Waltzing Viduka's flawless show

Revitalised Australian strikes four times as Leeds reverse two-goal deficit to complete stunning victory
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The Independent Football

Corrected Scoreline: Mark Viduka 4 Liverpool 3. It was that much of a one-man show by the Australian and that much of a shambles for Liverpool, who led 2-0 after 17 minutes and 3-2 on the hour.

Corrected Scoreline: Mark Viduka 4 Liverpool 3. It was that much of a one-man show by the Australian and that much of a shambles for Liverpool, who led 2-0 after 17 minutes and 3-2 on the hour.

Quite how they managed to lose their way against a team reduced to fielding only four fit substitutes - and further weakened by the loss of Jonathan Woodgate, taken off after 18 minutes with a thigh strain - will be a mystery to Gérard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, not least because his side were the meanest in the division last season. And if anyone spots a bemused Italian still wandering the streets of Leeds this morning, could they please send him back to Milan. He will be the scout for Leeds' opponents in the Champions' League on Wednesday night.

His tactical rundown on this crazy match of clinical finishing, suicidal defence, dreadful passing and tactical nihilism might as well be delivered in Iambic pentameters for all the relevance it will have to the continued progress of Leeds in Europe. If Leeds play as lethargically in the San Siro as they did for the first half at Elland Road yesterday, it will be"arrivederci Europe".

Not that David O'Leary was too bothered by the future at lunchtime yesterday. At the end, he bounded on to the pitch to enfold Viduka in a bear hug, shook hands with anyone in range and bounced through his press conference as if frightened that someone would tap him on the shoulder and wake him up. When he contemplates his diminishing defensive options for midweek against Andrei Shevchenko, the most lethal striker on the continent, the smile might wear thin but, for the moment, his side are surviving in the Premier League on a shoestring.

"At 2-0 down, I didn't think I'd be talking like this but with Viduka and Alan Smith, you've always got a chance to score goals," the Leeds manager said, making a mental note to add the Liverpool defence to his Christmas card list. But it was not all Liverpool's incompetence. Viduka's goals varied from the merely efficient to the breathtakingly clinical, each one of them defying the clumsiness of some of his work and mocking the derision heaped upon him by some Leeds fans earlier in the season. The Olympics have revived the Australian, whose record of no goals in five games before Sydney and 10 in eight since speaks volumes for the healing powers of home life. "Superb goals," O'Leary termed them. Yet, had Emile Heskey attended the same finishing school, Viduka might still have ended his morning as a loser.

In his bustling style, Viduka will remind the Elland Roadelders of Mick Jones, Don Revie's centre-forward. He is a more accomplished striker than Lee Chapman, whose goals helped Leeds to the title under Howard Wilkinson. Of his four goals, three were neatly taken shots across or over the goalkeeper and one was the sort of purposeful header that Jones once patented. From the moment, just after half-time, that Gary Kelly launched a cross from the byline, Viduka had claimed the airspace and his header past Westerveld's left hand was the sort of old-fashioned goal that went out with laced footballs.

That Leeds were still in the game by then was a miracle. At a conservative estimate, Leeds should have been 4-1 down by half-time as Sami Hyypia opened the scoring with a near- post header from a Patrik Berger free-kick after 100 seconds and Christian Ziege, in a mirror image move, increased the lead. The clock showed 17 minutes. With Woodgate replaced by Danny Hay and Dominic Matteo struggling to exert any control over the rampant Heskey, Liverpool looked as though they would score with every forward move, while Bowyer's truculence was stretching the patience of referee David Elleray. Booked for a late tackle, Bowyer caught Heskey just below the knee with his studs and, on another day, might have seen red.

Then Liverpool's psychotic tendency emerged in the form of an elementary mistake by Ziege, whose clearance was diverted by Smith into the path of Viduka. Leeds gained heart, but only a great save by Paul Robinson from Dietmar Hamann and Kelly's head, intercepting Heskey's goalbound header, saved the home side from heavier punishment, though Ian Harte's free-kick was diverted on to a post by Gary McAllister on the stroke of half-time. A minute into the second half and Leeds were level and they should have gone ahead after amix-up in the centre of the Liverpool defence allowed Smith to roll the ball towards an empty net. He did so, a fraction too casually, and Jamie Carragher stretched to block the shot.

Vladimir Smicer's excellently-taken goal on the hour seemed to have settled the issue, yet proved only the prelude to the decisive two goals by Viduka, both clipped into the corner from acute angles. Houllier thought at least one was offside, but his team deserved nothing. To compound the bad news, Berger was carried off with damaged knee ligaments. "Lucky Leeds again, eh?" said O'Leary. Houllier did not share the joke.

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