Ian Wright, the goalkeeper Shaka Hislop and Steve Lomas were all dismissed by the referee Rob Harris who lost control right from the start of a difficult match to handle.
A minute's silence for Sir Alf Ramsey, England's World Cup-winning manager, was impeccably observed by supporters of two clubs who between them supplied four of the team that beat West Germany in 1966. But this was to be the last of the pleasantries as the formalities gave way to a bloodcurdling first 45 minutes.
Straight from the kick-off Eyal Berkovic went down clutching his ankle after losing possession and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink picked up the loose ball and strode into the West Ham area before firing left-footed, low past Hislop.
The goal was clocked at 25 seconds. Meanwhile Berkovic was carried off and if the perpetrator of his injury had been unclear there was the most unsubtle of hints just after Berkovic reappeared when John Moncur clattered into Lee Bowyer, picking up the first of seven yellow cards before the break, not to mention one red.
Within a minute Wright was booked for an apparent elbow on Alf Inge Haaland and moments later Trevor Sinclair almost equalised with a header from Berkovic's neatly chipped free-kick. But with 17 minutes gone West Ham were reduced to ten men when Wright was adjudged to have brought down Ian Harte but the referee's assistant alerted Mr Harris to an extra infringement and Wright was shown his second yellow.
The occasion was not far from boiling point by now and when Paulo Di Canio went down injured in the Leeds area and Bowyer broke away ignoring the Italian's plight, there might well have been a riot within Upton Park had Neil Ruddock not cleared from under his own crossbar.
West Ham fought back and even created one or two half chances, but then, in the sixth minute of injury time and after David Batty had escaped unpunished for a foul on Lomas that even Batty seemed ashamed of Harry Kewell broke down the Leeds left and crossed for Alan Smith who had a simple tap-in to put Leeds two up.
Until then West Ham had coped admirably with the loss of Wright and when Di Canio pulled a goal back at the start of the second half after a neat interchange with Berkovic it was not such a surprise.
There was a brief lull in the proceedings as everyone caught their breath but on the hour the game burst into life again. After Batty was belatedly booked for a foul on Frank Lampard, Hasselbaink again broke clear and this time Hislop could only bring him down in the area. A penalty no doubt, but when the referee showed Hislop the red card one feared for his sanity, never mind his safety. Harte duly put the spot-kick past the substitute goalkeeper Craig Forrest.
From this point on West Ham, understandably, had little to offer and Haaland and Bowyer compounded their misery with late strikes. When Lomas was sent off in the 88th minute for a two-footed tackle on Harte it was an apposite postscript to an ugly match.Reuse content