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Leeds 2-0 Fulham - Match report

last updated Tuesday 22nd April 2003, 11:13 PM
Leeds 2 (1) Fulham 0 (0)
The sigh of relief which swept round at Elland Road at the final whistle was palpable as free-scoring Mark Viduka's latest two-goal salvo virtually guaranteed Leeds Premiership football for next season.

Fulham keeper Maik Taylor
Fulham keeper Maik Taylor keeps the score down again
When Leeds look back on what has been a season of shame, Viduka will be owed a debt of gratitude for his form since the start of March has been inspirational, hotter than that of Manchester United's Ruud van Nistelrooy and Thierry Henry of Arsenal.

With goals at the start of each half, Viduka took his soaring tally to 19 for the season, although somewhat remarkably, 11 of those have come in his last seven league outings.

If Leeds do stay up - bearing in mind no team has been relegated on 41 points since the inception of the Premier League 11 years ago - the 27-year-old's scorching scoring streak will be looked upon as having been the key to their survival.

Leeds are now six points clear of relegation-haunted West Ham, and given their far superior goal difference over the unhappy Hammers, it would surely take a footballing miracle for interim manager Peter Reid's side to be relegated now.

Reid still has another three games to convince the Leeds board he is the right man for the full-time job after being told to keep United in the top flight following his appointment five matches ago as successor to the sacked Terry Venables.

Reid has almost kept his part of the bargain, and it now remains to be seen whether he will be rewarded, although Nottingham Forest's Paul Hart speculatively remains the favourite for a return to Elland Road given his former role as youth team coach.

At least Reid received the positive reaction he demanded from his under-performing stars in the wake of Saturday's debacle at Southampton where the 3-2 scoreline flattered Leeds.

The 46-year-old had let the players know, in no uncertain terms, just how disgusted he was with a performance which ranked as one of the worst of the season.

Away from Loftus Road Fulham's record has been abysmal this season as they went into the game on the back of a 13-match winless streak - nine defeats and four draws - with their last on-the-road success in mid-September at Sunderland.

Inside four minutes, it was abundantly obvious as to why travel sickness has become the norm this season for Fulham, although there was a touch of good fortune in Leeds' opener.

Referee Neale Barry awarded the first corner of the game in favour of Leeds, but failed to spot the final touch came off Harry Kewell.

Match Stats Leeds Fulham
Goal attempts 19 7
On Target 7 2
Woodwork 1 0
Offsides 1 1
Corners 8 4
Fouls 18 17
Yellows 0 2
Reds 0 0
source: www.sportinglife.com
Leeds gratefully took full advantage, with Gary Kelly's outswinging corner met by a bullet header from Viduka for his 18th of the campaign.

Despite the misery at the St Mary's Stadium, Reid kept faith with the starting 11, albeit Danny Mills reverted to his customary role at right-back following an apathetic display at the hear of the defence.

Skipper Dominic Matteo was switched from central midfield to centre-back, with Kelly in a surprising anchor role in the middle of the park, with Kewell on the right wing and Jason Wilcox on the left.

It was the latter who almost added a second in the eighth minute, only to fire a crisp drive narrowly wide of Maik Taylor's right-hand post, which was the destination for later chances in the half from Alan Smith and Kewell.

But then three minutes after the restart Leeds sealed a priceless win, with Viduka initially feeding a wide-open Kewell through the middle and, although sandwiched by Jon Harley and Zat Knight, he managed to squeeze in a shot which was blocked by Taylor.

The ball ran kindly to Viduka following up on his pass as he smashed home a game-killing right-foot shot from 15 yards.

With the job done, Leeds looked to add an exclamation point, only for Kewell to clip a post and for Andy Melville to deny Viduka his hat trick with a timely outstretched left boot on a night when United goalkeeper Paul Robinson was a virtual spectator.

Leeds: Robinson, Kelly, Duberry, Mills, Harte, Kewell, Bakke, Matteo, Wilcox, Viduka, Smith.
Subs Not Used: Martyn, Bravo, Barmby, Kilgallon, Simon Johnson.

Goals: Viduka 4, 49.

Fulham: Taylor, Finnan, Melville, Djetou (Knight 10), Harley, Davis, Clark, Legwinski, Inamoto (Hayles 46), Boa Morte, Hammond.
Subs Not Used: Herrera, Sava, John Collins.

Booked: Boa Morte, Hayles.

Att: 37,220 Ref: N Barry (N Lincolnshire).
Source PA Sport by Ian Parkes
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