Monday, January 4, 2010
Founded in 1919, the Leeds United Association Football Club has a proud history. "The Whites" were among Europe's top clubs in the 1960s and into the '70s. Once again they rose up during the late 1990s and into the 2000s. Located in West Yorkshire in Northern England, Leeds AFC counted titan of English football Manchester United as its chief rival for many years. In spite of past glories and a loyal - albeit increasingly fatalist - fanbase, Leeds has fallen on hard times in recent years and fallen out of the Premiership. And then out of the league just below that one. Financial mismanagement leading to notable player sales have (mostly) landed the club in its current spot.
But the FA Cup - one of those events that soccer fans (used to) hold up as an example of how the beautiful game is also the best organized sport - allows teams from the top EIGHT professional divisions to participate (after the first two leagues, teams from the next six have to have played in a qualifying tournament previously, sort of like running a top marathon). Each year the minnows hope to catch a top-flight squad off guard in the single-elimination knockout competition. In recent years, though, the big four clubs - Man. U, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal - have often fielded weaker sides to marshall strength for the title race and Champions League play. Critics have called for the end of the tournament which was first contested in 1871 thanks to such watered-down sides. This weekend, however, provided evidence that the tourney hasn't lost it's ability to produce memorable moments.
Flush from confidence from their promising start to the League One (which is really the third division) campaign, Leeds took the pitch at Old Trafford brimming with belief. In the 19th minute Jermaine Beckford got loose for the lone goal in the affair. The 1-0 win was Leeds' first away to Manchester United since 1981. Relentless pressure in the middle of the field stymied the Reds the rest of the way and made Beckford's goal hold up.