Leeds keep level heads in Turkey

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The Independent Football

After the grief and acrimony which overwhelmed them on their last visit to Turkey's footballing capital, Leeds United leave Istanbul today with a point towards qualification for the second phase of the Champions' League but perhaps feeling that they should have taken all three against a mediocre Besiktas side.

After the grief and acrimony which overwhelmed them on their last visit to Turkey's footballing capital, Leeds United leave Istanbul today with a point towards qualification for the second phase of the Champions' League but perhaps feeling that they should have taken all three against a mediocre Besiktas side.

Leeds and their followers will never be able to think fondly about the city where two Yorkshire supporters died six months earlier, but at least their return passed off peacefully last night. They should have had a victory to savour, too, Eirik Bakke missing the only clear-cut chance created by either team in Leeds' first real attack.

Had Milan held on to their lead over Barcelona, Leeds would have gone into next Tuesday's confrontation with the Catalan giants needing only a draw to go through. In the event, David O'Leary's patched-up outfit - further depleted by an ankle injury which forced Michael Bridges off during the first half - still lead Group H but may need to beat Rivaldo and company to be certain. Only a trip to San Siro remains thereafter.

They can be assured of an infinitely tougher test than Besiktas provided. For all the macho posturing of a vociferous crowd, Istanbul's "third" club proved less than intimidating on the pitch. Paul Robinson, just 21 and deputising for Nigel Martyn, never had to prove his agility in a contest which increasingly bordered on the banal.

Only 138 officially sanctioned Leeds supporters sat through the stalemate. Having landed in the afternoon, they were whisked away by bus to a boat on the Bosphorus - which they adorned with a flag inscribed "LUFSea" - and were escorted into the ground only 20 minutes before kick-off.

Their late arrival was deliberately scheduled by the Turkish authorities with Leeds' agreement. It meant they had no opportunity to lay flowers in Taksim Square, where two fellow fans, Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight, were stabbed to death before the Uefa Cup semi-final with Galatasaray in April. A bouquet of white roses left during the morning by the editor of Leeds' club magazine had been hastily removed.

Every Leeds indiscretion, real or imaginary, was greeted with jeers and whistles, although the hostility was no more marked than when Manchester United visit Elland Road. It did not faze them; having overrun Besiktas 6-0 at home, Leeds started strongly and should have scored after five minutes. Lee Bowyer's free-kick made it through a crowded penalty area to the far post, where Bakke lurked unmarked. The Norwegian drove straight at Ike Shorunmu from six yards.

Already without seven first-choice players, Leeds suffered a fresh blow when Bridges was clipped in the face by Tayfur Havutcu's elbow and fell heavily. Besiktas players and supporters alike felt the striker was faking, but he left on a stretcher to be replaced by Darren Huckerby.

The Turks showed only sporadic glimpses of the flair that earned a 3-0 win over Barcelona, but Robinson, after one miscued clearance early on, made no more than routine saves. Indeed, until Nihat Kahveci blazed wildly and headed tamely at Robinson late on, Leeds created the only other half-chance, which Mark Viduka volleyed into the side-netting.

Robinson was well protected by the makeshift centraldefensive duo of Danny Mills and Jonathan Woodgate, the latter also making his first appearance in the Champions' League proper. They were not caught out until the 48th minute, when Nihat's lobbed pass found them appealing in vain for offside, but Mehmet Ozdilek headed yards wide.

Leeds did not support Viduka from midfield as effectively as O'Leary might have liked. Nevertheless, the former Celtic centre-forward once fended off a succession of rugged challenges before feeding Bowyer on the overlap. Bowyer, dispossessed by Markus Münch, appealed half-heartedly for a penalty though, in truth, it was a textbook tackle.

The drums of the Besiktas supporters pounded less insistently and their songs carried less venom as tedium set in. Yet while it became increasingly difficult to fathom how Nevio Scala's side had managed to humiliate Barcelona, Leeds' own passing left much to be desired at times.

Fortunately for O'Leary, the same could not be said of their commitment. Jacob Burns, a £200,000 recruit from the Australian side Paramatta, epitomised their willingness to harry Besiktas at every turn. Leeds may, however, come to view the occasion as one on which two points were lost rather than one gained.

Besiktas (3-5-2): Shorunmu; Ali Eren (Murat, 63), Umit, Tayfur; Khlestov, Karhan, Mehmet (Ibrahim, 81), Yasin, Münch; Nihat, Ahmet Dursun (Ayhan, 81). Substitutes not used: Murat, Rahim, Bayram, Ilhan, Fevzi (gk).

Leeds United (4-4-2): Robinson; Kelly, Woodgate, Mills, Harte; Bowyer, Bakke, Burns, Matteo; Bridges (Huckerby, 27; McPhail, 86), Viduka. Substitutes not used: McPhail, Hay, Jones, Hackworth, Evans, Milosevic (gk).

Referee: J Wegereef (Netherlands).

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