The on topic thread 3.0

Remove this Banner Ad

Log in to remove this ad.

Cruyff14

TheBrownDog
Aug 16, 2011
65,396
46,812
Melbourne
AFL Club
Hawthorn
Other Teams
Arsenal
Gee whiz The Athletic do some ripping articles.

Currently one of their writers is counting down - in his opinion - the 50 best individual performances in the Premier League.

This was number 50, Jatz you'll enjoy this

image


Two players marked their first Premier League starts with a goal for Leicester City on September 21, 2014. One was Esteban Cambiasso, who had played for Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Argentina. The other was Jamie Vardy, who had played for Fleetwood Town, Halifax Town and Stocksbridge Park Steels.

Vardy was 27 years old and late to the Premier League party (he made up for lost time and hosted one of those at his house 20 months later, when the unthinkable happened and Leicester won the title). Manchester United were in town on a warm Sunday afternoon and, one way or another, Vardy was going to be noticed — he was sporting a mohawk haircut that was a throwback to his helter-skelter non-League days, when he would skip the gym and neck three cans of Monster (an energy drink) before training to put a spring in his step. Mixing Skittles with vodka came later.

Enough of the past, though. Vardy’s performance against Louis van Gaal’s side at the King Power Stadium gave us a glimpse into the future. On a day when Robin van Persie grabbed his 135th Premier League goal, Vardy scored his first and, remarkably, registered four assists too.

Eight years later and Vardy is not just a member of the 100-goal club but up to 14th place, one position behind Van Persie, on the all-time Premier League goalscorers list. At the age of 35, he has 133 Premier League goals to his name — and counting.

Travelling back in time to revisit the United game is fascinating. For a start, it was the first time in 853 Premier League matches that United had surrendered a two-goal lead and lost. United had never before conceded four or more goals in a Premier League game against a newly-promoted team. It was also a rare occasion when six strikers were named in the two starting line-ups.

Amid the chaos — and it was absolute chaos at times — Angel Di Maria produced arguably his best moment in a United shirt. Except nobody was talking about Di Maria’s delightful chip afterwards. Or Radamel Falcao’s cross for the opener. Or Van Persie’s far post header. Or Wayne Rooney playing at the tip of a diamond. Vardy, outstanding in a scarcely believable 5-3 victory, upstaged the lot of them. By Vardy’s own admission, it was the game of his life.

“We knew he could cause a team like that problems because they hadn’t come across him before,” Matty James, who was brought on in the second half against United, tells The Athletic. “Everybody just kind of thought, ‘Oh, he’s just this non-League player that has done alright in the Championship’. That was the perception. But the sheer aggression that he had, and the determination that he wanted to prove to people that at the age he was at, that he could play in the Premier League… it was phenomenal. What happened put Vards on the map on a global stage.”

With five minutes remaining, Vardy departed to a standing ovation, including applause from his own team-mates. Leonardo Ulloa, who had just scored Leicester’s fifth goal from the penalty spot after Tyler Blackett had been sent off for a professional foul on Vardy, pointed to his strike partner and urged the home supporters to respond.

As Vardy took a seat in the dugout next to Riyad Mahrez, who was an unused substitute that day (something else that makes you smile when you look back), Van Gaal wore the expression of a man who was struggling to process what he had just witnessed. That included the sight of Vardy setting off on a curved run — picture the first leg of the 4 x 100-metre relay — to press and harass Blackett, David de Gea and Chris Smalling, one after another. The only thing that was missing was a baton in his hand.

Three against one isn’t a fair fight, but the Leicester striker was like a man possessed. Smalling, brought on in the first half for the injured Jonny Evans, ended up making a hurried pass, the King Power Stadium roared its approval, and Vardy retreated, filled his lungs and prepared to do it all over again.

In years to come, Brendan Rodgers, Leicester’s current manager, talked to Vardy about being more selective with the moments when he chooses to press opponents, but there was no such thing as an off switch in his early days. The accelerator pedal seemed to be permanently pressed to the floor and nothing was a lost cause in his eyes.

Vardy brilliantly nicked the ball away from Marcos Rojo for Leicester’s first goal, barged Rafael da Silva, the other United full-back, out of the way in the lead-up to the second and outmuscled Blackett before the fifth. For someone who was new to the level, and had only been a professional footballer for two years, there was a healthy lack of respect for anyone in a United shirt.

