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Match Report - Leeds 3 Fulham 2

last updated Sunday 14th December 2003, 8:54 PM
Fulham striker Louis Saha gets a brace but he is not able to save Fulham
Fulham striker Louis Saha gets a brace but he is not able to save Fulham
Louis Saha Stories
Dominic Matteo fired home a last-gasp winner, his first goal for three years, to give Leeds their first Elland Road victory for more than two months and keep the revival bandwagon on course.

It is now seven points from the last nine under caretaker-boss Eddie Gray, but only after an edge-of-the-seat finale as Louis Saha appeared to have salvaged a point for high-flying Fulham.

Saha fired home a second-half brace to cancel out Leeds' two-goal lead afforded them initially by the unlikely figure of Michael Duberry, with his first goal for three and a half years, and then in the more customary form of Mark Viduka.

But moments after Saha had completed his double in the 87th minute, Leeds skipper Matteo was left unmarked to head home his first of the season to hand his side a rare home triumph.

It was a deserved victory, but you would not have bet on Duberry opening the scoring, with the centre back having become something of a cult figure with the Leeds fans.

His recent return to the side has resulted in the BBC being bombarded with votes from the Whites supporters in the Sports Personality of the Year awards.

The 28-year-old has benefited from the change in formation deployed by Gray, who has switched to five across the middle with great effect, with Matteo in the anchor role.

It has guaranteed Duberry's place in the centre of defence, and he was certainly in the right place at the right time to fire Leeds in front against a typically resilient Fulham side who again packed men behind the ball.

Leeds were fortunate to win a 41st-minute free-kick from which the goal materialised as Luis Boa Morte, returning from a three-match ban, appeared to win the ball off Alan Smith.

Yet the tackle was from behind and up stepped Ian Harte for a 20-yard curler which Edwin van der Sar brilliantly parried, but straight at Duberry to shin the ball home.

The incredulous look on his face underlined the fact he was as stunned as everyone else at scoring, before normality then resumed in the closing minutes of the half with a couple of rushed clearances.

In that period of play Fulham finally conjured a chance for the previous 42 minutes they had found themselves under pressure, although with Leeds mounting little of note bar a Viduka drive which van der Sar held low down to his right.

But Paul Robinson, who had earlier almost made a hash of a curled Steed Malbranque cross, was alert in tipping over the bar a rising drive from the same player.

The second half then started - and ended - in explosive fashion, with Leeds opening up a two-goal cushion just 45 seconds after the restart courtesy of Viduka's third of the season and his first to end a nine-game drought.

A James Milner throw found Viduka with his back to goal and 25 yards out, and after first holding off the challenge of Zat Knight, he left van der Sar rooted to his line as a superb right-foot curler flashed past the Dutchman.

Match Stats Leeds Fulham
Goals 3 2
Goal attempts 14 10
On Target 11 7
Hit Woodwork 1 0
Corners 6 5
Off sides 2 0
Fouls 17 11
Yellows 2 1
Reds 0 0
Possession % 44% 56%
source: sky/sporting life
But 70 seconds later Fulham were back in the game with Sean Davis initially feeding Saha, and although there appeared no danger from 25 yards, his raking right-foot shot for his ninth of the campaign was beyond the outstretched reach of Robinson.

Fulham had become a different proposition now they were chasing the game and almost grabbed the equaliser in the 57th minute, only for Robinson to display exceptional reflexes in beating away a 15-yard half volley from Saha in meeting a Davis corner.

That was followed 90 seconds later with Fulham close to conceding a third, but with van der Sar again well beaten, on-loan Arsenal winger Jermaine Pennant struck the bar with a cracking left-foot shot after turning inside visiting skipper Andy Melville.

After Smith picked up his third caution in successive games - and that after returning from a one-match ban for five bookings this season - Matteo then put the ball over the bar in the 66th minute after being set up by Milner and Viduka.

The woodwork again saved Fulham 12 minutes from time as a right-wing cross from Pennant deflected off Melville and onto the right-hand post, with Milner firing the rebound over the bar from a tight angle.

After another Milner curler had been saved by van der Sar, Saha then seemingly gave Fulham a share of the spoils as a 20-yard drive spun in off the left hand of Robinson.

But Matteo had the last word, ensuring Leeds will not be bottom come Christmas - and we all know what happens to teams at the end of the season who find themselves in that position over the festive period.

Leeds: Robinson, Kelly, Radebe, Duberry, Harte, Pennant, Smith, Batty, Matteo, Milner, Viduka.

Subs Not Used: Carson, Morris, Bridges, McPhail, Richardson.

Booked: Batty, Smith.

Goals: Duberry 41, Viduka 46, Matteo 88.

Fulham: Van der Sar, Volz (Hayles 63), Melville, Knight, Harley, Malbranque, Legwinski, Clark, Sean Davis, Boa Morte (Sava 77), Saha.

Subs Not Used: Crossley, Djetou, Goma.

Booked: Boa Morte (52,d).

Goals: Saha 47, 86.

Att: 30,544 Ref: N Barry (N Lincolnshire).
Source PA Sport by Ian Parkes

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