Football: Kewell ignites sizzling Leeds

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The Independent Online
Leeds United 4

Hasselbaink 34, Bowyer 51, Smith 67, Kewell 87

Charlton Athletic 1

Mortimer 65

Attendance: 32,487

THE ACCENT on adventure introduced by the new manager David O'Leary continues to serve Leeds well. After last weekend's comprehensive triumph at Liverpool, the Elland Road side swept Charlton aside with a performance that began slowly but acquired irresistible vibrancy in the second half.

Leading by just Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's goal at half-time, Leeds went up several gears in the second period when the former Charlton midfielder Lee Bowyer, 18-year-old substitute Alan Smith and the impressive Harry Kewell emphasised their superiority despite a fine reply from Paul Mortimer.

It was another example of the contrast O'Leary has affected in less than six weeks since he inherited a side built unashamedly on defensive virtues by George Graham.

Graham's sides would often play with just one striker even at home. Yesterday, O'Leary had three, Kewell operating in close proximity to Hasselbaink and Clive Wijnhard, with Bowyer and David Hopkin encouraged to push well forward and Gunnar Halle and Ian Harte launching frequent forays along the flanks.

What a refreshing uplift it provided at a ground unused to such high entertainment. When the news of Manchester United's defeat came through, Leeds supporters really did feel Christmas had come early.

Charlton, making a good fist of their first season in the Premiership, probably deserved to be level at half-time after Clive Mendonca and Andy Hunt had posed problems for the home defence. Indeed, it took a fine save by Nigel Martyn to deny Carl Tiler a goal after Hasselbaink, profiting from a miskick by Wijnhard, had shot Leeds ahead.

But they were no match for O'Leary's team in a second half notable for some splendid goals. Bowyer increased the Leeds advantage when, running on to Kewell's chip, he wriggled between two defenders before slotting the ball past Sasa Ilic. Mortimer, who had replaced Danny Mills, put Charlton back into contention with a magnificent reply, darting past Halle before beating Martyn with a superb right-foot strike from an unlikely angle.

But then the precocious Smith blasted home his second goal in as many appearances after Hasselbaink back-heeled Kewell's pass into his path. The excellent Kewell rounded off his own display with Leeds' fourth goal two minutes from time, shimmying past Ilic after Bowyer's through ball had beaten Charlton's offside trap.