“Vards is intimidating because he backs himself, he’s a confident guy,” Dean Hammond, who started against United, tells The Athletic. “I’m sure there would have been a lot of verbal chat with the Man United defenders, especially at 3-3 when he was putting them under pressure.

“He’s a bit of a freak of nature, Vards, because he can run at his full pace for 90 minutes. And when he’s determined like that, shutting defenders down, he wins so many tackles. As a Man United defender, you know you’re not going to get time to play out. And he would chase everything, even if he doesn’t think he’ll get it, which then makes the Man United defender have to run even more. He’s just horrible to play against.”

Intriguingly, Van Gaal set up United in a midfield diamond, deploying Rooney behind Van Persie and Falcao, with Ander Herrera on the right, Di Maria on the left and Daley Blind at the base of midfield. It was gung-ho and ended up playing into Leicester’s hands, who bravely adopted the same formation and backed themselves to expose United’s weaknesses through Vardy’s pace.

“We did our research,” Vardy said immediately after the game. “Their attacking options are frightening. But the formation that they play, they leave a lot of space behind the full-backs and we set out early to exploit them in those positions because no centre-half likes to be dragged out wide, and we did that today. We created chances and literally every one has gone in the back of the net.”

That was true in every respect, right down to the fact that Leicester scored from each of their five attempts on target. At the same time, there had been no sign of what was to come when Di Maria elegantly lobbed the ball over the head of Kasper Schmeichel to put United 2-0 up after Van Persie’s opener.

Cue the first flash of brilliance from Vardy. Straight from the restart, De Laet clipped a pass along the Leicester right and Vardy, running on the blindside of Rojo, steered the ball away from the United left-back with a superb touch on the run. Swinging and missing with his left boot, Rojo did not even see Vardy coming. The Leicester striker took another touch and then, with the angle against him and space running out close to the byline, wrapped his foot around the ball to cross. His centre was perfect and Ulloa met it with a bullet header.

Strangely, though, it was the sight of United scoring a third goal, cheekily flicked past Schmeichel by Herrera just before the hour mark and on the back of a period of dominance from Van Gaal’s team, that initiated Leicester’s revival.

jamie-vardy


Vardy celebrates his goal during the 5-3 victory over Manchester United (Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images)
The lead-up to Leicester’s second goal was not dissimilar to the first, only this time, the move started on the left. Paul Konchesky floated a ball into the channel and Vardy, running diagonally across the front of Blackett — a trademark run now — got in behind Rafael with the help of a significant shoulder charge. On another day, it could have been a foul. “Nah, nah, it’s just strength, shoulder to shoulder,” Vardy said.

Instead, it was Rafael who ended up being penalised after tangling with Vardy in the area seconds later. David Nugent scored from the spot and two minutes later, Leicester were level. Hammond’s wayward shot hit Vardy, who either expertly killed it dead for Cambiasso or got a little fortunate — take your pick — and the Argentinian drilled home.

“I think it was a scuffed, rushed shot. But let’s say it was a pass to Vards,” Hammond adds, laughing, about his own part in that goal. “It was a brilliant finish from Esteban after that. The roof came off the stadium — it was probably the loudest I’d heard the King Power.”

That decibel record stood for 15 minutes, up to when Vardy completed the turnaround. De Laet was the architect, pinching the ball from Juan Mata before driving forward on the right. With Blackett drawn to De Laet and Smalling caught upfield, the Leicester right-back put Vardy clean through. For probably the first time in the game, Vardy had time to think. How would he react?

The answer is, Vardy did think. He remembered the footage he had seen of De Gea in one-on-one scenarios — that rather unusual stance where he seeks to make the lower half of his body big rather than diving — and calmly slid the ball to the United keeper’s left.

It was controlled and composed and, given the quality of some of the other goals that he has scored since, makes you wonder what his Leicester team-mates thought about Michael Owen’s comments a couple of years later, when the former Liverpool striker said Vardy wasn’t a “natural finisher”, “doesn’t once lift his head”, and is the sort of goalscorer who relies a lot on luck.

“Sometimes he’ll go through and he’ll smack one and it will go into the bottom corner and you’ll think, ‘How’s he managed to do that?’,” James says. “But he is a natural finisher because he’s scored the goals he’s scored.

“You could have probably said that (remark that Owen made) in the first year (in the Premier League), but he’s in the 100 club now, he’s scored a ridiculous amount of goals for Leicester and he’s proven for England as well that he can score, so I think that comment doesn’t make as much sense any more. He’s an aggressive finisher, don’t get me wrong, but that’s what you want.”

