Football: Haland applies finishing touch for fired-up Leeds

Leeds United 4 Blackburn Rovers 0
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REPORTS of Leeds' demise may have been exaggerated. Out of the FA Cup and sickly in the League, it would not have been a surprise if they quietly put this season to rest. Clearly they have other ideas.

Last night they shredded Blackburn with a machine-gun burst of second- half goals from Lee Bowyer, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Alf Inge Haland, twice, to buff up their own chances of gaining a Uefa Cup place while undermining the title aspirations of the visitors.

It was a startling result not only for a home side bouncing back from their Cup quarter-final defeat by Wolves on Saturday, but also for the chalk and Wensleydale nature of Leeds performance. In the first half they were mediocre, in the second devastating: George Graham ought to have recorded his half-time talk for future use at motivation seminars.

"I just said `please try harder'," the Leeds manager said. "It's amazing what happens with the magic word please." Blackburn's Roy Hodgson, you suspect, was a lot less polite.

A volley from close range by Garry Flitcroft and the stinging drive from Chris Sutton in the first eight minutes promised plenty from the visitors but they then went into a stupor and, but, for two extraordinary misses by Leeds in the first half would have suffered even more.

The first stemmed from a pass from Ian Harte after 29 minutes that split the Blackburn back four apart and Bowyer should at least have been close to the target. Instead his lob rolled off the side of his foot and did not even have the decency to go for a goal-kick.

If Bowyer had made a hash of that chance, Harry Kewell could not have looked more composed as he collected Colin Hendry's woeful back-pass immediately afterwards. He waited for Fettis to advance, made space for himself and then side-footed against the bar when missing was harder to do than score.

All of which made Leeds's ruthless finishing after the interval the more surprising: three goals in seven minutes, the first begun and ended by Bowyer who belied his earlier hopeless miss with a goal of emphatic power after 48 minutes. He flicked a throw-in over his shoulder and then ran through to meet David Wetherall's header with a crashing volley.

Four minutes later Hasselbaink cut inside Gary Croft with an elegant swerve and then curled a shot in with the relaxed manner of a kickabout and when Wetherall caused confusion again and Haland turned and half-volleyed past the now shell-shocked Fettis, Rovers were being routed.

Hasselbaink rained in shots from all angles, even Ian Harte, a full-back, might have had a hat-trick but Leeds could get only one more, although it was worth the wait of 88 minutes. Haland received the ball 35 yards out, turned and then nonchalantly beat Fettis with a swerving shot that found the bottom corner.

Leeds United (3-5-2): Martyn; Wetherall, Hiden, Radebe; Kelly, Bowyer, Hopkin, Haland, Harte; Hasselbaink, Kewell. Substitutes not used: Beeney (gk), Halle, Molenaar, Matthews, McPhail.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Fettis; Kenna, Henchoz, Hendry, Croft (Ripley, 67); Duff, Sherwood, Flitcroft, Wilcox; Dahlin, Sutton. Substitutes not used: Flowers (gk), McKinlay, Valery, Broomes.

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).