to a footballer operating at a different level to those in his presence. Those in red shirts were merely witnesses as Viduka controlled a scuffed Dacourt shot before chipping a hapless Westerveld in much the same fashion as his first.
The 2000/01 season was one full of so many iconic moments for Leeds United, but the triumphant Australian wheeling away to blow kisses to the Elland Road faithful is up there with any.
Arsenal 2-3 Leeds United (May 4, 2003)
By Joe Urquhart
Peter Reid's United side headed to the capital in the knowledge that all three points would secure Premier League survival but in doing so would hand arch-rivals Manchester United the title at the expense of Wenger's men.
Harry Kewell opened the scoring after just five minutes smashing home a stunning half-volley but the lead only lasted until the half hour mark as forward Thierry Henry levelled. The score remained 1-1 until the break but just four minutes after the interval left-back Ian Harte struck a venomous free-kick to notch his third goal at Highbury in as many visits and restore an unlikely lead.
Dennis Bergkamp squared up proceedings once more just after the hour mark before Mark Viduka's dramatic 88th minute effort sealed a 3-2 victory and the Whites top flight status for another season.
The Australian collected the ball and drove forward into the Arsenal box to cut back past defender Oleh Luzhny onto his left foot and unleash a fine curling effort past onlooking England stopper David Seaman.
Viduka's goal sent the travelling fans wild who celebrated whilst the home crowd were stunned into sickening silence.
The late strike was also cheered in the north west as Sir Alex Ferguson's men were crowned champions as a result leaving Wenger and his men to pick up the pieces of their shattered dreams of securing a second successive top flight trophy.
Viduka though is forever remembered in LS11 for saving the Whites top flight status that day with a goal that wouldn't have looked out of place on the grandest of stages.
What a goal, what a moment, what a win.