Leicester’s fifth and final goal against United arrived in the 82nd minute and once again Vardy was the central figure. Although De Laet’s ball forward was no more than hopeful, Vardy brushed aside Blackett and then, intelligently, slowed down as he closed in on goal. Blackett scythed him down, a red card followed, Ulloa scored from the spot and Vardy’s work was done.

Curiously, both Leicester and Vardy struggled in the weeks that followed. Leicester failed to win in 13 Premier League matches, while Vardy had to wait six months for his next top-flight goal. “It killed us a little bit,” James adds, reflecting on the United game and the way that it alerted other clubs to Leicester’s strengths.

By the end of the season, though, Vardy was scoring again and Leicester had pulled off their own version of the great escape to stay up. An England call-up followed for Vardy that summer, and we all know what happened the following season.

Hammond smiles when asked whether he saw Vardy’s career unfolding in the way that it did after the United game. “It’s a great question. And I’d be a liar if I said I thought that it could happen,” he replies.

“Did I think Vards had the ability? Yes. Did I think that he could score goals in the Premier League? Yes. Because of his pace and what a good finisher he is. Does it always work out for players like that? No.

“So, it’s credit to him for what he’s achieved. But I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Yeah, of course I thought he was going to go on and play for England and break records and score more than 100 goals in the Premier League’.

“He’s done amazing things.”
 

Cruyff14

TheBrownDog
Aug 16, 2011
65,396
46,812
Melbourne
AFL Club
Hawthorn
Other Teams
Arsenal
And for the Leeds fellas Elmer_Judd Jaymin Sphynx

image


“I really didn’t think I played that well.”

Admittedly, in a series celebrating the greatest 50 individual performances in Premier League history, it’s not an ideal start. If even the player himself doesn’t think he was much good, then what is he doing here?

In this instance, the player is Mark Viduka and the performance was the time he scored four goals for Leeds United against Liverpool in November 2000, leading his team to a 4-3 win in one of the Premier League’s more thrilling games. Just those bare facts are probably enough to suggest the player in question had a pretty decent game, but Viduka’s opinion that he wasn’t that great is one he’s stuck to.

“I don’t think so,” he told Sky Sports after the final whistle. “I’ve performed better in games but just didn’t score this many goals. I don’t think I had an exceptionally good game, anyway.”

He’s repeated the point a few times since, too. A layman might think that scoring four goals might be enough to leave a striker satisfied with their day of work. But, as it turns out, Viduka was after something more.

“As a forward, you have a job description,” he tells The Athletic. “You need to hold up play, dribbling, creating chances and everything else. Scoring is one of your jobs — probably the most important, yes, but what I was referring to was I didn’t think I was dominant as I ought to have been doing all the other things.

“I had four opportunities to score and took them, which is very rare in football. Sometimes you have four chances and only score one, or none. But all the other aspects: holding up, linking play — there have been other games where I did those better.

“Football is the only thing in my life that I’m a perfectionist about. Obviously you’re happy to score, but I’ll ask you a question: would you be happier if you had an unbelievable game, dribbled past three players and set up an unbelievable goal, or if the ball comes across and hits you on the arse and goes in. What would make you more fulfilled?”

Well, when he puts it like that… it does present an interesting question though: what does “playing well” actually mean? Does it mean successfully executing various basic skills of the game? Does it mean contributing generally to the team in a broad way? Does it mean carrying out a game plan well? Or does it mean doing the thing that ultimately we’re all here for — scoring goals, and doing it loads of times?

The answer, like so many things in football, is subjective. And there is more to life than goals. But would anyone really care if Viduka sparked up a tab, cracked open a few cans and sat on a beanbag in the centre circle for 85 minutes, as long as he spent the remaining five minutes scoring four goals? It’s only been done 33 other times in the Premier League, after all. (Five players have also scored five goals in one game).

Viduka cares, clearly. He cites a Champions League game against Lazio a couple of weeks later, in which he didn’t score at all, as a performance that satisfies him more. “I set up Smithy (Alan Smith) with a back heel in that game,” he says about the game’s only goal. “I find that sort of thing fulfilling.

“Obviously I would have liked to have scored that day as well, but from the start, I felt confident, I felt good — I was playing against Alessandro Nesta and Fernando Couto, and they were struggling against me. I was taking advantage, dribbling, setting up chances. That was one game that stayed in my mind where I could basically do what I wanted on the pitch.”

