Recalling Leeds’ last win at Chelsea: McPhail, Leboeuf & a minor Premier League classic
It’s been over two decades since Leeds United were last victorious at Stamford Bridge and we couldn’t help but fondly remember the importance of their 2-0 win in December 1999.
To put things into context of how long it’s been, Tony Blair was prime minister at the time, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was in his debut season with Malmo and Manchester United had only won 12 league titles.
A fresh chapter to the rivalry between Leeds and Chelsea had been brewing for quite some time when their clash in 1999 came around. After all, Chelsea had piped them by one place in the league in the previous two seasons.
Only three Champions League places were awarded to Premier League sides at the time and Chelsea had so often stood in the way of Leeds and their European dream.
Chelsea secured the third spot in the 1998-99 season and finished one place above Leeds in the process. The Yorkshire club had to settle for a fourth-placed finish and a spot in the UEFA Cup instead.
Fast forward to December 1999 and Leeds were after some revenge. Chelsea had started the game as the better of the two sides, but Leeds stole a breakaway goal when Stephen McPhail slotted in a Lee Bowyer cross.
The emotions on the pitch quickly reached boiling point as Frank Leboeuf was sent off for two bookable offences moments after Leeds had taken the lead.
Chelsea had lost their heads and Leeds sensed their opportunity to strike while the iron was hot. McPhail bagged the second goal of the game to secure an emphatic away victory.
“I think probably yes, the players lost their heads,” admitted Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli after the match. “After creating so many chances and Leeds scoring with their first shot, the players felt a bit frustrated and they knew the game was slipping away.”
The three points sent Leeds to the top of the Premier League table as they leapfrogged Manchester United in the process. Top of the tree at Christmas and then into a new millennium. While they didn’t go on to win the title, these three points proved to be vital in the end.
After Leeds had spent the vast majority of the season in the top three, a four-game winless run at the end of March had threatened to derail their entire campaign.
Chelsea and Liverpool had begun to gather pace by this point and they each threatened to snatch Leeds’ Champions League spot away from them.
David O’Leary’s side managed to regain their composure in their final five matches and they just about managed to hang on to third place in the league.
With just two points separating Leeds and Liverpool in the end, their victory at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season had proven to be vital. Chelsea sunk to fifth place and the rest is history – although a six-point swing would have seen them finish above O’Leary’s young side.
Leeds would go on to play in the Champions League in the following season and after signing the likes of Mark Viduka and Rio Ferdinand they put together a spectacular run in Europe to reach the semi-finals.
Memories that will last an entire lifetime and all thanks to a smash-and-grab away win at Chelsea. Leeds fans will be hoping that their next win at Stamford Bridge isn’t too far away.
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