Viduka Strikes but Then It All Goes Loko

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NOT even two goals from favourite son Lee Bowyer, nor two more from Mark Viduka, could raise more than a subdued cheer from Elland Road's 40,000 at the end of a UEFA Cuptie that Leeds may live to regret.

David O'Leary's hungry young lions roared through Europe last season, leaving such splendid names as Barcelona and Milan spreadeagled until Valencia halted a glorious Champions League surge in the semi-finals.

Yet last night, having cruised into a 4-1 lead, with visitors Troyes reduced to 10 men and 40 minutes to play, Leeds not only lacked the killer instinct but allowed the French renewed hope of reaching the third round.

Patrice Loko, 31, the former France international with a reputation for raising hell, managed instead to lift the flagging spirits of Troyes with an 81st-minute goal stabbed in at the near post to leave the second leg in a fortnight far from the foregone conclusion it might have been.

Loko had also struck on 31 minutes after getting on the blind side of Dominic Matteo, though his earlier goal had been swallowed up in the euphoria of what threatened to be another of those stirring European nights Leeds fans now expect.

Viduka, whose rampage through Europe's meanest defences last season earned him a huge reputation in Italy and Spain, was back to his swashbuckling best with a magnificent opening goal after six minutes and a headed effort just before half time that looked like providing the perfect platform.

Not only that, but midfielder Bowyer - that irrepressible talisman from last season's adventure who saves his best for European nights - was also on the mark twice, with a crisp low drive after 23 minutes and an opportune shot through a defender's legs just one minute into the second half.

It should have been thank you and goodnight when Algeria defender Medhi Meniri elbowed Viduka in the face and earned a red card.

But oddly, as everything else starts to fall into place for O'Leary's dream of filling the Elland Road trophy cabinet, their inability to deal with the UEFA Cup, that fast-fading poorer cousin of the Champions League, is the one cause for concern.

Leeds are scheduled to move into a [pound]60million statem of-the-art stadium and they top the Premiership, at least until Manchester United's local dispute with Bolton tomorrow. …