Leeds in overdrive to belittle Besiktas

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The Independent Football

First came the overwhelming victory, then the understatement of the year. "All I can say," said David O'Leary, basking in the biggest win of his two-year reign as manager of Leeds United, "is that I'm starting to enjoy the Champions' League."

First came the overwhelming victory, then the understatement of the year. "All I can say," said David O'Leary, basking in the biggest win of his two-year reign as manager of Leeds United, "is that I'm starting to enjoy the Champions' League."

And how. Leeds were as scintillating in beating the Turkish club Besiktas - a result which puts them top of Group H at the half-way stage - as they have been sluggish in the Premiership. Having rattled up an early 3-0 lead over opponents who humbled Barcelona by that score a week earlier, they seemed to have settled for a 4-0 success before helping themselves to further goals in the final minute and in stoppage time.

Lee Bowyer started and finished the spree, taking his tally for the season to six, although what was especially pleasing for O'Leary and a rapturous crowd was that four Leeds players collected their first goal of the campaign. Mark Viduka, the £6m Australian striker from Celtic, was among them, as wasDominic Matteo, the £4m midfielder from Liverpool.

Even Milan's fine performance in Barcelona could not prevent O'Leary's side from moving into first place by virtue of last week's defeat of the Italians. Leeds will perhaps be disappointed that there is now a three-week hiatus before they face Besiktas again, when a positive outcome will see them go into their last two games, at home to Barcelona and away to Milan, with a realistic chance of advancing to the second phase.

"Everyone will jump on me for talking it down but I think it will be very tough out in Turkey," said O'Leary. "Besiktas will want to show how good they are. But we have given ourselves a real chance of getting through.

"My goal is just to get out of this group. A great club like Arsenal couldn't do it in two attempts. I thought it would be hard with all our injuries and even harder after the opposition we drew. So I was delighted with the result and the way we played.

"Nights like this don't come around very often. There were some great goals, some beautiful movement and, given that goal difference could decide this section, it was very important we kept going to the end."

It seems almost churlish to mention it, yet Leeds were also helped by the most abject defending Elland Road can have seen in many a year. Besiktas, coached by the redoubtable Italian, Nevio Scala, repeatedlyallowed them time and space in and around the danger area and never came to terms with the threat from the flanks.

Besiktas' players threw bouquets of flowers to the crowd before the start - part of their laudable attempt to build bridges after the killing of two Leeds supporters in Istanbul before the Uefa Cup semi-final against Galatasaray in April - and the gifts kept coming.

Bowyer made the seventh-minute breakthrough, stroking in Ian Harte's low cross after Alan Smith had lunged and missed. Viduka, recalled at the expense of Michael Bridges after returning from the Olympics, hit the bar three minutes later via the body of the goalkeeper, Ike Shoronmu, but headed the second from Gary Kelly's centre within 60 seconds.

Matteo scrambled the third as defenders stood transfixed following a short corner between Bowyer and Olivier Dacourt, and also struck the woodwork as half-time approached.

Besiktas rallied briefly at the start of the second half, Ahmet Dursun twice going close, before Leeds scored again in the 65th minute. A combination of power and poise by Viduka set up Eirik Bakke to fire past Shoronmu from 18 yards.

The late introduction of Darren Huckerby gave Leeds fresh impetus just when Besiktas thought the ordeal was over. The eternal substitute swivelled to nudge the fifth through Shoronmu's legs and then produced a strong run and cross to set up another tap-in for Bowyer. The only disappointment for Leeds was the booking of Smith, who is now suspended for the return to Istanbul.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn; Kelly, Mills, Radebe, Harte; Bowyer, Dacourt (McPhail, 75), Bakke, Matteo; Viduka, Smith (Huckerby, 80). Substitutes not used: Bridges, Jones, Hay, Burns, Robinson (gk).

Besiktas (1-2-5-2): Shoronmu; Umit; Erman (Rahim, 82), Khlestov; Ibrahim (Mehmet, 73),Tayfur, Karhan, Münch, Nihat; Ahmet, Nouma (Fazli, 73). Substitutes not used: Murat, Bayram, Yasin, Fevzi (gk).

Referee: V M Melo Pereira (Portugal).

* In the other Group H game Milan earned a 2-0 victory at the Nou Camp against Barcelona, who had beaten Leeds 4-0 in their previous home game in the Champions' League. Francesco Coco's header gave Milan the lead on the stroke of half-time and Oliver Bierhoff wrapped up their away victory in the 71st minute. In Group E ZinedineZidane, of Juventus, was sent off after 68 minutes for a late challenge on Deportivo La Coruña's Emerson, but the Italian side held on to draw 0-0 at home to the Spanish champions.