Rivaldo ruins the Elland Road party

Barcelona equaliser in fourth minute of injury time denies Leeds youngsters guaranteed place in second phase
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The Independent Online

Even the Alamo was stormed in the end and, however well Paul Robinson impersonated Davy Crockett at Elland Road last night the Leeds United goalkeeper, like the Texan frontiersman, was beaten in the end.

Even the Alamo was stormed in the end and, however well Paul Robinson impersonated Davy Crockett at Elland Road last night the Leeds United goalkeeper, like the Texan frontiersman, was beaten in the end.

His defiance had taken Leeds within seconds of a place in the second stage of the Champions' League, and pushed Barcelona to the brink of an ignominious exit, when Rivaldo, who had conducted a personal duel with the young Yorkshireman, finally forced the ball past him.

Until then Robinson, Jonathan Woodgate, Danny Mills and company had ignored the truth of their own manager's words and withstood quality with grit.

Leading through a freak fifth-minute goal from Lee Bowyer, they had been subjected to wave after wave of pressure by the desperate Catalans. Every attack was repelled bar the last, in the fourth minute of added time. Even that, had an exhausted Bowyer connected with a clearance, would have been resisted. Instead Philip Cocu was able to pick out Gerard in the box and, when his header rebounded from the post, Rivaldo slotted the ball home with a coolness whichbelied the pressure of the situation and underlined his class.

The Leeds manager, David O'Leary, said: "Their coach will say there should have been 10 minutes of added time [he later did] but I couldn't understand the four minutes. But there's no point in harping on about it. The ref gave it, they scored. That's life."

With Milan winning in Istanbul to go through, the equation is now simple. If Leeds lose in the San Siro on 4 November, and Barcelona defeat Besiktas in the Nou Camp on the same night, Leeds go out and Barcelona survive. With the Turks already out, it would appear that Leeds must do it for themselves. O'Leary added: "I think it's good Milan have qualified. I hope they look kindly upon us."

With matches against Bradford, Tranmere and Liverpool to be fitted in before then, O'Leary will be hoping his depleted team do not suffer any more injuries. Last night so many of Leeds' walking wounded had arisen from their sickbeds it was a surprise not to see Lazarus on the team-sheet, but how many were truly fit, rather than just patched up with Band-Aids and cortisone jabs, was a matter of guesswork. Their tiredness at the end suggested it was quite a few.

There was no lack of white-shirted energy 90 minutes earlier and, though Rivaldo, with a quick-footed slalom in the Leeds box, quickly demonstrated Barcelona's potency Leeds showed up their porous defence with equal alacrity. Abelardo, the erect but clumsy centre-back, was first to be exposed, felling Mark Viduka on Leeds' left flank. It was 25 yards out and by the touchline which meant the visiting keeper Richard Dutruel, like everyone else in the ground, expected a cross. He, however, was the only one embarrassed by his misjudgement as Bowyer whipped the ball over his head and inside the far post.

With Bowyer prominent, Alan Smith twice had chances to double the advantage but with his first shot deflected wide, and the second well saved, Barcelona survived to wrest control in midfield. A series of dangerous free-kicks were conceded over the next half-hour putting Leeds in dire peril of conceding goals and incurring cautions. Staunch defence, and alert goalkeeping by Robinson, notably a superb 22nd-minute save at the near post as Rivaldo glanced a Xavi free-kick, nullified the first threat. Lenient refereeing ensured only Olivier Dacourt fell foul of the second.

Leeds rallied late in the half with Bowyer, set up by Viduka, and the Australian himself, going close but the period's closing memory was a harbinger of the action to come, Robinson going full stretch to save a Rivaldo free-kick.

That was to become a familiar sight as, with Cocu orchestrating the attacks, Barcelona rolled forward. In between crosses by Simao and Luis Enrique from the flanks, free-kick after free-kick was conceded in the centre with Dacourt lucky to avoid a second caution.

Sheer weight of numbers, and an element of good fortune, prevented Barcelona having a clear sight of goal until the 59th minute, but they then seemed certain to score as Alfonso rose to Luis Enrique's cross six yards out. Robinson, though, was equal to the challenge, arcing to tip it over the bar. It was a brief respite for the 21-year-old soon had to beat away another Rivaldo free-kick while Ian Harte did well to block Xavi's drive.

As Elland Road counted down the minutes - oh how slowly the big electronic scoreboard whittled them down - Lorenzo Serra Ferrer, his job as coach of Barcelona slipping away, shuffled his pack. On came two of Spain's brightest young internationals, Dani and Gerard, but another youngster continued to hog the attention as Robinson leapt to save yet another Rivaldo free-kick.

With 14 minutes left even Robinson seemed beaten, and in the cruellest way imaginable, as Alfonso's deflected shot dribbled in. However, a linesman's flag came to the rescue:Rivaldo had strayed offside. Barcelona seemed out of luck and out of the Champions' League, but, when the fourth official signalled four minutes of injury time, they were roused to one final effort. This timeRivaldo could not be denied.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Robinson; Kelly, Woodgate, Mills, Harte; Bowyer, Bakke, Dacourt (Burns, 74), Matteo; Viduka, Smith. Substitutes not used: Milosevic (gk), McPhail, Jones, Hay, Evans, Hackworth.

Barcelona (3-4-3): Dutruel; Puyol, Abelardo, Reiziger (Gerard, 66); Simao, Xavi, Cocu, Sergi; Luis Enrique (Dani, 66), Alfonso, Rivaldo. Substitutes not used: Arnau (gk), De Boer, De la Peña, Gabri,, Santamaria.

Referee: T Hauge (Norway).

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