Leeds Hand Out Karmic Retribution to Notts Forest’s Former Real Madrid Man Karanka – by Rob Atkinson

Smith and Karanka 2001

Alan Smith of Leeds United disputes possession with Aitor Karanka of Real Madrid

Regarding the drama arising out of last weekend’s Leeds United versus Notts Forest encounter, it continues to become more intriguing as the days have passed; the plot thickens and the web grows ever more tangled. The Case of Kemar Roofe’s Nefarious Handball Equaliser waxes curiouser and curiouser, with one common thread reaching back to the beginning of the century, through various historical events of uncanny similarity. 

On Tuesday of this week, I wrote a mildly defensive piece here, trying to justify what really seemed barely justifiable, as I explained that Roofe’s transgression was actually a long overdue rub of the green for a Leeds United side more sinned against than sinning. I wasn’t all that convinced I was right – but you have to stick up for your team. 

On Wednesday, having found that the holier-than-thou Notts Forest had themselves benefited from a comparably dodgy equaliser a few years back, I went more on the offensive, accusing the City Ground faithful, the Nottingham Post and particularly Messrs. Kenny Burns and Garry Birtles of faux outrage if not actual hypocrisy. I now had an unarguable point, I felt, particularly as the current Forest manager Aitor Karanka had been the Boro manager diddled by a Nottingham handball in that earlier incident. You couldn’t call it karma – not quite yet – but it was a neat little coincidence. 

And then I discovered to my delight that Roofe’s errant hand had indeed brought long overdue karmic retribution to Mr. Karanka – and that this was the classic dish of revenge best served cold.

Cast your minds back, if you will, to 2001 and Leeds United’s Champions League visit to Real Madrid. Both sides had already qualified for the knockout stages, with massive clubs such as Barcelona having already gone out. And man u had gone out too. So, although the meeting in Madrid was technically a dead rubber, the pride of two great clubs was at stake. 

Alan Smith had given Leeds an early lead, to the delight of their travelling fan army, of which I was one. But then came our familiar companion injustice to kick us in the jacksy yet again, as Madrid star Raúl equalised with – yes, you’ve guessed it – a blatant handball. In fact this was an outrageously obvious punch into the United net, but it stood, and Leeds were on their way to what was to be an honourable 2-3 defeat.

And the link with the two handball incidents previously mentioned? None other than our old friend Aitor Karanka, then a defender in the Madrid team, and one of those Real players happily celebrating a Raúl goal that should never have been allowed.

So please understand if I’m short of sympathy for Mr. Karanka, Forest manager when Leeds got a handball equaliser, and coach of Middlesbrough when Forest did it to them. He’s suffered twice, yet it really is cumulative payback for that night in the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu – so for me, he can just grin and bear it. There’s this slithery progression of hypocrisy backwards in time, in that the Forest fans were outraged with Leeds United last Saturday over something they’d celebrated against Middlesbrough four years back – and, in turn, Mr Karanka was outraged with what is now his current club, four years back, about something he’d celebrated in the colours of Real Madrid against Leeds in 2001. It’s gone full circle, which is all very symmetrical, fitting and ultimately satisfactory, I hope you’ll agree.

It’s taken over 17 years and a convoluted path to see some sort of football justice, but it was well worth the wait for me. Every time I see a replay of Kemar Roofe’s handball goal from now on, it will be with keen pleasure, and no guilt at all. And that qualifies as what, for Leeds United, is a rare and delicious happy ending.

18 responses to “Leeds Hand Out Karmic Retribution to Notts Forest’s Former Real Madrid Man Karanka – by Rob Atkinson

  1. To call the team using the word notts leaves you in the dark ages young man


  2. Paul Murfin

    Keep calling em Notts Rob, winds em up summat rotten lol
    I live 12 miles from notts and work with loads of em, I can indeed confirm that they are a set of nobs, win a couple of games and they are gonna win the European cup again ! You know I think I prefer derby fans


  3. The white shirt

    I too was in the Bernabau that night to witness a great Leeds performance. It was only on landing in Manchester, our plane being diverted there from Leeds due to fog, that we learned from a gloating Manc copper that we had been cheated by a blatant handball so I have no sympathy for Karanka. Just get on with it. That’s what we have learned to do after all the injustices served up to us over the years.


  4. David Smith

    OK Rob, thanks for lancing that particular boil …..can you do anything about the West Brom match of 1971 & the 1975 European Cup Final please?


  5. Uncle Dave

    As we all Know, Football is about swings and roundabouts. You get dodgy decisions for you? or against you over a season. ( unless you are Leeds United where penalties are concerned ) Living in Nottingham, all i hear from ‘sickly trees’ is “dirty Leeds”. Despite the fact that Notts Forest fouled our boys 17 times last saturday, to our 11 fouls.( despite Pontus being punched in an off the ball incident.) That really got my goat! Pontus got a £1,000 fine and a 1 match ban for saying “shit” on live TV ( for all viewers to hear ) but its ok for him to take a punch ( for all viewers to see? ) to say im vexed is understated. Add to that, the comments of the former ‘ assistant manager ‘ of Telford united , the chubby chappy we paid £400,000 for way back then, whos heart wasnt really in a move to us, a bigger club and yes, you could say that at the moment? im feeling “pretty s***” . Guess thats to be expected and i should know better as a Leeds fan of 45 years.


  6. All put your HANDS TOGETHER for Burton Albion for knocking the Sicky Bxxxxxxsss out of the league cup, What a HANDFUL they were, going to laugh till i cry.


  7. Ha ha😄, excellent research and commentary Rob👍.


  8. Ken Jarvis

    Hi Rob & all fellow Leeds supporters,

    Can I also mentioned another handball that same season, in the same competition at the semi-final stage.

    The first goal for Valencia was a blantant hand ball. All I can remember (without reviewing on You Tube) Nigel Martin running towards the referee tapping one arm off the other. I screamed handball before any replays were needed but the ‘handball’ stood.

    Here’s a part of The Telegraphs report that evening in 2001……..

    “Mendieta’s cross was hard and true, arrowing across goal, despatched too quickly for Leeds’ defenders to re-group and prepare a proper barricade. Anticipating an early delivery, Sanchez had timed his run well, speeding in front of Leeds’ centre-halves to make contact with Mendieta’s cross and turn it past Martyn.

    Leeds were incensed, all the players convinced that Sanchez had handled, not headed the ball. Rio Ferdinand complained to Meier, the Swiss referee who ignored all entreaties to disallow the goal. Harry Kewell dashed over to the linesman to make his displeasure known. But, following Lee Bowyer’s ban by UEFA, this has not been a week when Leeds enjoyed much luck with authority figures from Switzerland.”

    Add that one to the of handball injustices against Leeds United, suddenly we are now 2-1 down on handballs after the early Roofe one.

    Can we find another blantant handball for Leeds to equalise or is there another one to come against us?


    • Yes, I remember. I was really angry at the time, because it was such an important game, and because we’d already had this in Madrid. So we’re still owed a break!


  9. I too now feel entirely comfortable with the outcome.
    Can you anything with Peter Ridsdale please Rob as I just can’t seem to let that one go.


  10. Patrick Joseph Hogan

    Had to be written Rob. Had a feeling you might not be able to resist twisting the knife a bit further. What would the Bernabeu experience have been like for the Leeds fans there that night if they’d known about Raul’s blatant and intentional cheating? And please add to your list Wes Brown’s own goal not given, and Barthez’s cynical stamp on Ian Harte (yet he stayed on the pitch) that cost us 2 points and 4th place in 2002 – hence igniting our slide from the elite.


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