West Ham 70
West Ham hosted Manchester United, there was some solace in that as we knew, despite running away with their third successive Premiership title, United would surely pump them. Unfortunately, we had to host a very strong Leeds side with an Ian Harte in fine form. He had struck 12 times all season and was amongst the contenders for PFA Player of the Year.
Unfortunately for Leeds, he was against John Arne Riise. I made a point all week of getting into John Arne’s head. He was the better wing-back. Leeds played a 3 at the back as opposed to our 2/5 combination and had the ability to buccaneer as we did.
17’ West Ham United (1:0) Manchester United John Hartson
Well we were expecting that. Transistor radios were twitching on the Filbert terraces. A roar of encouragement rained down on the turf. John Hartson had put West Ham in the Champions League hot seat with a header.
39’ West Ham United (1:1) Manchester United David Beckham
Roar of encouragement turned into a roar of approval. David Beckham had scored a free-kick, as he so often did this season. A point would be enough as it stood but murmurs from the paying audience suggested West Ham were playing the better football.
45’+3 Leicester City (1:0) Leeds United John Arne Riise penalty
Alvaro Recoba dived, I’ll say it. But I will defend him. John Arne Riise nearly tore the net to ribbons with the penalty, we were out on our own in third place as it stood. Leeds United looked out on their arse when the half-time whistle blew.
West Ham 71
72’ West Ham United (1:2) Manchester United Roy Keane
Captain fucking Marvel. United were ahead, we knew at this moment, even with eighteen minutes left, all we had to do was survive a Leeds United onslaught.
West Ham 70
The onslaught never arrived. We are Champions League.
Juventus (1:0) Leicester
49’ Zinedine Zidane
(4-1-3-2) Van der Sar; Ferrara, Tacchinardi, Iuliano, Pesotto; Oliseh; Davids, Conte, Zidane; Del Piero, Inzaghi,
(5-3-2) Robinson; Riise, Cannavaro, Ferdinand, Nesta, Carlos; Nedved, Totti, Gerrard; Recoba, Henry
Continental tactics is where we need to pick up some tips. We had never faced the shape of Juventus either in Europe or back at home. Sunday Oliseh sat as a tireless defensive nuisance in behind the midfield. It would have been a similar shape to us but Ferrara and Pesotto didn’t have the license to get forward as Riise and Carlos did.
Davids, Conte and Zidane ran amok in the midfield. They sat deep and countered, we were too high up the pitch. When we lose our rag and chase games we turn into a 4-1-5. It happened tonight and we paid for it as the quality of Zinedine Zidane shone through.
A marauding run beyond Alessandro Nesta and a strike from 30 yards settled the occasion in Rotterdam. A UEFA Cup run to be proud of.