Roles were reversed when Leeds United triumph at Chelsea ensured a Whites Christmas No 1

Leeds United will visit a Chelsea side within touching distance of the Premier League summit in this afternoon’s clash at Stamford Bridge.

By Lee Sobot
Saturday, 11th December 2021, 9:39 am

Yet 22 years ago this month it was the other way round as Stephen McPhail’s first two goals in professional football sealed a smash and grab 2-0 victory that sent David O’Leary’s team top in time for Christmas Day.

United arrived at Chelsea having suffered just three league defeats all season, the Whites having recorded 10 wins on the trot throughout August, September and October in the league, UEFA Cup and League Cup.

Three straight league victories had then followed a 2-0 reverse at Wimbledon on the first Sunday of November, and Leeds made it four wins on the spin thanks to McPhail’s double on December 19, 1999 at Stamford Bridge.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

POINTING TO FIRST: Stephen McPhail celebrates netting his first ever goal for Leeds United to put the Whites on course for a 2-0 victory at Chelsea of December 1999 and top of the Premier League in time for Christmas Day. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Chelsea lined up 14 points behind second-placed Leeds, their side featuring a future Leeds manager in Dennis Wise.

But the fact that United would be in League One less than a decade later was unthinkable as O’Leary’s Whites emerged triumphant from a full-blooded encounter against the Blues.

Leeds had to survive some heavy early pressure, Wise’s free kick flicked on by Chris Sutton and the ball flying wide.

Wise then headed a fine chance over on the quarter-hour mark while a bobbling, low shot from Albert Ferrer was eventually gathered by Whites keeper Nigel Martyn at the second attempt.

Chelsea were dealt a blow just before the interval as Marcel Desailly was forced off injured, but the pressure continued after the break, Martyn keeping the scores level by producing a fine save to push a Wise header wide.

Frank Leboeuf then tested Martyn with an effort with some 30 yards out – but United’s keeper was equal to the task.

And instead it was United who took the lead in the 68th minute when McPhail produced a clinical finish from inside the area to net his first goal for the club.

Gary Kelly’s long punt forward from right back was brilliantly controlled by Harry Kewell, who turned and skinned Leboeuf, only to be fouled on the edge of the box.

But the loose ball fell to Lee Bowyer on the right-hand side of the Chelsea box and the Whites midfielder produced a fine cut-back which ran straight into the path of the onrushing McPhail, who converted via a sweet left-footed shot that flew past Blues ’keeper Ed De Goey into the left-hand corner of the net.

McPhail and his ecstatic Whites teammates raced away to celebrate near the corner flag, McPhail tumbling to the ground after his attempted knee slide and United’s players diving over the midfielder in celebration.

Leeds were heading for victory – and for Chelsea, things went from bad to worse two minutes later.

Leboeuf, who had already been booked, was twisted and turned by Kewell as he ran across the pitch and the Frenchman petulantly kicked out at the winger from behind to bring him down.

Leboeuf knew he was heading for an early bath and referee Jeff Winter pulled out a second yellow without any hesitation to give the centre back his marching orders.

Leboeuf did not leave quietly and became involved in a shoving match with Whites defender Jonathan Woodgate, whose teammates quickly arrived on the scene for support.

Blues boss Gianluca Vialli looked none-too-impressed and Leeds then made absolutely sure of victory as McPhail bagged his and United’s second goal with three minutes left.

The Whites were awarded a free kick to the right-hand side of the Blues box and McPhail sent in a curling left-footed cross that whizzed through the box and nestled into the left-hand corner after Erik Bakke had jumped over the ball.

Victory was assured and Leeds were jumping above Manchester United into first place for a Whites Christmas number one.

A message from the Editor:

Leeds has a fantastic story to tell - and the Yorkshire Evening Post has been rooted firmly at the heart of telling the stories of our city since 1890.

We believe in ourselves and hope you believe in us too. We need your support to help ensure we can continue to be at the heart of life in Leeds.

Subscribe to our website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app.

With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.

Click here to subscribe.

For more details on our newspaper subscription offers click here.

Thank you Laura Collins