Having started the conversation with a degree of incredulity that he was dissatisfied with seeing the net ripple once, twice, three, four times, I’m just about convinced.

But I am left thinking: who, other than Viduka, is going to remember a couple of iffy lay-offs or the odd bit of poor control? People — especially the people that were in the ground at the time — are going to remember those four goals, and this 6ft 3in Australian displaying the sort of poise and delicacy you don’t quite expect from a man of his dimensions. They’re also going to remember how it felt to be at Elland Road that day, how they experienced that incredible atmosphere. That’s what matters, at least to the rest of us.

“I have to admit the finishes were good,” Viduka says.



Viduka had joined Leeds from Celtic that summer but things didn’t get off to a storming start. He negotiated a clause in his contract that stipulated he would be allowed to play in the Sydney Olympics, meaning he played five games before disappearing for most of September. It wasn’t exactly a roaring success: Australia lost all three of their group games, to Italy, Nigeria and Honduras, and Viduka didn’t score.

But he was clearly inspired by the experience, scoring five goals in his first three games after returning, having not managed any in the five before his departure. The Olympic jaunt had probably just served as a deluxe fitness camp: his move from Celtic had been protracted, so he barely had a pre-season and went into those early Leeds games significantly undercooked. “There’s no doubt the Olympics got him fit,” said Leeds manager David O’Leary at the time. “He went and cleared his head.”

It wasn’t just the lack of goals in those early weeks that hadn’t created a great first impression. “Some people had this perception of Mark as a lazy player,” team-mate Dominic Matteo tells The Athletic, “someone who didn’t always put it in. I hated that. It was a load of bollocks. He looked after himself as well as anyone in that Leeds team and I never saw (laziness) in him.

“His skill and technique were sensational. I’d compare him to Robbie Fowler when I think of players I played with, absolutely top level. Because of his physique, it was easy to look at him as this big No 9 who didn’t get around much.”

Leeds came into this game in a slightly ropey shape. Their treatment room was bursting at the seams, with Lucas Radebe, Michael Bridges, Harry Kewell, Stephen McPhail, Jason Wilcox, Danny Mills, Michael Duberry, David Batty, Darren Huckerby and Nigel Martyn all injured.

Their squad was so depleted that they could only name four of the permitted five substitutes. They hadn’t won any of their previous five games, and although one of those was a draw with Barcelona in the Champions League, a few days earlier they had been knocked out of the League Cup by second-tier Tranmere Rovers.

Viduka wasn’t in the greatest of nick either. “It was one of the first early kick-offs (the game, live on Sky, started at 11.30am), so we were staying in the Malmaison hotel in the centre of Leeds.

“We lived in a village near Wetherby, and we had a Rottweiler called Tyra. Because it was Guy Fawkes weekend, people were setting off fireworks and the dog was getting a bit nervous and started barking. My missus was by herself so she was a bit scared, and she rang me a few times during the night while I was trying to get some sleep.

“The second time she woke me up, I said, ‘If I have a shocker tomorrow, you’re in trouble’. But the opposite happened, so I should have thanked her.”

Things got worse when the football started. Sami Hyypia took advantage of some relaxed marking to give Liverpool the lead in the second minute, then Christian Ziege scored a similar goal after 17 minutes to make it 2-0. “Defensively, it wasn’t a good day for us,” says Matteo. Just to add a further kick in the pants, Jonathan Woodgate was forced off with a thigh strain.

“It was a game where we were staring down the barrel,” says Viduka. “We were 2-0 down against a really good team, then Woody got taken off.”

Enter Viduka. After 24 minutes, Ziege dithered over a clearance, Smith closed him down and got enough on the block to direct the ball into Viduka’s path. He controlled superbly, then delicately dinked over the advancing Sander Westerveld.

Viduka mentioned luck earlier, but there wasn’t much luck about what he did in this one. Sure, the way the ball fell to him for the first had an element of fortune, but there was nothing lucky about the way he took the finishes. These were precision strikes, the work of an expert marksman, “one of those days” when everything goes right.

“I remember thinking that I was one of the people Mark’s goals had dug out of trouble,” says Matteo. “But as it went on, I just found myself just standing back and watching him. That doesn’t happen very often. It was like, ‘******* hell, what’s happening here?’. You know you’re in the middle of something unusual.”

