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Original Issue

One replay that got away...

Not long ago, in a city called Leeds in the heart of England's Yorkshire country, a Chinese chef won a national competition for cooking Yorkshire pudding. He called his creation "Yawksha Po Din," adding mysterious Chinese herbs and inflating the pudding beyond its accustomed stature in international cuisine by puffing it up like a soufflé. This came as a considerable blow to the self-esteem of Yorkshiremen in general. But now they know that it could only have been an omen of worse defeats to follow.

No matter that their pudding team had lost to an outsider, the locals pointed out then, they still had their pride in Leeds United, a soccer team regarded as one of the best sides of the last decade. Just a few weeks ago, in fact, Leeds United seemed to stand an excellent chance of winning the three top honors available to an English club—the regular professional league championship, the Football Association Cup and the European Cup.

Then things began to go wrong. The team was edged out of first place in the first division by Everton, and eliminated from European Cup play by Celtic of Scotland. Next, in the Football Association Cup final match at Wembley in London, Leeds played to a draw with Chelsea (SI, April 20). And that left one chance for glory: the replay with Chelsea—this time in Manchester's Old Trafford Stadium.

When the match began last week, chances seemed good: Leeds United had dominated the first game with Chelsea and they dominated the game again this time. But, with 12 minutes left to play, Chelsea drew even—then won it, 2-1, in the extra-time period. And there was Yorkshire, as flat as a deflated "Yawksha Po Din."

Most experts in England had considered Leeds a strong favorite. Don Revie, the personable Leeds coach, allowed his "lads are ready now for a really strong effort."

Chelsea Coach Dave Sexton did not seem so positive. "I should think we have a good chance to win the replay," he said. "I think Leeds played as well as it could at Wembley and we were a bit spotty and nervous. We should be over the nerves now and if we play our best it could be good enough."

Chelsea had one clear advantage in Old Trafford. Most of the 63,000 fans who filled the stands were Chelsea supporters, although Manchester is almost 200 miles from London and only about 50 from Leeds. Nine special trains had brought in the Chelsea crowd, most of them togged out in a wild collection of blue-and-white costumes. Almost everybody draped long blue-and-white woolen scarves around their necks, and headgear ranged from berets to bowlers to top hats. They straggled up and down Piccadilly, the main drag in Manchester, singing, to the tune of The Bear Went Over the Mountain, "You're never going to believe us, but we're going to win the Cup!" There was little disorder. An army of bobbies, some of them imported from London, many with police dogs on leash, patrolled the streets.

The Old Trafford pitch, in contrast to the sand-laden, soggy field at Wembley, was grassy, beautifully manicured, dry and fast. Since Leeds United was known to be a faster team than Chelsea and enjoyed a clear edge in individual matchups, the fast field seemed to favor the Yorkshire team.

Time and again they swept downfield, passing the ball cleanly and opening holes in the Chelsea defense. Only the acrobatics of Peter Bonetti, the excellent Chelsea goalie, kept his team alive. But late in the first half he went up to bat a ball away and was banged heavily into the goalpost by a shoulder block from Mick Jones, a Leeds man in pursuit of the ball. Bonetti lay in the goal for almost 10 minutes and got up limping from a badly bruised left knee.

A few minutes later Leeds scored the first goal of the game when Allan Clarke, a quick forward, made a swerving run through the heart of the Chelsea defenses, looking much like a good American halfback in a broken field. He avoided three skidding tackles, then tapped the ball ahead to Jones, who lashed it into the net, high and to the right of Bonetti.

("If I had been fit, I could have got it," Bonetti said later. "I got my fingers on it, but I just couldn't jump off the bad leg.")

Given the clean superiority of Leeds at this point, the goal seemed enough. But then, with only 12 minutes left, Chelsea rallied. Forward Charlie Cooke produced a run of his own and, at the end of it, lofted a gentle pop fly of a kick into the mouth of the Leeds goal where teammate Peter Osgood soared high into the air, nodded briskly, and headed the ball into the net.

That tied the score and changed the feeling of the game. For the rest of the regular time and during extra time, it was Chelsea attacking over and over, Leeds defending desperately. It suddenly became an ill-tempered game in which players twice were knocked flat by what would be called clips in American football, and several times tempers flared to the edge of violence. The Leeds club, perhaps breathing the familiar smell of defeat, became vicious.

But Chelsea won anyway. The winning goal came from the strength of Ian Hutchinson passing the ball in from the sidelines. He is the best in football at this move; this time he threw the ball roughly the length of a basketball court, hanging it up in front of the Leeds goal. Leeds' Jack Charlton, who is on the England World Cup team, tried to head it away, but the ball caromed off the back of his head to David Webb of Chelsea, who batted it in with his forehead for the score.

The victory unleashed pandemonium back in Chelsea, where traffic stopped, pubs emptied into the street and housewives kissed the bobbies who tried, ineffectually, to clear King's Road so cars could move. The Chelsea fans in Manchester climbed happily back aboard their trains, many of them with three or four bottles of beer tucked into their waistbands, some with the large red beer cans holding six pints each.

They had changed their song now. As the trains pulled away, headed for London, they were chanting, to the tune of Farmer in the Dell, "Eee eye addio, We have won the Cup!"