On This Day: Leeds United within touching distance of Champions League final on boss David O'Leary's birthday

MANCHESTER City and Chelsea will look to seal their places in the Champions League final next week.

Sunday, 2nd May 2021, 12:01 pm
Updated Sunday, 2nd May 2021, 12:04 pm

Twenty years ago on this day, Leeds United were 90 minutes away from doing the same after a goalless draw at home to Valencia at Elland Road.

Having seen off 1860 Munich in the final qualifying round, David O'Leary's Whites performed heroics to firstly progress past an opening group stage in finishing second behind AC Milan as Besiktas and third-placed finishers Barcelona no less were knocked out.

]Anderlecht and Lazio were then sent packing by Leeds and Real Madrid in the second group stage and O'Leary's side then progressed past Deportivo La Coruna in the quarter-finals.

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SO CLOSE: Lee Bowyer's header hits the crossbar as Leeds United and Valencia have to settle for a goalless draw in the Champions League semi-final at Elland Road of May 2, 2001. Photo by Alex Livesey/ALLSPORT via Getty Images.

A last four date against Spanish giants Valencia was next with the first leg taking place at Elland Road on the night of Wednesday, May 2 on what was boss O'Leary's 43rd birthday.

United's former manager is 63 today.

Both sides had chances to take a lead into the second leg at the Mestalla and Valencia were thwarted by two fantastic saves from Nigel Martyn to deny John Carew and Juan Sanchez in the first half.

Martyn also looked on as Gaizka Mendieta's header rebounded off the crossbar but Leeds had first-half chances of their own and went close through Ian Harte, Harry Kewell and Alan Smith.

It was then United's turn to be denied by the woodwork after the break as Lee Bowyer's header came back off the crossbar as part of a half that also saw Dominic Matteo's header kept out by a brilliant save by Santiago Canizares

The Valencia stopper also denied Smith who headed another chance over from a Danny Mills cross.

But the Spaniards would have nicked a late winner but for Rio Ferdinand heading off the line in second half stoppage time, shortly after Carew had squandered a fine chance from a Mendieta cross.

The contest somehow ended goalless and all to play for at the Mestalla the following Tuesday night.

The hosts would also be without Ruben Baraja and Amedeo Carboni who were both booked at Elland Road leaving the duo suspended for the second leg.

Leeds were 90 minutes away from making a Champions League final yet the second leg was to prove a bridge too far as the hosts recorded a 3-0 victory to set up a final against eventual winners Bayern Munich who broke Valencia hearts on penalties.

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Thank you Laura Collins