Liverpool were still the better side with the better chances but thanks to Viduka, Leeds were still in it. And he drew them level just after the break: Gary Kelly drove down the right and whipped over a terrific cross to the near post, where Viduka had smartly positioned himself in the space between the two centre-backs.

There was about one square yard of space in the goal that he could have put the ball in, and he managed it, a perfectly placed header that, watching it back now, had similarities to the first of Karim Benzema’s perfect headers against Chelsea in the Champions League last season.

“Gary Kelly did a huge thing there,” says Viduka. “Out of nowhere, he gave me a perfect cross. As a forward you go front or back post: the cross was perfect. The position I was in, I was past the post, so I had to glance it in. If you glance it, it could go straight into the keeper’s arms, but this one went in. It was my day, in terms of finishing anyway.”

Parity lasted for about 15 minutes, then Vladimir Smicer restored Liverpool’s lead, but we’re not here to talk about him. Over to Martin Tyler, on commentary duty that day, to take you through what happened in the 73rd minute.

“(Olivier) Dacourt threading it through to Mark Viduka. Still Viduka. Still! Brilliant! Simply brilliant! An awesome hat-trick from the Australian. Mark Viduka is a star at Elland Road!”

This was the goal that Viduka, in an interview with the Daily Mail last year, said he “overcomplicated”. He cut in as if to shoot with his left foot, then swivelled onto his right, completed a 360-degree spin around Patrik Berger before slotting his finish low into the bottom corner. Berger had been so flummoxed trying to stop his opponent that his knee had buckled, he was taken off on a stretcher and spent the next five months out.

Viduka applauds and encourages the fans as they chant his name. At this stage, Elland Road is pulsing in the way that only happens when a team is on a roll, and the crowd thinks that a goal will surely come if only they shout just a little bit louder. It’s when they stop being 35,000 individuals and become one single, long scream, desperately imploring their team to score.

They only needed to implore Viduka, though. Two minutes later, another through ball from Dacourt put Viduka in on goal, he miscontrolled the firm pass but that touch shifted it into the perfect position for him to clip the ball over the sprawling Westerveld. It was a brilliant finish, similar to the first goal, but to poop the party very slightly, Viduka was a clear half-a-yard offside. “Yeah, I’d be off celebrating today and it would be called back, wouldn’t it?” Viduka told the Mail.

“There are certain players where physically you can’t cope with them,” Jamie Carragher, one of the Liverpool players given the thankless task of marking Viduka that day, said years later. “You were never going get in front of him. You were never going to knock him off the ball.”

“If we’d played on for another half hour, he’d probably have scored another three,” says Matteo. “Everything was going in. It’s easy to say now but there and then, you probably knew that 20-odd years later, people would still talk about it. You don’t forget finishing like that.

“I think he felt a bit bad about what he’d done to their defence, chopping them up and tearing them to bits. You almost feel sorry for them in the end.”

“V is for victory! V is for Viduka!” bellowed Tyler at the final whistle. This was the moment Viduka arrived in the Premier League, when he truly won over the Leeds fans. He would go on to score another 62 times for them before leaving in 2004, after which he helped Middlesbrough to the UEFA Cup final before finishing his career at Newcastle.

But despite all of that, the game that most will remember him for was this slice of lunchtime brilliance. Imagine if he’d actually played well.
 

Elmer_Judd

Baggers 9-4 2022
Jul 25, 2019
30,210
47,295
AFL Club
Carlton
Other Teams
Leeds United
And for the Leeds fellas Elmer_Judd Jaymin Sphynx

image


“I really didn’t think I played that well.”

Admittedly, in a series celebrating the greatest 50 individual performances in Premier League history, it’s not an ideal start. If even the player himself doesn’t think he was much good, then what is he doing here?

In this instance, the player is Mark Viduka and the performance was the time he scored four goals for Leeds United against Liverpool in November 2000, leading his team to a 4-3 win in one of the Premier League’s more thrilling games. Just those bare facts are probably enough to suggest the player in question had a pretty decent game, but Viduka’s opinion that he wasn’t that great is one he’s stuck to.

“I don’t think so,” he told Sky Sports after the final whistle. “I’ve performed better in games but just didn’t score this many goals. I don’t think I had an exceptionally good game, anyway.”

He’s repeated the point a few times since, too. A layman might think that scoring four goals might be enough to leave a striker satisfied with their day of work. But, as it turns out, Viduka was after something more.

