Yorke adds to Leeds' problems

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The Independent Online
Leeds United 1 Aston Villa 2

The kick start Leeds had hoped the Coca-Cola Cup might deliver to their ailing season failed to materialise at Elland Road, where the holders Aston Villa repeated the defeat they inflicted on the Yorkshire side at Wembley in March, albeit not by the 3-0 scoreline that so demoralised Leeds then and marked the beginning of the end for Howard Wilkinson.

Villa were denied a penalty somewhat controversially in the first half but ultimately won with another, converted by Dwight Yorke after Lee Sharpe's goal for Leeds had been cancelled out by Ian Taylor.

Leeds improved on their performance at Villa Park in the Premiership on Saturday but their manager, George Graham, conceded again that the result was a just one. Even so, for 70 minutes it seemed Villa's luck might be out.

Certainly their dismay after the first penalty incident was entirely reasonable. Having blocked one goal attempt by Villa's impressive midfielder Sasa Curcic, the Leeds defender Richard Jobson seemed clearly to trip his opponent as they both sought to gain possession of the loose ball. The referee, Jeff Winter, said later that his view of the challenge was obscured and therefore he could not penalise it, although his assistant seemed well placed.

Having emerged unscathed from a bright beginning by the home side, Villa steadily imposed their authority and appeared to be calling the shots in the opening minutes of the second half, when Yorke squandered one excellent opportunity with only Nigel Martyn to beat and then was denied only by the goalkeeper's sharp instincts when he attempted to turn in Tommy Johnson's cross at close range. Then Curcic struck an upright from 25 yards - so the goal that put Leeds ahead after 68 minutes came as an unexpected development.

The visiting team could possibly be criticised for losing concentration at the critical moment but the goal was a sweet one for Leeds, set up by Carlton Palmer's perceptive pass and Rod Wallace's run to the byline on the right. Sharpe arrived in the penalty area to blast his team mate's cross high into the Villa net.

But Leeds were denied much time to feel pleased with themselves: within less than two minutes Villa were level. Curcic went past Mark Ford on the left and though Martyn deflected the Serb's cross, Jobson failed to clear up and Taylor had a simple task to equalise. Sharpe's diving header almost regained the advantage for Leeds but Villa had their measure and the referee was well placed to rule in Villa's favour after the second penalty incident. Yorke was a foot inside the box when he was upended by Paul Beesley and then the striker got up to send Martyn the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Leeds, anxious to redeem themselves after the dismal emptiness of their performance at Wembley, had started full of commitment and might have scored at least three times in the first 10 minutes, when Andy Couzens, Wallace and Ian Rush, still seeking his first goal for Leeds, all went close.

"When you are on top like that it is important that you score a goal," Graham said afterwards. "We failed to do so and Villa are a quality side. I always knew they would be capable of stepping up a gear."

Leeds United: (3-5-2): Martyn; Radebe (Wetherall, 72), Beesley (Harte, 85), Jobson; Kelly, Palmer, Ford, Couzens, Sharpe; Rush, Wallace. Substitute not used: Beeney (gk).

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Bosnich; Ehiogu, Scimeca, Tiler; Nelson (Draper, 71), Taylor, Curcic, Townsend, Wright; Johnson, Yorke. Substitutes not used: Joachim, Oakes (gk).

Referee: J Winter (Stockton).