Echoes of the Last Champions in Leeds United’s Late Winner at Reading – by Rob Atkinson


ChapmanHarrison

Lee Chapman and Jack Harrison, years apart but similarly great goals

There was something about Leeds United‘s winning goal at Reading on Tuesday evening that awoke golden memories of Sergeant Wilko’s Warriors of 1992 as they upped the ante one January Sunday afternoon to ignite a title charge. On that long ago day Leeds, marking Wilkinson’s return to Hillsborough to face his old charges Sheffield Wednesday, were utterly irresistible and ran riot, emerging winners by six goals to one. The display at Reading this week, nearly 28 years later, was not of the same vintage. And yet Jack Harrison’s emphatic far-post finish bore a remarkable similarity to the second Lee Chapman goal of his Hillsborough hat-trick all those years ago.

If you can cast your mind back that far, you may remember that Leeds, 2-0 up and cruising, had just suffered the most outrageous penalty decision when Gordon Watson of the Wendies did a somersault with half-pike and triple twist with Chris Whyte nowhere near him in the Leeds box. The ref eagerly fell for it and, though John Lukic saved John Sheridan’s spot kick, the former Leeds man buried the rebound. So it was 2-1 and Leeds were seething over Wednesday’s fraudulent route back into a game that had looked lost to them.

Lesser teams may have been discouraged, but not Wilko’s United. Showing the mettle that would see them crowned Champions just a dozen or so weeks later, Leeds bit back, putting together a devastating length of the pitch move as the first half drew to a close, to re-establish a two goal cushion going into the interval.

This is where the similarity is so obvious, in the fluency and sweeping nature of both moves, with a bullet header finishing each off to perfection. Back then, Lukic rolled the ball out to left back Tony Dorigo, who instantly played a beautifully weighted pass down the left for Gary Speed. Speedo took one touch, looked up, and delivered the perfect cross which was met mid-air by a hurtling Chapman to bury the ball unanswerably into the Wednesday net. It was a rapier thrust down the left, the ball moving from goal to goal in mere seconds to kill off Wednesday hopes.

Fast forward to this week, and the resemblance is remarkable. After a Kiko save from Reading’s free kick 25 yards out, the ball squirted out to the left where Jack Harrison played a neat reverse pass to Stuart Dallas. The Irishman immediately hit a fine, first-time crossfield ball to find sub Gjanni Alioski in space on the right. Two touches from Alioski, and he fed a great ball forward for Helder Costa, who didn’t have to break stride or take a touch before delivering a great far post cross, which took a slight deflection and was met by the onrushing Harrison – the man who had started the move seconds earlier at the other end of the pitch. Harrison’s finish was just as emphatic as Chapman’s had been, all those years before, with the reaction of the United fans behind the goal just as ecstatic.

One sweeping, end-to-end goal redolent of a similar effort almost three decades ago does not, of course, a team of champions make. And yet the winner at Reading, just as beautiful in its construction and just as devastating in its execution as Chapman’s effort at Hillsborough, may just be a sign of what Marcelo Bielsa’s team are beginning to be able to do – impose their style, stifle resistance, and then apply the coup de grâce to exhausted opponents. That happy knack could well lead to many more such victories where United haven’t played all that brilliantly – and maybe, just maybe, finally lead us back to the Promised Land.

10 responses to “Echoes of the Last Champions in Leeds United’s Late Winner at Reading – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Great comparison Rob.
    I’m still waiting for Gordon Watson to be punished by the FA’s retrospective panel .

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  2. I still have that game on vhs somewhere. The 4 – 1 at Villa was on the box as well. The Wendies finished in the top six that year and were well mullered by Leeds. I also remember Speedo crashing a header against the bar and holding his head in disbelief. I think Wallace or Chappers tapped it in any way.
    That breakaway goal from box to box took about 4 touches at most. Bloody classic and never shown on the box unlike Beckhams big punt etc. I wonder why?
    Thanks for the fond memories but after last season my chickens are definitely not for the counting as regards our current prospects.MOT

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    • Strangely, Wendies finished third, and were still in with a shout of the title until the penultimate round, despite this thrashing at home to Leeds and also losing 7-1 at Arsenal. Chappers completed his hat trick from close range after Speedo’s effort came back of the bar, the goal unseen by Speed who as you say had his head in his hands after narrowly missing out. The other incident I remember from this game is of Chapman bursting between two defenders and surging towards the area to see his shot clip the bar. Most unChapmanlike, but it was one of those days.

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      • Chadnooky

        I just had to watch a you tube vid of the game. My god we should have had ten. I’d also forgotten how good a goal the sixth was(as well as Dorigos’ sublime 25 yarder) Three quick two touch moves before Wallace lifts it over Woods with Leeds fans in full voice.
        The vid I saw starts with the commentator stating that ‘Leeds will certainly be in for a tough game’. Ha bloody ha!MOT

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      • One of the truly great LUFC displays, up there with the Revie Super Leeds back catalogue 👍

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  3. Reality Cheque

    Your memory is certainly giving you far fewer “senior moments” than mine is Rob. There was I sat reminiscing that I hadn’t seen such exciting, slick, speedy & effective football since that fella Dave Hockaday was in charge of coaching Leeds United, …or was it erm…Steve Evans? LOL
    ALAW

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  4. David Smith

    Thanks for the reminiscence Rob ….remember the Wednesday game well ….still have the ITV programme somewhere that they produced in conjunction with the live game on TV.

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