“As a forward, you have a job description,” he tells The Athletic. “You need to hold up play, dribbling, creating chances and everything else. Scoring is one of your jobs — probably the most important, yes, but what I was referring to was I didn’t think I was dominant as I ought to have been doing all the other things.

“I had four opportunities to score and took them, which is very rare in football. Sometimes you have four chances and only score one, or none. But all the other aspects: holding up, linking play — there have been other games where I did those better.

“Football is the only thing in my life that I’m a perfectionist about. Obviously you’re happy to score, but I’ll ask you a question: would you be happier if you had an unbelievable game, dribbled past three players and set up an unbelievable goal, or if the ball comes across and hits you on the arse and goes in. What would make you more fulfilled?”

Well, when he puts it like that… it does present an interesting question though: what does “playing well” actually mean? Does it mean successfully executing various basic skills of the game? Does it mean contributing generally to the team in a broad way? Does it mean carrying out a game plan well? Or does it mean doing the thing that ultimately we’re all here for — scoring goals, and doing it loads of times?

The answer, like so many things in football, is subjective. And there is more to life than goals. But would anyone really care if Viduka sparked up a tab, cracked open a few cans and sat on a beanbag in the centre circle for 85 minutes, as long as he spent the remaining five minutes scoring four goals? It’s only been done 33 other times in the Premier League, after all. (Five players have also scored five goals in one game).

Viduka cares, clearly. He cites a Champions League game against Lazio a couple of weeks later, in which he didn’t score at all, as a performance that satisfies him more. “I set up Smithy (Alan Smith) with a back heel in that game,” he says about the game’s only goal. “I find that sort of thing fulfilling.

“Obviously I would have liked to have scored that day as well, but from the start, I felt confident, I felt good — I was playing against Alessandro Nesta and Fernando Couto, and they were struggling against me. I was taking advantage, dribbling, setting up chances. That was one game that stayed in my mind where I could basically do what I wanted on the pitch.”

Having started the conversation with a degree of incredulity that he was dissatisfied with seeing the net ripple once, twice, three, four times, I’m just about convinced.

But I am left thinking: who, other than Viduka, is going to remember a couple of iffy lay-offs or the odd bit of poor control? People — especially the people that were in the ground at the time — are going to remember those four goals, and this 6ft 3in Australian displaying the sort of poise and delicacy you don’t quite expect from a man of his dimensions. They’re also going to remember how it felt to be at Elland Road that day, how they experienced that incredible atmosphere. That’s what matters, at least to the rest of us.

“I have to admit the finishes were good,” Viduka says.



Viduka had joined Leeds from Celtic that summer but things didn’t get off to a storming start. He negotiated a clause in his contract that stipulated he would be allowed to play in the Sydney Olympics, meaning he played five games before disappearing for most of September. It wasn’t exactly a roaring success: Australia lost all three of their group games, to Italy, Nigeria and Honduras, and Viduka didn’t score.

But he was clearly inspired by the experience, scoring five goals in his first three games after returning, having not managed any in the five before his departure. The Olympic jaunt had probably just served as a deluxe fitness camp: his move from Celtic had been protracted, so he barely had a pre-season and went into those early Leeds games significantly undercooked. “There’s no doubt the Olympics got him fit,” said Leeds manager David O’Leary at the time. “He went and cleared his head.”

It wasn’t just the lack of goals in those early weeks that hadn’t created a great first impression. “Some people had this perception of Mark as a lazy player,” team-mate Dominic Matteo tells The Athletic, “someone who didn’t always put it in. I hated that. It was a load of bollocks. He looked after himself as well as anyone in that Leeds team and I never saw (laziness) in him.

“His skill and technique were sensational. I’d compare him to Robbie Fowler when I think of players I played with, absolutely top level. Because of his physique, it was easy to look at him as this big No 9 who didn’t get around much.”

Leeds came into this game in a slightly ropey shape. Their treatment room was bursting at the seams, with Lucas Radebe, Michael Bridges, Harry Kewell, Stephen McPhail, Jason Wilcox, Danny Mills, Michael Duberry, David Batty, Darren Huckerby and Nigel Martyn all injured.

Their squad was so depleted that they could only name four of the permitted five substitutes. They hadn’t won any of their previous five games, and although one of those was a draw with Barcelona in the Champions League, a few days earlier they had been knocked out of the League Cup by second-tier Tranmere Rovers.

Viduka wasn’t in the greatest of nick either. “It was one of the first early kick-offs (the game, live on Sky, started at 11.30am), so we were staying in the Malmaison hotel in the centre of Leeds.

