#OnThisDay: United Are Safe! Arsenal 2 Leeds United 3

Read the match report from that classic match at Highbury

MARK VIDUKA scored his 19th Premiership goal of the season to secure Leeds United’s Premiership future as the Whites turned the form book upside down to record another famous victory over Arsenal at Highbury.

In a game Leeds were desperate to win, Harry Kewell shocked Arsenal with a potential goal of the season then United survived a fightback from the defending Premiership champions before launching their own challenge that saw Ian Harte score once more at Highbury and Viduka’s winner.

It was history in the making for Leeds, who will look to next season now with added enthusiasm.

PRE-MATCH

Peter Reid has elected for a 4-5-1 formation against Arsenal today with Mark Viduka ploughing a lone furrow upfront and Harry Kewell, the man who will provide most of the support for Viduka, sticking on the left wing.

Lucas Radebe comes into the side with Alan Smith suspended and takes his place at centre-half with skipper Dominic Matteo moved up to midfield.

THE MATCH

Leeds went into the game knowing that three points were needed from this or the final game of the season against Aston Villa to ensure their Premiership survival.

Bolton had ground out a point at St Mary’s the previous day and West Ham had defied the odds to grind out a win against Chelsea to go into the final weekend on the same number of points as The Whites, but United’s superior goal difference giving them a crucial edge.

On his return to the team Lucas Radebe pulled off a characteristic tackle to deny Player of the Season Thierry Henry from getting an early chance in.  Radebe timed his challenge perfectly to prevent the French master from getting in a position where he only had Robinson to beat.

From the resulting corner Leeds breathed a sigh of relief as Gilberto’s header thumped against the bar.

Then the game changed on its head as Harry Kewell hit a scorcher to give United a remarkable lead on four minutes!

The Aussie ace was found by a long ball from Jason Wilcox, Kewell spun away from two men and then struck from 25-yards with an angled drive across David Seaman and into the far left hand corner.

It was a moment of brilliance from Kewell …and another 84 minutes worth were what Leeds required, but it was probably the goal of the season from a United point of view.

Six minutes later and Kewell nearly doubled the lead with his second as Arsenal were shell-shocked by his opener.

Viduka held the ball up well and laid it off excellently for Harry to make the run, Kewell went wide and around Seaman, but ultimately too wide as he left himself with an impossible angle to aim from and blasted the ball into the side netting.

Leeds were carving the defending Premiership champs apart at the back, and chances continued to fall for Leeds.

Kelly’s cross was knocked on by Wilcox and Viduka tried to just clip it past David Seaman, but only into the one time Elland Road trainee’s hands.

A crucial moment on 15 minutes saw Robinson make a great save after Henry’s shot had deflected off Duberry, and then Mills cleared away the loose from Wiltord before he had the chance to draw Arsenal level.

But still Leeds were the ones threatening to score again, Harte’s free-kick was perfectly chipped into the danger area and from there Viduka just put it wide with a header when he won a physical battle against Luzhny.

On the half-hour mark the Arsenal that had won so convincingly earlier this season at Elland Road emerged.

An audacious Ray Parlour shot from 30 yards bounced wickedly for Robinson who made a left handed save to deflect the flight of the ball onto the underside of the crossbar, but it came down for Henry to turn the ball home with a simple header.

United were forced into some last-gasp defending when Parlour tried his luck with another shot from outside the area, but Michael Duberry had managed to take up a good position on the line and cleared the danger after Robinson had been beaten.

The home side continued their onslaught on Robinson’s goal and thought they’d taken the lead when Henry’s shot hit the post and came back for Wiltord for the simple tap-in, but Wiltord was flagged for offside.

Right on the stroke of half-time Bakke conceded a free-kick 25-yards out when he brought Henry’s run to an end but Leeds survived any late disappointment in the half when Robinson got behind the bouncing ball well after the free-kick just crept through the wall.
Three minutes into the second half and Leeds struck again! 

A free-kick to Leeds some 25-yards out gave Ian Harte the chance to score for the third game in a row at Highbury and the Irishman duly obliged.  It appeared to take a slight touch off Gilberto and Ashley Cole past the despairing dive of Seaman.  Minutes later he curled another free-kick just wide of the top corner.

Just past the hour mark though and Arsenal came back at Leeds again.  Henry played Pires into space on the left and the French midfielder was allowed too much time on the ball and instead of shooting himself cut it back for Dennis Bergkamp to sidefoot it into the net.

A minute later and Bergkamp was booked for a crunching late tackle on Ian Harte that left the defender in a heap.  The bookings that are so often a feature of this fixture then appeared like a rash as Viduka was booked for catching Parlour’s trailing leg.
Leeds stepped up the pace with 15 minutes left and Kewell, who could have had a hat-trick if all his good chances had come to fruition, saw Seaman tip away his drive from inside the area with a left-handed dive to prevent him from restoring the lead.

From the corner Arsenal broke and nearly caught Leeds flat, Bergkamp began the break and played in what should have been the killer pass for Henry to score his second, except this time the post saved Leeds.

With ten minutes left Reid sensed that Kewell had run himself into the ground, and the Aussie had had a magnificent game for Leeds United and scored without doubt one of the goals of the season. He was replaced by Simon Johnson making his third Premiership appearance.

After the change Leeds should really have taken the lead and you would have expected the on form Viduka to have got his header from Danny Mills’ loing free-kick on target when he was found completely unmarked inside the area.

It was hearts-in-mouth stuff right to the end of the game, especially when Cole managed to break past the last man and put in a low cross right across the face of goal, fortunately not met by anyone in a red shirt!

The moment that saved United from having to do it all against Aston Villa on the final day of the season arrived with minutes left when Matteo played in and Viduka smashed it home past Seaman. The celebrations were as wild on the bench as on the pitch as Peter Reid was lifted in celebration by Brian Kidd!

Leeds deserving winners in the end and even the thought of having handed the Premiership title to Manchester United did not detract from the relief of having madde sure Leeds United will be playing Premiership football again in the 2003/04 season.