Football: Sharpe adds a cutting edge

Leeds United 1 Maritimo 0
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LEEDS MADE heavy weather of their first taste of European action for three years, but at least gained the satisfaction of a slender advantage at Elland Road last night. Whether it will be enough when they travel to the Portuguese island of Madeira for the second leg of this Uefa Cup first-round tie on 29 September remains to be seen.

The goal for which they toiled long, hard and none too inventively against a team with a game plan designed only to stifle came late, in the 84th minute. Leeds had wasted a series of free-kicks conceded by the Portuguese, but when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was brought down by Mrcio Antnio a yard outside the 18-yard line they finally cashed in.

An exchange of touches by the substitutes, Lee Sharpe and Bruno Ribeiro, did enough to fracture Maritimo's defensive wall and Hasselbaink's low drive found a way through to beat the goalkeeper, Yves van der Straeten, and nestle in the bottom right-hand corner. Maritimo have bad memories of Hasselbaink. Before he left Boavista for Leeds, his hat-trick in a Portuguese League match denied them a place in Europe last season.

Before the match the Leeds manager, George Graham, had spoken enthusiastically about the battle of tactical wits that European competition inevitably provides, but the Maritimo coach Augusto Incio's smothering formation appeared to have him stumped as Leeds constantly ran into brick walls.

"I knew they would defend and they did so very well," Graham said. "I was surprised at how big and strong they were for a Portuguese team.

"It would have been nice to get an early goal but I think we deserved the win. It is going to be difficult over there but we are a good away side."

Maritimo for the most part seemed content to give Nigel Martyn a night off. Although they had Lino and Johann Deveau ostensibly employed as wide men in support of the former West Ham striker, Alex Bunbury, whenever possession switched to the home side they quickly pulled everyone bar the Canadian international behind the ball.

Leeds lacked the craft to work within a congested midfield and before half-time their only real shot came from Clyde Wijnhard, whose close-range strike was scrambled away by Van der Straeten.

Although Hopkin hit the foot of an upright early in the second half, Incio seemed likely to succeed in returning home with a clean slate. But the introduction of Ribeiro and Sharpe gave Leeds fresh impetus and the two combined intelligently in setting up the decisive goal. Indeed, Sharpe almost added a second in stoppage time, Van der Straeten saving one-handed at full stretch.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn; Hiden, Molenaar, Radebe, Harte; Hopkin (Sharpe, 75), Bowyer, Haaland (Ribeiro, 66), Kewell; Wijnhard (Lilley, 61), Hasselbaink. Substitutes not used: Wetherall, Granville, Halle, Robinson (gk).

Maritimo (5-2-3): Van der Straeten; Rui Oscar, Carlos Jorge, Paulo Sergio, Soares, Eusebio; Mrcio Antnio (Toni, 89), Zeca; Lino (Cruz, 66), Bunbury, Duveau (Herivelto, 54). Substitutes not used: Bach, Jokanovic, Dani Diaz, Nelson (gk).

Referee: A Sars (France).