Leeds United took on Liverpool on November 4th 2000 and a new hero was born: Mark Viduka.
The Australian ace, a burly, barrelling striker, scored all four goals as the Elland Road side won 4-3, downing an entertaining Reds side in the process.
This was the year when Liverpool, under Gerard Houllier, were absolutely superb, taking it upon themselves to single-handedly provide football with every memorable moment. They won the UEFA Cup in a final containing nine goals; they won the FA Cup with a sensational late turn-around against Arsenal; they won the League Cup on penalties. They even threatened to win the league in stages.
As for Leeds, the first throes of the 21st century saw them ramp up their ambition to unchartered heights. Already blessed with a brilliant nucleus of young players they had little hesitation in breaking the British transfer record for Rio Ferdinand, additionally bringing in Oliver Dacourt from France and, of course, Viduka.
In December they further added to an already fearsome frontline by loaning in Robbie Keane from Inter Milan and if their third-place finish the previous May had revealed they meant business they now clearly had a title in their sights.
It was inevitable, then, that this clash was going to be a ferociously competed, highly engaging contest.
Sami Hyypia broke the deadlock early with a glanced header and then on 18 minutes Christian Ziege –sporting the worst haircut since peroxide was invented – doubled the visitor’s lead. Viduka pulled one back shortly after and it was very much game on.
As impressive a squad as Leeds had it was to their enormous credit that David O’Leary’s men didn’t crumble after falling two behind. They were, after all, ravaged with injuries.
Ten starters were unavailable and on the bench sat four debutants with the fifth spot not taken. There was an extra dimension of resilience to the celebrations, then, when their Australian striker headed home an equaliser just after the break.
Now it was Liverpool’s turn to receive credit. Having seen their lead snatched away, Vladimir Smicer restored it on the hour mark with a neatly dispatched finish. This time it lasted barely ten minutes before Viduka was at it again, controlling a strong pass on the edge of the box and confusing Patrick Berger with an unorthodox turn before firing home a third.
The game had only just resumed when a simple through ball had Viduka one-on-one with Sander Westerveld but hampered by a wide-angle. A deft flick saw the ball nestle into the far corner and carnage ensued, with Leeds sealing a 4-3 win.
What happened next?
Liverpool completed a famous treble, entertaining one and all along the way. Their incredible season was tainted, however, with the sad news of Joe Fagan’s passing at the age of 80. Their former manager had also guided the Reds to three trophies back in 1984.
Leeds were very much a team on the up, finishing fourth in the Premier League and surprising the continent by reaching the semi-final of the Champions League. Surely it only got better from there, right?