Wednesday 8th November 2000 | San Siro Stadium, Milan, Italy
The night of 8th November 2000 is one that is still sung about at Elland Road and beyond.
It is, of course, the night that Dominic Matteo scored our goal against AC Milan in the San Siro Stadium as a 1-1 draw secured our qualification from the “Group of Death” which also included Barcelona and Besiktas.
The same night also saw what Radio Five reporter Alan Green described as “the finest example of player-fan bonding I’ve ever seen” as the players celebrated with around 9,000 travelling fans after the game.
Although they had defeated Milan 1-0 at Elland Road previously, the Whites were still facing a side who had scored in every European game at the San Siro since 1993, and included a Starting XI full of international players including Italy’s Paolo Maldini, Brazil’s Leonardo, and Germany’s Oliver Bierhoff.
As the game got underway with the Leeds players up for the challenge, Andriy Shevchenko set about testing Danny Mills early on, but the defender remained calm in front of Paul Robinson.
Lucas Radebe was next up to prevent an AC Milan attack, as he brought Serginho’s run to a halt with a crunching tackle; before the Brazilian threatened again moments later, passing Gary Kelly and Lee Bowyer before being brought down just outside the area.
Leeds enjoyed their first surge into the AC Milan area after the twelfth minute, when Paolo Maldini was forced into bringing down Alan Smith, before Lee Bowyer’s free-kick was cleared for a corner by Gennaro Gattuso.
With Leeds growing in confidence as the game continued, it all nearly came crashing down after 25 minutes, as a Serginho strike was stopped by the hand of Gary Kelly in the box, causing referee Kim Neilsen to point to the penalty spot.
Ukrainian international Andriy Shevchenko, no stranger to finding the back of the net, stepped up to take the penalty, but could only watch it smash off Paul Robinson’s right-hand post.
The deadlock at the San Siro would finally be broken on the stroke of half-time after Mark Viduka won the Whites a corner. Lee Bowyer whipped in the corner from the right, found the head of Dominic Matteo, and the Scottish midfielder pulled off a spectacular header to score a priceless goal.
HALF TIME: AC Milan 0-1 Leeds United
The second half got underway, and Andriy Shevchenko’s poor night continued, as he saw his shot balloon over from a promising position.
With an hour on the clock, Paul Robinson was called upon several times, as he denied Gennaro Gattuso’s volley and Oliver Birhoff’s point-blank header in quick succession.
Substitute Zvonimir Boban quickly made an impression, as he provided the perfect cross to Andriy Shevchenko, who pulled off a header which was only stopped by Robinson who produced another blinding save.
With wave after wave of attacks from Milan, an equaliser seemed almost inevitable, and it eventually came from Milan’s biggest threat of the night, Serginho. The winger beat Gary Kelly on the outside before driving an angled shot into the far corner.
Mark Viduka replied with a header which Dida saved comfortably before Oliver Dacourt went close with a free-kick.
As the game drew to a close, Serginho tried to duplicate his first goal, as again he managed to beat Kelly on the outside, but Robinson was wise to it the second time, and prevented Milan from getting the win.
As Kim Neilsen blew for full time at the San Siro, both sides knew that despite Barcelona defeating Besiktas 5-0, they had done enough to secure progression to the next round of the Champions League.
FULL TIME: AC Milan 1-1 Leeds United
AC Milan: Dida; Chamot, Roque Junior, Maldini; Helveg; Albertini, Gattuso, Serginho, Leonardo (Boban); Bierhoff, Shevchenko. Unused Subs: Jose Maria, Ambrosini, Guly, Sala, Coco, Abbiatti
Leeds United: Robinson; Kelly, Radebe, Mills, Harte, Bowyer, Bakke, Dacourt, Matteo; Smith, Viduka. Unused Subs: Jones, Hay, Burns, Maybury, Evans, Milosevic