Leeds United: Five opening day games to remember

HIGH HOPES: Uwe Rosler.
HIGH HOPES: Uwe Rosler.
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THE OPENING day of the season for Leeds United has been largely kind over the years, with supporters no doubt praying that will be the case on Saturday lunch-time when the Whites start their 2015-16 Championship adventure with a televised Roses joust against Burnley.

Leeds have been beaten just once on home soil at Elland Road on the first day of term since August 1983 and the club have also sampled some sumptuous fare on their travels over the past three decades - aside from a few aberrations at the likes of Micky Quinn-inspired Newcastle United, Southampton and latterly Millwall 12 months ago in David Hockaday’s inauspicious first game in charge.

But enough of the bad stuff, there’s been plenty more to savour for Leeds on the opening day, with United certainly boasting a proud record over the past quarter of a century, when they have lost on just three occasions.

Here are five sweet opening-day results over the past twenty-five years to get you in the mood for Saturday’s clash against the Clarets. Read on and enjoy.

1: Everton 2 Leeds United 3, August 25, 1990

The second-division champions got off to the perfect start at Goodison Park, with a 3-2 win thanks to goals from Chris Fairclough, Gary Speed and Imre Varadi.

The victory was enough to merit the Football League’s Performance of the Week award, with defender Fairclough nodding Leeds in front early on following a long throw from David Batty.

Wales international Speed, against his boyhood club, added a second four minutes before the break and Varadi added a third before the hour with the Merseysiders reeling.

A late comeback was provided through home goals from Pat Nevin and John Ebbrell, but it was Leeds’ day - in their first appointment after their riotous scenes at Bournemouth.

The game at Everton was made famous by a half-time sit-in from Everton keeper Neville Southall, when the stroppy veteran sat against his woodwork rather than seemingly spending the break in the dressing room listening to manager Colin Harvey.

2: Leeds United 3 Manchester City 0, August 17, 2002.

The reign of Terry Venables could not have started any better for United, who eased past Roses rivals Manchester City 3-0.

Goals arrived from Nick Barmby, outstanding on his debut, Mark Viduka and substitute Robbie Keane ensured that Leeds coasted to victory, in what ultimately proved to be one of the few highpoints in the troubled tenure of the Londoner.

It was Venables who prevailed in the much-hyped battle of the England managers, with Kevin Keegan’s City being second best throughout.

Barmby scored the opener after 15 minutes, getting to a deep cross from Bowyer ahead of City keeper Carlo Nash and firing home.

Viduka grabbed the second on the stroke of half-time and sub Keane sealed it with a cool late lob.

3: Tranmere Rovers 1 Leeds United 2, August 11, 2007

Tresor Kandol’s last-minute winner gave Leeds the sweetest of victories as Dennis Wise’s side began their first season in League One with three points - and a collective V-sign in the direction of the Football League.

Leeds, who started the campaign with a hefty 15-point deduction for breaking insolvency regulations, fell behind when Chris Greenacre arrived at the back post to convert a Chris Shuker cross.

But the visitors fought back after the break and levelled when Matt Heath headed home Alan Thompson’s free-kick.

Kandol snatched all three points when he bundled home an Andy Hughes cross in the dying seconds of the game.

Heralding the win, an ecstatic Wise, who had famously stated that the 15-point loss was akin to not just cutting off his arms and legs, but his ‘balls’ as well, said: “It’s my group and we’re very close.

“We had a little argument at half-time as a few people weren’t at the races, but we’ve got to stick together.

“A lot of the lads are very passionate about the situation. Odds stacked against you are a wonderful motivation.”

4: Leeds United 2 Exeter City 1, August 8, 2009.

A last-gasp 88th-minute winner from Jermaine Beckford broke the stubborn resistance of the ten-man Grecians at Elland Road in front of a crowd of 27,681.

The Whites striker had missed two good chances before he coolly opened the scoring on 13 minutes when left-back Ben Parker set him up for a low shot into the bottom corner.

Beckford headed against the bar, before former Leeds trainee Barry Corr saw red for elbowing new signing Michael Doyle.

But Alex Russell stunned the hosts by drawing Exeter level seventeen minutes from time, only for Robert Snodgrass and Jason Crowe to set up Beckford’s late winner to the relief of the big crowd.

5: Leeds United 2 Brighton 1, August 3, 2013.

A huge crowd of over 33,000 amassed as Elland Road expected and the hosts delivered in the nick of time thanks to £1m man Luke Murphy to break the hearts of Brighton.

The clock was on 94 minutes when the midfielder, on his debut after arriving from Crewe in the club’s first seven-figure deal since August 2005, netted a winner in front of the delirious Whites hordes.

Leeds did it the hard way after coming from behind after Leo Ulloa put the Seagulls ahead after just 13 minutes when he turned home Andrew Crofts’ cross, with home appeals for offside being in vain.

But Ross McCormack pulled the sides level a mere six minutes later when he finished neatly after Michael Tonge and Luke Varney combined.

That looks set to be that, only for debutant sub Matt Smith to set up his good mate Murphy and while the visitors appealed for handball, the schemer netted to produce a dramatic late twist.

Brian McDermott, speaking afterwards, succinctly said: “To win with the last kick of the game... you’d take that on the first day of the season.

“Both sides could have won no doubt but in the Championship if you try and win and keep going, you get the breaks.”

Thomas Christiansen

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