LEEDS UNITED have not met Aston Villa for 12 years.
February 2004 brought about the two sides’ last competitive fixture, when Villa enjoyed a 2-0 win against the visiting Whites in the season of their relegation from the Premier.
Meetings between the two teams were regular occurrences until then, with the two clubs also meeting in a Coca Cola Cup tie 20 years ago this week in which Villa enjoyed a 2-1 victory at Elland Road in a re-run of the previous year’s final. Goals from Savo Milosevic, Ian Taylor and Dwight Yorke had given Villa victory at Wembley Stadium back in March – as part of a season where Villa had finished fourth. United, champions just four seasons ago under Howard Wilkinson, had to settle for finishing 13th.
And the following campaign had also begun in disappointing fashion for the Whites who sacked Wilkinson in September after a 4-0 loss at home to Manchester United.
Chairman Bill Fotherby appointed George Graham as Wilkinson’s successor and despite the change in management, the Whites approached the Villa League Cup tie with just three wins from their opening 10 league games – against Wimbledon under Wilkinson and then against Blackburn and Nottingham Forest under Graham. Another victory had been secured in the second round of the Coca Cola Cup against Darlington, who United scraped past after a 2-2 draw in the first leg at Elland Road in September in which Rod Wallace bagged a double. Leeds were then 2-0 winners in the second leg at Darlington with Wallace again on target along with a 19-year-old Ian Harte.
And the third-round draw then threw up a corking tie against Brian Little’s cup holders Villa.
Graham had to do without the injured Tony Yeboah, Brian Deane and Tony Dorigo and Leeds lined up with Nigel Martyn in goal, ahead of Paul Beesley, Richard Jobson, Lucas Radebe, Gary Kelly, Lee Sharpe, Andy Couzens, Mark Ford, Carlton Palmer, Rod Wallace and Ian Rush. Villa’s team featured Mark Bosnich in goal behind a defence featuring Ugo Ehiogu, with Andy Townsend playing in midfield and Dwight Yorke upfront.
And after a goalless first half it was Leeds who drew first blood when Palmer’s fine through pass found Wallace who cut the ball back for Sharpe to slam home into the roof of the net to give his side a 69th-minute opener.
But as part of a rollercoaster eight minutes, Villa levelled within 60 seconds when Sasa Curcic’s left-sided delivery caused a penalty box scramble that ended with Ian Taylor slamming home to make it 1-1.
And seven minutes later Villa were awarded a penalty when the pacy Yorke was tripped by Beesley as he skipped into the penalty box. The striker took the spot kick himself and calmly sent Martyn the wrong way to put his side into the fourth round.
The Midlanders were left with high hopes of retaining the trophy but those hopes came crashing down in the very next round when Little’s men were beaten 1-0 at Wimbledon.
Villa went on to finish fifth while Leeds failed to improve their miserable goal-scoring record, finishing in 11th place with 28 goals from 38 games.
The acquisition of striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink would change all that in the summer.
Leeds United 1
Aston Villa 2 (Taylor 70, Yorke 77 pen)
coca-cola league cup, r3 october 23, 1996
Leeds United: Martyn, Beesley (Harte 86), Jobson, Radebe (Wetherall 73), Kelly, Sharpe, Couzens, Ford, Palmer, Wallace, Rush.
Aston Villa: Bosnich, Nelson (Draper 71), Tiler, Ehiogu, Scimeca, Wright, Taylor, Curcic, Townsend, Johnson, Yorke.
Referee: Jeff Winter.