FOOTBALL: BUBBLY NIGHT FOR VIDUKA!; Leeds Utd. 4 Troyes.2 Rampant Leeds on the Mark
Byline: Ian EDWARDS
MARK VIDUKA regained his status as the darling of Elland Road again last night with a virtuoso display.
The Aussie international shaded top billing - ahead of the magnificent Lee Bowyer - as the pair shared the four goals which will make United firm favourites to go through after their trip to the champagne region of France in two weeks' time.
Viduka was a constant menace, grabbing his first European goals of the season as well as playing a part in the pair collected by Bowyer's boundless energy.
Patrice Loko hit two for the French side to give them a glimmer of hope for the return.
But Viduka was such a thorn in the flesh of the visitors that he was even a central figure in the 50th-minute sending off of Algerian international defender Medhi Meniri, for a brutal elbow in his face.Viduka could easily have departed Elland Road in the summer with AC Milan and Real Madrid both apparently ready to pay in the region of pounds 20m for the Aussie international.
But boss David O'Leary was not willing to trade the striking focal point of his team, who contributed 20 goals in his first season since his pounds 6million move from Celtic.
There have been a few eyebrows raised this season at the wisdom of not cashing-in - as he had managed just two goals in his previous 11 games.
And even more question marks have been raised over the physical condition of the 26-year-old, as he has been slow to reproduce the same effectiveness.
All along O'Leary has steadfastly defended him and he was rewarded for his loyalty as the affable Aussie returned to something like his old self.
He could easily have helped himself to four goals in the opening 45 minutes, but will be more than contented with the two which should ensure Leeds progress further in the tournament.
The first arrived after just six minutes. Bowyer's simplest of short passes discovered him 40 yards from goal, but within a shimmy he had eased past two defenders and engineered himself a sight of Tony Heurtebis' goal.
His confidence - rising after a much-needed goal against Leicester eight days ago - helped him produce a precision low drive which found the bottom corner of the net.
His second arrived two minutes before the interval, capping another incisive raid down the right, started by his partner Robbie Keane.
Keane has taken all the plaudits recently with the goals, but he turned provider with the cross which Bowyer helped on for the Aussie to head in at the far post despite a suggestion of offside. In between the sublime from Viduka there was the ridiculous too, with two comical attempts from him to defeat Heurtebis again, as well as his part in the second from Bowyer. …