Slack Leeds hand Troyes a lifeline

Leeds United 4 Troyes 2
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The Independent Football

A potentially precious away goal by Patrice Loko ensured that the 10 men of Troyes made Leeds United pay for easing up after they had established a 4-1 lead immediately after half-time in last night's Uefa Cup second round, first leg match at Elland Road.

The side from the Champagne region of France looked ripe for routing when Mehdi Meniri was sent off soon after Lee Bowyer matched Mark Viduka by netting his second goal. But Leeds, after a vintage first-half display, began playing as if saving themselves for Sunday's visit by Chelsea and were punished with eight minutes remaining when Loko converted Jerome Rothen's centre for his second goal.

Seth Johnson, having completed his £7m transfer from Derby, must have been wondering how he would ever break into the Premiership leaders' line-up when he was introduced to the crowd at half-time. Bowyer and Viduka had been irrepressible, and were heavily involved in each other's goals, though the Australian is likely to wonder how he failed at least to match last year's four-goal feat against Liverpool.

In the build-up to Leeds' opener, after six minutes, Bowyer dispossessed Samuel Boutal and slipped the ball into Viduka's imposing stride. He waltzed past two defenders before powering his first home goal of the season past Tony Heurtebis.

Troyes no doubt reminded themselves of their trip to England in August. Facing Newcastle in the InterToto Cup, they conceded even earlier, went 4-1 up and drew 4-4 to win on away goals. This time, however, Heurtebis had to excel to prevent Viduka and Robbie Keane adding to their lead before Bowyer actually did so in the 26th minute.

When Viduka muscled through a challenge following Ian Harte's throw-in, the ball broke for Bowyer to sweep in a first-time shot from 12 yards.

Leeds looked capable of scoring with virtually every attack at that point. No sooner had Viduka unwittingly cleared a goalbound header by Eirik Bakke than Nicolas Gousse's dreadful pass gave him a chance to chip Heurtebis, only for the Troyes keeper to intercept his shot.

Before the half-hour, Troyes' only threat had been a 25-yard drive by Guarib Amzine which Nigel Martyn pushed behind after 70 seconds. From their second they scored, Loko gliding on to Gousse's through ball before rounding Martyn.

Leeds restored their two-goal lead after 44 minutes. Keane cleverly made space for a cross from the right which Bowyer glanced on. Viduka headed in at the far post as Troyes appealed, with justification, for an offside flag.

After studying the replay on the giant screen, the French coach Alain Perrin mimed to the linesman that he must have been asleep. His defenders were also caught napping 47 seconds into the second half, Bowyer reacting fastest in a crowded area after Viduka's shot rebounded off Heurtebis.

Three minutes later, Meniri, an Algerian International, swung an elbow into the face of the ubiquitous Viduka as they tussled for the ball, prompting the Spanish referee to reach straight for the red card.

The carnival mood which had been sweeping the stadium should have been enhanced when Viduka was put through by Harry Kewell only to bludgeon the ball into the sidenetting. The danger of complacency was underlined when Rothen's shot was cleared off the line by Rio Ferdinand, but Loko's opportunism proved the warning went unheeded.

David O'Leary, the Leeds manager, was unsure whether to laugh or cry afterwards. "I was impressed with us up to the fourth goal, but we stopped playing when they went down to 10," he said. "The tie remains very much alive."

Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn; Mills, Ferdinand, Matteo, Harte; Bowyer, Bakke (Batty, 66), Dacourt, Kewell; Keane (Smith, 69), Viduka. Substitutes not used: Kelly, Woodgate, Wilcox, Duberry, Robinson (gk).

Troyes (3-1-3-3): Heurtebis; Danjou, Meniri, Bradja; Thomas, Amzine, Rothen, Leroy; Boutal (Niang, 77), Loko (Djukic, 85), Gousse (Hamed, 58). Substitutes not used: Tourenne, Sekli (gk).

Referee: F Carmona Mendez (Spain).

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