When five-star Leeds United stormed into FA Cup fifth round despite absentees

Leeds United could have been in action in the FA Cup fourth round this weekend.

By Lee Sobot
Saturday, 5th February 2022, 4:30 pm

A trip to Kidderminster Harriers would have been in the offing had the Whites navigated last month’s third round clash at West Ham United.

Instead, Leeds sit this weekend out.

But 23 years ago the Whites were storming into the fifth round in style as David O’Leary’s team eventually romped to a 5-1 win at Portsmouth.

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PIECE OF MAGIC: Ian Harte, centre, celebrates with his Leeds United team mates after putting David O'Leary's Whites 2-1 up at FA Cup hosts Portsmouth via a superb free-kick back in January 1999. Picture by Laurence Griffiths /Allsport via Getty Images.

Managed by Alan Ball, Pompey were a second-tier outfit at the time and one in financial turmoil who had narrowly avoided the drop to the third tier in the previous campaign.

The south coast side faced a rather depleted Whites for whom Alan Smith, Lee Bowyer and Alf-Inge Haaland were all suspended.

Lucas Radebe was also away with South Africa and David Batty was among those out injured.

It meant Nigel Martyn lined up in goal behind Danny Granville, Jonathan Woodgate, David Wetherall, Ian Harte, Gunnar Halle, David Hopkin, Bruno Ribeiro, Harry Kewell, Willem Korsten and Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink.

Leeds threatened to bag the opener as a shaven-headed Kewell fired a low shot wide from the edge of the box.

But Pompey took a shock lead in the ninth minute as 18-year-old Luke Nightingale fired home a firm low drive from inside the box after Jeff Perron’s cross had been filcked on by Steve Claridge.

Leeds, though, immediately responded to level just two minutes later as a corner was played short to Ian Harte whose floated cross towards the back post was powered into the opposite corner via a towering Wetherall header.

The hosts threatened to go back in front as Alan McLoughlin let fly with a volley from the edge of the box which flew just wide.

Yet instead the Whites went ahead in stunning fashion in the 17th minute as a free-kick from the edge of the box was walloped into the bottom left corner via a terrific strike from set piece specialist Harte.

Leeds pushed on for a third, Hasselbaink’s powerful effort from the edge of the box well held by veteran keeper Alan Knight.

Claridge then went close to equalising ten minutes before the break as his rising strike from the edge of the box flew just over and wide.

Shortly after, a Claridge cross from the byline was bundled just wide by Nightingale.

O’Leary was forced to make a change during the interval as the injured Granville was replaced by Matt Jones who was making his senior debut.

It meant another Whites reshuffle but Leeds went 3-1 up six minutes after the restart after great work from Hasselbaink who made his way into the Pompey area and sent in a low cross which fell to Kewell who struck a fantastic low drive into the bottom right corner.

United were rampant and a strong strike from Korsten then tested the gloves of Knight.

Korsten was then replaced by Clyde Wijnhard as O’Leary made his second change and Leeds bagged their fourth 12 minutes later as Ribeiro’s strike from 20 yards out took a huge deflection of Adrian Whitbread to give Knight no chance as the ball sailed into the bottom right corner.

Portsmouth looked to rally and only a fantastic save from Martyn denied the hosts their second goal as a header from Michalis Vlachos was clawed away as it headed for the top left corner.

Leeds countered and wasted a fine chance as Hasselbaink fired wide when Wijnhard was free in the box to his left.

But Wijnhard got his goal with eight minutes left as Kewell’s cross picked out the Dutchman who took one touch to set himself before poking a clinical finish past Knight.

United went close to bagging a sixth when pouring forward on a counter attack which ended with Kewell’s drive being saved by Knight.

A wonderful save from Martyn then denied Claridge at the other end but in any case the damage had been done and Leeds were storming through to the FA Cup fifth round.

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