Football: Bowyer strike keeps Leeds at the summit

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The Independent Online
BEING YOUNG and naive does not seem to be doing Leeds United much harm as they look down from the summit of the Premiership at the halfway stage of the season and there is no sign of them blowing up. Yesterday's home match against Leicester City provided them with an opportunity to reveal mental fragility but, after falling behind, they knuckled down to emerge as 2-1 winners.

Admittedly youthful impetuosity in front of goal did prevent them from capitalising fully on a fightback, led by Lee Bowyer, that at times had Martin O'Neill's side looking ragged. Bowyer dummied Harry Kewell's in the build-up as Michael Bridges equalised Tony Cottee's opener and, after Bowyer had put Leeds ahead on the stroke of half-time, a runaway victory looked likely. The squandering of several second-half chances put paid to that idea.

Bradford City were aided by the wind, the rain and the dreadful playing surface at Old Trafford in holding Manchester United for 75 minutes of their first visit in 64 years. When the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, made a double substitution, sending on Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, the game changed and Quinton Fortune, Yorke, Cole and Roy Keane rattled in the goals that gave United a 4-0 victory.

Everton went one better, making Peter Reid's return to Goodison Park, as Sunderland's manager, a nightmare. A new owner for Everton, Bill Kenwright, and a two-year contract extension for their manager, Walter Smith, brought a new start. Don Hutchison scored twice and Francis Jeffers once as they went 3-0 up at the break, with Mark Pembridge and Kevin Campbell wrapping things up.

After seeing his Sheffield Wednesday side secure their second league victory of the season, 1-0 over Middlesbrough, Danny Wilson will be hoping for a new beginning for the Owls, too. Peter Atherton scored the first- half goal that sealed the points. Even the introduction of the "New Maradona", the pounds 1.5m 17-year-old Carlos Marinelli, in the second half could not turn the tide for Boro.

No such glimmer of dawn for Jim Smith at Derby. He saw his side lose their fourth successive home game, with George Boateng and Ian Taylor giving Aston Villa a 2-0 victory.

Liverpool are unbeaten in five visits to St James' Park after their 2- 2 draw with Newcastle, who went in front when Alan Shearer touched in Nolberto Solano's free-kick. Michael Owen put Liverpool ahead with goals either side of half-time, but Duncan Ferguson, once of Everton, produced a 67th-minute equaliser.

Chelsea seemed to have shaken off the blues inflicted by Leeds at Stamford Bridge before Christmas when Tore Andre Flo scored twice in the first half to put them in control prior to half-time at Southampton, but they went off the boil and Kevin Davies' first goal in five games made the closing stages more tense than they should have been.

The Tottenham manager, George Graham, took David Ginola off 15 minutes from time at White Hart Lane, but only after he had scored a superb opening goal and victory over Watford had been secured, in a respectable response to the FA Cup humiliation at Newcastle last week. Graham gave complaining Spurs fans short shrift - there is a round of Premiership matches in midweek. After the Frenchman's departure, 3-0 became 4-0 as Tim Sherwood added his second goal.

With Spurs now sixth, their fans have less reason to worry than Watford's. For Graham Taylor's side, it was a 12th defeat in 14 starts.

At Selhurst Park, Wimbledon scored the first and last goals in a 2-2 home draw with West Ham United.