Football: Walsh embodies the spirit

Leeds United 0 Leicester City 1 Walsh 32 Attendance:: 29,620
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The Independent Online
After their brave exploits in Europe, the unlikely lads of Leicester continue to make an impact on the Premiership against all expectations save their own. After their patched-up captain Steve Walsh had stayed on the field just long enough to give them a first-half lead, the self- proclaimed "new Wimbledon" dredged up another courageous effort at Elland Road yesterday for a win that lifts them to third in the table.

The Leicester manager, Martin O'Neill, had admitted to not knowing what to expect from his team after their gallant, if ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to defeat Atletico Madrid in Spain last Tuesday. "The trip took its toll and it was impossible to predict how they would react," he said. But Leicester are now famed for their extraordinary fighting spirit, epitomised by the presence in the starting line-up of Ian Marshall and Walsh, both of whom had returned with injuries from the first-leg Uefa Cup tie.

O'Neill knew exactly what he was up against, Leeds having found the kind of goalscoring form to which their somewhat long-suffering supporters are not used, hitting the mark seven times in two matches. When their manager, George Graham, opened his programme notes with a quip about losing his mean reputation, you suspected he was only half joking.

A goalless first half-hour suggested this match might provide a return to normality, although there was no denying the home side's intent to score goals, David Robertson bringing a save from the goalkeeper, Kasey Keller, and Rod Wallace driving in a powerful shot that Matt Elliott deflected for a corner with a measure of good fortune.

However, it was Leicesterwho took the lead after 32 minutes. Garry Parker's long throw was headed behind by David Wetherall, and from the resulting corner, taken by Steve Guppy on the right, Walsh bounced a far-post header through a forest of legs on the Leeds goalline. For the Leicester skipper, the match more or less ended there. Within a couple of minutes, he had tweaked the hamstring that had made him a doubtful starter and was replaced by Graham Fenton, with Marshall dropping back into defence.

Having been obliged to start without the Scottish international David Hopkin, who had flu, Leeds suffered further setbacks during the match. They were forced to replace their Dutch striker Jimmy Hasselbaink with the Australian teenager Harry Kewell at half-time, then had to make another change within three minutes of the restart when Radebe limped off the field. The South African gave way to Robert Molenaar who was immediately cautioned for a crude challenge on Heskey.

However, the powerfully-built England Under-21 striker is not put easily off his stride and twice midway through the second half he threatened the Leeds goal. Cutting inside from the left, he tested Nigel Martyn's agility with a low shot, then forced the save of the match from the Leeds goalkeeper after Izzet's clever pass invited him to put the result beyond doubt.

Some of Leicester's players looked out on their feet in the closing stages, but it was to their enormous credit that Leeds seemed progressively less likely to score. Clearly, Graham need not have been concerned about any new reputations.

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