ONE particular FA Cup triumph jumped naturally to the forefront of Leeds United minds this week.
“January 3, remember the date ...” and all of the rest of it, seven years on from Jermaine Beckford’s winner in the 1-0 triumph at Old Trafford.
Slightly less heralded was another FA Cup success 17 years ago this weekend at the other giant in Manchester as Premier Division leaders Leeds blitzed First Division Manchester City 5-2 at Maine Road in January 2000 when it was actually City looking to record a cup ‘scalp’.
City were a different animal to the mega bucks, star-studded cast of today but the Maine Road side’s reemergence had at least begun following the previous season’s promotion from Division Two, sealed courtesy of a dramatic victory on penalties in the play-off final against Gillingham.
Under boss Joe Royle, the Citizens were on their way to back-to-back promotions by the time Premier Division Leeds paid them a visit in the FA Cup fourth round with City approaching the tie following three wins and one draw from their last four league games.
But Leeds arrived at Maine Road as one of the emerging forces of the Premier League – following the previous season’s fourth-place finish under boss David O’Leary, though the top-of-the-league Whites approached their FA Cup trip to Manchester following back-to-back league losses at Arsenal and at home to Aston Villa.
And United looked to be heading for a third successive defeat in the early stages of the FA Cup clash at City, who took a second-minute lead through Shaun Goater – clearly offside when heading over Nigel Martyn after Kevin Horlock’s through ball.
Leeds drew level just six minutes later when Erik Bakke stuck out a boot to prod home Ian Harte’s header from Harry Kewell’s free-kick, but within three minutes City had regained the lead through a Bishop scorcher.
Martyn had no chance with the midfielder’s angled drive from the edge of the box, but after a goalline clearance from Lee Bowyer, United levelled for the second time in the 20th minute. From another set-piece, another header from Harte caused problems and while the Irishman’s effort was blocked on the line by Bishop, Alan Smith was quickest to react and convert the loose ball to make it 2-2.
From there on in, O’Leary’s Whites did not look back and City ’keeper Nicky Weaver was kept extremely busy by a rampant Leeds, particularly when making one fine double save to deny Stephen McPhail and then Kewell.
But there was little Weaver could do to prevent United taking a 41st-minute lead when Kewell slammed home to finish a flowing attack following a fine pass from Jason Wilcock that bisected the City box.
Wilcox and Harte then tested Weaver after the break and United went 4-2 up six minutes after the hour when Bowyer powerfully finished off another flowing move in which Wilcox provided another perfect cross.
Bowyer then squandered a fine chance to bag his second but a five-star performance was completed in the 88th minute when substitute Darren Huckerby scooted around City’s tiring defence before squaring the ball to Kewell who bagged his second to complete the Whites nap hand.
An unplayable Kewell then hit the post in injury time – denying the Australian striker a hat-trick – but Leeds had made their mark and City boss Royle was suitably impressed.
“Don’t let David O’Leary kid you, his boys can win the championship,” said Royle.
“I thought they were terrific.”
Aston Villa then ended United’s FA Cup run in the next round and Leeds went on to finish third, then fourth, then fifth, then 15th and then 19th and relegated in 2004.
After finishing second in the First Division, City were promoted that season but swiftly relegated the following term before bouncing back immediately when winning the Division One title in 2002.
Ten years later, with Leeds still toiling in the Championship, the Citizens were Premier Division champions.
Manchester City 2
(Goater 2, Bishop 11)
Leeds United 5
(Bakke 8, Smith 20, Kewell 41, 88, Bowyer 66)
FA CUP FOURTH ROUND, SUNDAY, JANUARY 9, 2000
Man City: Weaver, Edghill, Wiekens, Horlock, Goater, Dickov, Bishop, Grant (Whitley 55), Kennedy, Jobson, Granville (Peacock 67). Subs not used: Crooks, Wright, Tiatto.
Leeds United: Martyn, Kelly, Harte, Radebe, Woodgate, Kewell, Bowyer, McPhail, Wilcox, Smith (Huckerby 87), Bakke. Subs not used: Robinson, Mills, Jones, Duberry.
Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).