Leeds United FC withstood a valiant fightback by Deportivo La Coruña as they advanced to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time ever despite losing 2-0 on the night at the Riazor Stadium in La Coruña.
An early penalty by Djalminha set English hearts fluttering, and there was all to play for when the substitute Diego Tristán added a second with 17 minutes of the match remaining. But Leeds's defence, which had been sorely tested in the first half, held out to ensure their place in the last four of the competition.
In a buzzing stadium, with the home fans making it clear to their players that the tie was far from over, the match got underway at a fierce pace and Deportivo were soon controlling exchanges. They trailed 3-0 from the first leg at Elland Road a fortnight ago, but soon clawed back a goal after the Italian referee Stefano Braschi spotted Harry Kewell pushing Roy Makaay in the penalty area.
Cauldron of passion
Djalminha of Brazil buried the resulting spot-kick, sending it to the right of Nigel Martyn, who had dived the other way. The buzzing stadium became a cauldron of passion and had another penalty been awarded when Donato went down in the area soon after, Deportivo would have suddenly become favourites to progress.
As it was the Spaniards looked a potent force, launching wave after wave of attack as the half wore on. Walter Pandiani's cross-shot from the left floated over Martyn and hit the join of post and crossbar. Pandiani and Roy Makaay caused numerous problems up front while and Víctor Sánchez added to them in midfield; Martyn had to be at his most alert to snuff out the combined threat. Two minutes after he had intercepted the ball when it looked set to fall for Víctor to tap home, Makaay smashed a shot at goal which hit Rio Ferdinand's back and went behind. Dominic Matteo also cleared an effort off the line as Leeds backpedalled.
Half-time came as a relief to Leeds, who sloped off hoping Deportivo would lose their momentum, but after the break the hosts pressed further, this time with Fran Gonzalez to the fore. An end-to-end battle broke out, Kewell and Smith coming close in between efforts from Nourredine Naybet and Makaay.
With 20 minutes left Makaay gave Leeds a shock by sending a powerful header thudding off the crossbar with Martyn beaten, and three minutes later they had their second goal when, eleven minutes after coming on as substitute, Tristán nipped in at the near post to meet Juan Valerón's cross from the left and slipped the ball into the net.
Attacking to the last
Play was peppered by a host of substitutions as both camps looked for the crucial goal that would change the complexion of the tie but with Deportivo attacking in desperation Leeds packed the defence and broke down the attacks with comparative ease. Even so, the final whistle could not come soon enough for them.
A 3-2 aggregate win in the bag, they face another Spanish test in the semi-finals with a two-legged tie against Valencia CF. The team that lost 4-0 against FC Barcelona at Camp Nou on Matchday 1 has come a long way.