Leeds United's chances of making a prolonged appearance in this season's Uefa Cup were reduced to near extinction last night when they were ripped apart by PSV Eindhoven in this second-round first-leg tie.
It was a devastating display from the Dutch team, which was made more cruel as Leeds dragged themselves back into the tie with a stirring second half fightback. Just when an unlikely victory was coming into vision, however, Luc Nilis, an incandescent presence all night, scored twice in the last six minutes.
This finale leaves Leeds needing to emulate their first-round performance, when they defeated Monaco 3-0 in the away first leg. Then circumstances conspired to be in their favour; in Eindhoven they will be stacked high against them.
Howard Wilkinson had intimated in his programme notes that the Leeds priority was not to concede a home goal. "They are golden," the Leeds manager wrote, but he might as well saved his ink because by half-time that strategy had been blown apart.
By then his team trailed 3-1, a performance of criminal proportions given that Leeds had taken the lead after six minutes, Gary Speed getting a faint touch with his head to divert Gary McAllister's free kick into the corner of the net.
Elland Road sat back to enjoy a night of glory and it was presented with one, except it was PSV who provided it. The lead lasted just four minutes as the Leeds defence melted before a charge from Nilis. He slipped the ball between John Pemberton's legs and although his shot was partially blocked it was diverted to Rene Eijkelkamp, who tapped the ball in from close range.
This was a surprise but worse was to follow. After 34 minutes a corner on the left was played to the edge of the area where Wim Jonk cut inside the challenge and hit a low shot that John Lukic appeared to have covered. Unfortunately for the Leeds goalkeeper, the ball hit Marciano Vink and bobbled beyond him.
Three minutes later it was 3-1 thanks to a goal that had a beauty even for those who suffered it. A free kick on the edge of the area was flicked impudently up by Nilis and Jonk unleashed a ferocious volley into the top corner. Lukic did not have an earthly of stopping it.
In the midst of this carnage Tony Yeboah had missed a near open goal from a yard and Brian Deane had volleyed over from not much further away, so Leeds could hope and this was reinforced when they reduced the arrears four minutes after the interval.
Yeboah had been a force by reputation rather than deed hitherto but he entered the game with crushing effect when Deane found him on the left with a throw in. He brushed off two challenges, turned in the area and then passed back to Carlton Palmer. The midfielder was 15 yards out and had PSV defenders racing towards him. Yet with measured care he controlled the ball and then beat Ronald Waterreus.
Leeds sensed a recovery and after 72 minutes McAllister levelled the tie, shooting in from 35 yards although the Dutch had reason to feel aggrieved as Waterreus had been bundled over by David Wetherall.
PSV were furious but relieved their anger with a conclusion of stunning impact. Both teams carved chances - it was a match that oozed them - but it was Nilis who had the last word.
After 84 minutes the Belgian international was found with a delicately flighted free kick by Jonk and then followed in with his left foot from a narrow angle. Then, with a minute remaining, he exchanged a one-two with Phillip Cocu and walked the ball past Lukic.
Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Kelly, Pemberton, Wetherall, Dorigo (Beesley, 78); Whelan (Beesley, 80), Palmer, McAllister, Speed (Couzens, 25); Yeboah, Deane.
PSV Eindhoven (4-1-3-2): Waterreus; Van der Weerden, Faber, Valckx, Numan; Linskens; Vink (Pahlplatz, 71), Jonk, Eijkelkamp; Nilis, Cocu.
Referee: A J Lopas Nieto (Spain).Reuse content