“We lived in a village near Wetherby, and we had a Rottweiler called Tyra. Because it was Guy Fawkes weekend, people were setting off fireworks and the dog was getting a bit nervous and started barking. My missus was by herself so she was a bit scared, and she rang me a few times during the night while I was trying to get some sleep.

“The second time she woke me up, I said, ‘If I have a shocker tomorrow, you’re in trouble’. But the opposite happened, so I should have thanked her.”

Things got worse when the football started. Sami Hyypia took advantage of some relaxed marking to give Liverpool the lead in the second minute, then Christian Ziege scored a similar goal after 17 minutes to make it 2-0. “Defensively, it wasn’t a good day for us,” says Matteo. Just to add a further kick in the pants, Jonathan Woodgate was forced off with a thigh strain.

“It was a game where we were staring down the barrel,” says Viduka. “We were 2-0 down against a really good team, then Woody got taken off.”

Enter Viduka. After 24 minutes, Ziege dithered over a clearance, Smith closed him down and got enough on the block to direct the ball into Viduka’s path. He controlled superbly, then delicately dinked over the advancing Sander Westerveld.

Viduka mentioned luck earlier, but there wasn’t much luck about what he did in this one. Sure, the way the ball fell to him for the first had an element of fortune, but there was nothing lucky about the way he took the finishes. These were precision strikes, the work of an expert marksman, “one of those days” when everything goes right.

“I remember thinking that I was one of the people Mark’s goals had dug out of trouble,” says Matteo. “But as it went on, I just found myself just standing back and watching him. That doesn’t happen very often. It was like, ‘******* hell, what’s happening here?’. You know you’re in the middle of something unusual.”

Liverpool were still the better side with the better chances but thanks to Viduka, Leeds were still in it. And he drew them level just after the break: Gary Kelly drove down the right and whipped over a terrific cross to the near post, where Viduka had smartly positioned himself in the space between the two centre-backs.

There was about one square yard of space in the goal that he could have put the ball in, and he managed it, a perfectly placed header that, watching it back now, had similarities to the first of Karim Benzema’s perfect headers against Chelsea in the Champions League last season.

“Gary Kelly did a huge thing there,” says Viduka. “Out of nowhere, he gave me a perfect cross. As a forward you go front or back post: the cross was perfect. The position I was in, I was past the post, so I had to glance it in. If you glance it, it could go straight into the keeper’s arms, but this one went in. It was my day, in terms of finishing anyway.”

Parity lasted for about 15 minutes, then Vladimir Smicer restored Liverpool’s lead, but we’re not here to talk about him. Over to Martin Tyler, on commentary duty that day, to take you through what happened in the 73rd minute.

“(Olivier) Dacourt threading it through to Mark Viduka. Still Viduka. Still! Brilliant! Simply brilliant! An awesome hat-trick from the Australian. Mark Viduka is a star at Elland Road!”

This was the goal that Viduka, in an interview with the Daily Mail last year, said he “overcomplicated”. He cut in as if to shoot with his left foot, then swivelled onto his right, completed a 360-degree spin around Patrik Berger before slotting his finish low into the bottom corner. Berger had been so flummoxed trying to stop his opponent that his knee had buckled, he was taken off on a stretcher and spent the next five months out.

Viduka applauds and encourages the fans as they chant his name. At this stage, Elland Road is pulsing in the way that only happens when a team is on a roll, and the crowd thinks that a goal will surely come if only they shout just a little bit louder. It’s when they stop being 35,000 individuals and become one single, long scream, desperately imploring their team to score.

They only needed to implore Viduka, though. Two minutes later, another through ball from Dacourt put Viduka in on goal, he miscontrolled the firm pass but that touch shifted it into the perfect position for him to clip the ball over the sprawling Westerveld. It was a brilliant finish, similar to the first goal, but to poop the party very slightly, Viduka was a clear half-a-yard offside. “Yeah, I’d be off celebrating today and it would be called back, wouldn’t it?” Viduka told the Mail.

“There are certain players where physically you can’t cope with them,” Jamie Carragher, one of the Liverpool players given the thankless task of marking Viduka that day, said years later. “You were never going get in front of him. You were never going to knock him off the ball.”

“If we’d played on for another half hour, he’d probably have scored another three,” says Matteo. “Everything was going in. It’s easy to say now but there and then, you probably knew that 20-odd years later, people would still talk about it. You don’t forget finishing like that.

