British shortcomings laid bare by Leeds

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The Independent Online
Jean Tigana wanted a beer with Chris Waddle before flying home so he kept his comments brief. With the winning smile of a gracious loser, the Monaco coach said he hoped Leeds United would go on to win the Uefa Cup. Reports of the death of French diplomacy have, it is clear, been exaggerated.

Monaco, 1-0 victors in Yorkshire after being blown away by Tony Yeboah's hat-trick in Monte Carlo, had done Tigana's talking for him. Whereas Leeds seldom progressed beyond stuttering and were indebted to John Lukic's face-saving brilliance in goal, Monaco were endlessly eloquent in terms of technique and tactics.

The T-words: the British, clubs and countries alike, are accustomed to hearing them invoked like evidence at an inquest. Howard Wilkinson, the Leeds manager, returned to an equally familiar complaint about the demands placed on players by congested fixture lists, but saw little prospect of change.

His point is underlined by the fact that his captain, Gary McAllister, has had 12 attritional games in 42 days. As reasons go, however, this one is rather like British Rail's wrong kind of leaves on the line. It may be true, but it has been a factor so long that those whose domain is to devise counter-plans might by now have come up with something more effective.

By Wilkinson's admission, Leeds were "tactically, not at the races". Yeboah foraged alone while two former England strikers, Brian Deane and David White, operated in withdrawn wide roles. Four goals in five matches at Elland Road - as against 11 in five away - suggests the problem lies in flawed strategy as the superior skills displayed by Enzo Scifo and Co.

In the circumstances, the presence of four British clubs in tomorrow's second-round draw should perhaps be a cause for rejoicing. Leeds did, after all, prevail against recent European Cup semi-finalists, while Nottingham Forest overturned a first-leg deficit against Malmo to advance by virtue of an away goal.

Liverpool, like Leeds, had apparently done the hard part by beating Spartak Vladikavkaz away, but ended up relieved to hold the clever, mobile Russians 0-0. Roy Evans, the manager, doubted whether Anfield would see a technically more accomplished side however far his team progressed.

Raith Rovers also live to fight another day, thanks to the heroics of their keeper, Scott Thomson, in Iceland. Whatever fate awaits Kirkcaldy's finest, they will always be able to say they went further in the Uefa Cup than Manchester United.