Leeds lament exposure of defensive deficiencies

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The Independent Online
A man in The Peacock, the public house that faces Elland Road, went public with what was going through several minds on Tuesday night, writes Guy Hodgson. "I can't understand," he said sorrowfully, "why we've suddenly become so bad."

The immediate reason for this query was Leeds's 5-3 Uefa Cup defeat by PSV Eindhoven, but it had also been provoked by only one home win in six matches.

"We could have won 7-6," said Howard Wilkinson, the Leeds manager, brooding over some glaring misses by his strikers, Tony Yeboah and Brian Deane, but he is too astute to ignore the defensive deficiencies also implied by that statement.

If someone was supposed to sit in front of the back four and head off the PSV attacks before they reached the rearguard - and Carlton Palmer would seem ideally suited for the task - then he was negligent in his duty. There was confusion, too, over who should mark Luc Nilis, the deep- lying striker who was the game's outstanding player.

Both conundrums need solving before the second leg in the Netherlands, where only the memory of Leeds's 3-0 away win over Monaco in the first round suggests they could be successful. "Of course I believe we can win," Wilkinson said. "It's almost an insult to my intelligence to ask me that question."

Ian Woan yesterday admitted he feared being sent off before he had the chance to become Nottingham Forest's unlikely saviour in their Uefa Cup victory in France.

Woan - a winger - managed to frustrate Auxerre when he cleared off the line three times last night. But before he performed a double rescue act in the last five minutes of a hard-earned 1-0 first-leg win, he was shown a yellow card for a foul on striker Lilian Laslandes - and then brought down midfielder Sabri Lamouchi just seconds later.

Woan recalled: "I saw the referee coming over to me and I thought: 'That's it - I'm going off'. But in the end he didn't even talk to me. I was very relieved, even though I considered the yellow card very harsh, as all that happened was that I collided with their striker and got tangled up with him.

"I'm not exactly renowned for my defensive qualities and after clearing three on the line, you could say I was caught out of position three times."

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