“I think he felt a bit bad about what he’d done to their defence, chopping them up and tearing them to bits. You almost feel sorry for them in the end.”

“V is for victory! V is for Viduka!” bellowed Tyler at the final whistle. This was the moment Viduka arrived in the Premier League, when he truly won over the Leeds fans. He would go on to score another 62 times for them before leaving in 2004, after which he helped Middlesbrough to the UEFA Cup final before finishing his career at Newcastle.

But despite all of that, the game that most will remember him for was this slice of lunchtime brilliance. Imagine if he’d actually played well.


Got no problem with The Duke being Frank honest about that Liverpool game.

Still one of all time fave Leeds players, and defintley my all time Aussie player.

My only regret or wonder about Dukes is how even better he could have been if kept himself in better physical shape (no secret he loved his Pies and KFC etc)
 

(Log in to remove this ad.)

Jatz

Premium Platinum
Sep 7, 2008
46,176
29,594
AFL Club
Carlton
Other Teams
Leicester City, Philadelphia Eagles
Enough of the past, though. Vardy’s performance against Louis van Gaal’s side at the King Power Stadium gave us a glimpse into the future. On a day when Robin van Persie grabbed his 135th Premier League goal, Vardy scored his first and, remarkably, registered four assists too.

Eight years later and Vardy is not just a member of the 100-goal club but up to 14th place, one position behind Van Persie, on the all-time Premier League goalscorers list. At the age of 35, he has 133 Premier League goals to his name — and counting.
Great article, thanks for sharing. Think The Athletic is absolutely fantastic.

The particular passage above is incredible! For all the impressive feats of Van Persie, a comparison with Vardy is looking pretty similar now with Vardy having done it in club that wasn't top 4/6 throughout.

Their figures aren't too far away at all.
 

Cruyff14

TheBrownDog
Aug 16, 2011
65,396
46,812
Melbourne
AFL Club
Hawthorn
Other Teams
Arsenal
Great article, thanks for sharing. Think The Athletic is absolutely fantastic.

The particular passage above is incredible! For all the impressive feats of Van Persie, a comparison with Vardy is looking pretty similar now with Vardy having done it in club that wasn't top 4/6 throughout.

Their figures aren't too far away at all.
That's alright, I will share any other Leicester ones that pop up.

Gee, didn't realise that.

Shame RvP was injured for so long, but his best was sublime.
 

Jatz

Premium Platinum
Sep 7, 2008
46,176
29,594
AFL Club
Carlton
Other Teams
Leicester City, Philadelphia Eagles
That's alright, I will share any other Leicester ones that pop up.

Gee, didn't realise that.

Shame RvP was injured for so long, but his best was sublime.
Yeah cheers mate - was just thinking then if there was any other performances that might make it.

Huth against City probably should (2 goals at the Etihad when we beat them 3-1 during our title season) but it wouldn't surprise me if they forget all about it. Perhaps Vardy's 11th consecutive goal against United.

Yeah absolutely, he was fantastic at his best. Thankfully he had a relatively clean run at it later in his career.
 

SM

Bigfooty Legend
Aug 3, 2008
116,217
76,894
North Shore
AFL Club
Sydney
Other Teams
Hull City, Adelaide United, WCW
Just finished reading a book about OwnaFC. Not sure if people would have heard about that - it slipped my attention at the time (2019-2020) but it's a pretty crazy story all told. Really good read just in general about good and bad owners in football and the impact they can have on clubs at all levels.

fit-and-proper-people.jpg
 

Jatz

Premium Platinum
Sep 7, 2008
46,176
29,594
AFL Club
Carlton
Other Teams
Leicester City, Philadelphia Eagles
Just finished reading a book about OwnaFC. Not sure if people would have heard about that - it slipped my attention at the time (2019-2020) but it's a pretty crazy story all told. Really good read just in general about good and bad owners in football and the impact they can have on clubs at all levels.

fit-and-proper-people.jpg
Never heard of that, keen though. Love these kind of suggestions.
 

RPCB

Brownlow Medallist
Jun 21, 2007
19,871
23,301
Melbourne
AFL Club
Carlton
Other Teams
Manchester United
I miss being a big club where we used to win lots of league titles. All opposition supporters would ever talk about back then was United having an easy fixture list. You play everyone twice. Weird logic. 😂
 
Last edited:

Remove this Banner Ad

Remove this Banner Ad