LEEDS United could hardly have faced more daunting opposition 16 years ago this week – when a trip to Real Madrid awaited in the Champions League.
United performed with huge credit and even led before bowing to a 3-2 defeat in the Bernabeu.
But by then European conquests were already commonplace for a side who chinned that year’s Serie A champions-elect Roma in the UEFA Cup 17 years ago this Thursday – on March 9, 2000 at Elland Road. The victory acted as the perfect revenge to a UEFA Cup exit to the same side the previous campaign.
Roma – who finished sixth in Serie A the previous season – had ended United’s first European adventure in three years the previous year with a 1-0 win on aggregate, after a narrow defeat at Stadio Olimpico was followed by a goalless draw at Elland Road in early November. Sixteen months later, after Leeds had finished third in the Premier League, the two sides were drawn against each other for a last 16 rematch with Leeds having battled to a goalless draw in the first leg in Rome.
Having already navigated their way past Partizan, Lokamotiv Moscow and Spartak Moscow in previous rounds, United then looked to finish the job at Elland Road one week later, and did so as an ill-tempered game was settled by Harry Kewell’s 67th-minute winner.
Led by captain Francesco Totti, Roma squandered two fine chances in the first half after Alessandro Rinaldi and Vincenzo Montella were both played in by the Roma skipper. Brazilian defender Aldair then fluffed a close range header shortly after the break from a Rinaldi cross.
But Leeds held firm and went on to bag the only goal of the two-legged tie through a superb effort from Kewell.
After fine work by Norwegian midfielder Alf-Inge Haland, there appeared little danger when Kewell received the ball some 25 yards out.
Yet the Australian took one touch to shift the ball onto his favoured left foot before arrowing a drive towards the bottom left corner which Francesco Antonioli got a hand to but could not keep out as the ball bounced in off the crossbar.
Roma had 23 minutes to bag an equaliser and went close through Marco Delvecchio who hit the side netting and Candela whose free-kick whizzed narrowly over.
But Leeds would not be denied their slice of revenge and the Italians ended the game with nine men as tempers frayed.
After being brought on as an 82nd-minute substitute for Michael Bridges, Alan Smith clashed in an off the ball incident with Antônio Carlos Zago who was shown his second yellow card and given his marching orders.
Smith was also booked and as several Roma players surrounded referee Garcia-Aranda Encinar, a melee ensued, from which Candela then head butted Darren Huckerby.
Candela had already been booked and was ordered to follow Zago down the tunnel as Roma finished the game with nine men as part of a game that featured two red cards and seven bookings.
Leeds, though, had booked their place in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals and a two legged last eight clash with Slavia Prague, the furthest the Whites had been in Europe since 1975.
Leeds United 1
(United win 1-0 on aggregate)
Thursday, march 9, 2000 Uefa Cup fourth round, second leg
Leeds United: Martyn, Kelly, Haaland, Radebe, Harte, Bowyer, Bakke (Jones 84), McPhail (Huckerby 89), Wilcox, Bridges (Smith 82), Kewell. Subs not used: Hopkin, Mills, Jones,Robinson.
Roma: Antonioli, Zago, Aldair, Mangone, Rinaldi, Nakata (Di Francesco 77), Tommasi, Candela, Totti, Montella, Delvecchio. Subs not used: Zanetti, Lupatelli, Blasi, Tomic, Gourenko, Lanzaro.
Referee: J M Garcia-Aranda Encinar (Spain).
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