TO THE satisfaction of all but the most one-eyed Stuttgart fan, justice was done in the Catalan capital last night, when an improbable hero finally installed Leeds in the second round of the European Cup.
The third game, which should never have been necessary, was settled after four and a half hours by a player who had been involved for barely a minute. Carl Shutt, a journeyman striker who was on loan to Sheffield United the day the title was won last season, had just replaced Eric Cantona when he scored the 77th-minute winner which sets up the Battle of Britain - Leeds v Rangers - in round two.
Shutt, restricted to just six starts in the championship campaign, and denied a medal, is 31 today. Needless to say, the birthday celebrations started early and went on late.
Utterly deflated last week, when they thought they had been eliminated on the away-goals rule, Leeds made the most of the reprieve, which came with the revelation that Stuttgart had fielded a fourth, ineligible foreigner, and go through strictly on merit. With the exception of a manic second half in Germany, they were the better side over the three games and Howard Wilkinson deserved the champagne he drank to salute his team's achievement.
'A magnificent night, a magnificent result and a terrific performance,' was his justified verdict. 'Now we can look forward to a great all-British tie with Rangers.' Their sense of anticipation will be heightened by the prospect of further progress: Scotland's champions are not as good as Stuttgart.
To claim their place in the second round Leeds needed to assemble a game of two halves - the first half from Germany, where they defended assiduously and created chances on the break, and the second 45 minutes from Elland Road, where they rattled in the goals and had Stuttgart on the run. They got the balance absolutely right.
They had the start they wanted, taking the lead after 34 minutes when Gordon Strachan drove in a handsome 25-yarder, but the Germans equalised five minutes later through Andrei Golke and, as expected, it was nip and tuck.
The 20,000 or so spectators dotted around the Nou Camp created an atmosphere more Wimbledon than Barcelona, but it was the real thing out on the pitch all right.
Away from their Yorkshire fortress, Leeds sought security in an extra defender, recalling Jon Newsome in central defence to the exclusion of Scott Sellars.
The Germans also made a defensive change, recalling Uwe Schneider, who had shackled Cantona effectively in the first game, and was to do so again. The most notable absentee, of course, was Jovo Simanic, the Yugoslav whose brief appearance last week had necessitated the replay.
Chances were few and far between during a cagey opening, but after 13 minutes Thomas Strunz was desperately close to an own goal when he lunged in to cut out David Batty's driven centre and the ball flew only inches over Eike Immel's crossbar.
The Leeds following, in good voice throughout, exhorted the troops with 'Marching on Together', drowning out the larger German contingent. They might have had a penalty to shout about when Strunz halted Gary McAllister's surge into Immel's area with what amounted to a body-check. Penalties have been given for less, but rough justice was done when Strunz immediately retired, limping.
Leeds' first goal attempt of real consequence was delayed until the 29th minute, when Gary Speed dashed into the D, where he was felled by Gunther Schafer. McAllister's free-kick, from 20 yards, was a good one, but Immel's reaction to it was even better, and when he beat the ball out he deserved his good fortune when Chris Fairclough was unable to direct the rebound on to the target.
Promising stuff, and the promise had handsome fulfilment when Strachan fastened on to a loose clearance from Golke and unleashed a crisp shot from the inside-right channel which Immel could only help into his right-hand corner, via the upright.
The Yorkshire hymns of thanksgiving were still in their first verse when Stuttgart hit back, hard. Serbia's Slobodan Dubajic released Alex Strehmel on the right, from where he delivered a precise cross which invited the firm, downward header with which Golke beat John Lukic's dive.
The goals served to enliven the game, with Stuttgart's change in attitude the most marked. Largely passive until they fell behind, they were suddenly full of vim and vigour, and Leeds needed the tackle of the night, by Newsome on Fritz Walter, to save what looked like a certain score.
Leeds revived in the second half but Lee Chapman got nothing out of Guido Buchwald, Cantona had one of those nights when his little flicks and feints come to nought, and a change was inevitable.
It was Shutt who replaced Cantona - an inspired decision. Shutt had been on for barely a minute when he settled the issue with a goal of the highest class, accepting Tony Dorigo's through-pass and drifting left, past Schafer, before shooting under Immel from 12 yards.
Leeds United: Lukic; Newsome, Dorigo, Batty, Fairclough, Whyte, Strachan, Cantona (Shutt, 76), Chapman, McAllister, Speed.
VfB Stuggart: Immel; Schafer, Frontzeck, Dubajic, Strunz (Strehmel, 22), Buchwald, Buck, Sverisson (Knup, 81), Walter, Golke, Kogl.
Referee: F Baldas (Italy).Reuse content