Football: Leeds count the cost of no Heskey

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The Independent Online
Leeds United 0 Leicester City 1

Given George Graham's public comments following Leicester's victory, it is probable that his private conversation with Martin O'Neill included a request to the Leicester manager to name his price for the striker Emile Heskey.

"If Heskey had been playing for us we would have won," Graham said. "He is a tremendous young player and today he was was excellent."

O'Neill, needless to say, has no intention of parting with the 19-year- old England under-21 international, who is under long-term contract at Filbert Street. Even though Leicester spent much of the match defending a first-half lead, Heskey on the prowl was a constant threat.

This was on an afternoon when Graham took off his own key striker, his pounds 2m signing Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, after 45 minutes, with the frank admission that the Dutchman is finding the step up from Portuguese football to the Premiership difficult to take. After Tony Yeboah and Tomas Brolin, another foreign misfit is the last thing Leeds need. But it seems worryingly possible that Hasselbaink will turn into another disappointment.

Had he been of a mind, O'Neill might have struck a few other deals with Graham, who was as admiring of Leicester's defence as he was of Heskey. In Matt Elliott, Spencer Prior and Steve Walsh, all of them 6ft 3in, the Leeds manager believes O'Neill has a back line to rival any in England.

It did not help Leeds that his midfield kingpin, David Hopkin, cried off sick on Saturday morning, nor that Lucas Radebe limped off just before half-time, but Graham's side were as poor as they were dull.

The corner of the crowd cheering for Leicester wondered again at their side's remarkable resilience, not least that of Walsh, the captain, who took the field with a dodgy hamstring yet managed to stay on the field long enough to head the only goal from a well-rehearsed set piece.

Goals: Walsh (32) 0-1.

Leeds United (3-5-2): Martyn; Kelly, Wetherall, Radebe (Molenaar 48); Halle, Bowyer, Haaland, Ribeiro, Robertson; Wallace (Lilley, 83), Hasselbaink (Kewell, 46). Substitutes not used: Harte, Beeney (gk).

Leicester City (3-5-2): Keller; Prior, Elliott, Walsh (Fenton, 36); Kaamark, Izzet, Lennon, Parker (Campbell, 66), Guppy; Heskey, Marshall. Substitutes not used: Savage, Cottee, Andrews (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).

Bookings: Leeds: Bowyer, Molenaar. Leicester: Izzet, Heskey.

Man of the match: Heskey. Attendance: 29,620.