Leeds sunk by lethargy

Football: Everton 2 Leeds United 0
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The Independent Online

Everton 2 Leeds United 0

The Leeds United supporters risking limb and no-claims bonuses crossing the Pennines under the threat of Siberian weather would have been interested in Howard Wilkinson's comments on Saturday night. No, make that utterly stupefied.

While they had left Goodison under the impression Leeds had produced a spineless and artless show that bottom-placed Bolton Wanderers would have been thoroughly ashamed of, their manager thought they should have had a draw.

Anyone who could draw a resemblance between the team who played Manchester United off the pitch on Christmas Eve and the woeful outfit who offered only supine resistance against 10-man Everton must have overdone the Christmas sherry. There is less difference between the effect on people of misletoe and nettles.

"We're all right in the big games," one Leeds supporter grumbled afterwards, "but the bread and butter ones... It was a cold day, the pitch was difficult and Everton were up for it. We didn't look that interested."

The analysis was hard to fault. Last season Leeds beat their rivals, Manchester United, at Elland Road and then lapsed into a stupor that they only stirred from when Tony Yeboah arrived. Like the Scots of former years, who could forget missing out on World Cups as long as they beat England, one match is tending to mask everything else.

On Saturday it needed to. Going behind to an own goal after six minutes, Leeds had every opportunity to rescue the afternoon when Dave Watson was sent off for two bookable fouls after 18 minutes. Yet faced by a back four that included Joe Parkinson and Graham Stuart as emergency full-backs, they created little or nothing. Yeboah was missing, Tomas Brolin might as well have been and Gary McAllister gave a rare muted performance.

Rod Wallace sliced a shot horribly in a promising position and Gary Speed's header was narrowly wide but they tended to underline the poverty of the Leeds play elsewhere. Which should not detract from Everton, whose parameters were restricted by the loss of their captain, but who still suggested the winter and spring will hold far more promise for them than their opponents. Joe Royle's Blues battle by nature, they are also blossoming into a side of adventure.

Instead of raising the drawbridge, Royle persisted with the cavalry in the shape of Andrei Kanchelskis. "Andrei is so dangerous. Just one hooked ball and he's away," Royle said.

Royle's boldness was rewarded with an exquisite goal after 51 minutes. Kanchelskis left Speed, Mark Ford and Nigel Worthington kicking at air and then beat Mark Beeney with a left-foot shot that went in off the post. It was a goal that would have defeated greatness, never mind the blandness coming from the men in white shirts.

"The performance was terrific," Royle said. Except, that is, for Watson's dismissal. "I'm not sure the referee has any option in these times," he said. "Then again, I'm not sure the rules were changed to get people off for two mistimed tackles on a difficult day."

Goals: Wetherall (og 6) 1-0; Kanchelskis (51) 2-0.

Everton (3-5-2): Southall; Short, Watson, Unsworth; Kanchelskis, Horne, Parkinson, Ebbrell, Stuart; Ferguson (Hinchcliffe, 72), Newell. Substitutes not used: Jackson, Kearton (gk).

Leeds United (4-3-1-2): Beeney; Kelly, Wetherall, Jobson, Dorigo (Worthington, h-t); McAllister, Ford, Speed; Brolin; Masinga (Wallace, 58), Deane. Substitute not used: Radebe.

Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).

Bookings: Leeds: Wetherall, Ford.

Man of the match: Ebbrell.

Attendance: 40,009.