Link maker

The Aussie link that once saw Leeds United send Aston Villa ‘Down Under’

Twenty years ago an Aussie from Leeds sent Villa under, with Mark Viduka scoring the decisive strike in a 1-0 win against the Birmingham side in April 2002.

Villa will present the second of United’s three opponents on this summer’s pre-season tour of Australia in a friendly in Brisbane next Sunday morning.

The two clubs have been back side by side in English football’s top flight for two seasons, two decades after clashes at the turn of the millennium.

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MESMERIC: A fine turn and finish from Australian Leeds United striker Mark Viduka, above, brought down Aston Villa at Villa Park in April 2002. Photo by Varleys.

Until Leeds fell, the Whites had a fairly decent record against Villa, with Viduka bettering that record by scoring the game’s only goal in the April 2002 win at Villa Park.

The win was the second leg of a five-game unbeaten streak against the Midlands side but did not prevent David O’Leary’s Whites from missing out on Champions League football, finishing just fifth two years before relegation in May 2004.

In the 2001-02 campaign, O’Leary’s side drew 1-1 in the second leg at Elland Road in November in which striker Alan Smith was sent off after just 32 minutes.

Hassan Kachloul equalized just three minutes later but five months later there was no return from Villa after Viduka’s goal a minute before half-time.

Leeds approached the contest having won four of their last six games and O’Leary’s side looked to have taken the lead even before Viduka’s strike when Robbie Keane brought home Alan Smith’s cross .

Keane was flagged offside and Villa then thought they were going to be awarded a penalty shortly after as Juan Pablo Angel went to the ground as he looked to beat Dom Matteo in the Whites’ penalty area .

Referee Barry Knight whistled but to book Angel for the dive, the replay shows minimal contact from Matteo as the Colombian looked to turn the defender by latching onto a Mark Delaney through the ball.

Back at the other end, a terrible mistake by Thomas Hitzlsperger was then played on Viduka, but the Australian’s attempt to coolly pass the ball past the rushing Peter Enckelman narrowly sailed the wrong side of the post.

Viduka, however, got the last laugh by scoring the only goal of the game after a sublime turn just after the half hour mark. Villa gave the ball to David Batty in his own half and Batty surged towards the home side’s defense before feeding Keane to the edge of the box.

Keane then played a short pass to Viduka who had his back to goal, but Viduka produced a mesmerizing Cruyff-style turn to bring the ball into the area before slotting a fine finish past Enckleman into the back of the net.

Viduka was causing all sorts of problems for the Villa defense and his presence created an opening after the break for Lee Bowyer who stormed into the box to have his lob attempt blocked by Enckleman from close range.

Villa boss Graham Taylor launched Jlloyd Samuel, Steve Stone and Darius Vassell in search of an equalizer, completing an attack that already featured Peter Crouch.

Two decent crosses from Stone put United under pressure and the hosts were only denied an equalizer as Nigel Martyn produced a brilliant save to tip a growing effort from Samuel over the bar.

Moments later, a raspy drive from Delaney was deflected wide wide by Matteo’s feet, but United were awarded a goal kick instead.

Another smart save from Martyn then denied the hosts as a looping cross shot from Hitsplerger headed to the top right corner, only for the white keeper to rush to his line and collect the effort behind for a corner.

Martyn was not for passing, Leeds were not for beating and it was their day and Viduka’s.