In his brief stint at Leeds United Tony Yeboah became synonymous with breathtaking goals, including his 30 yard howitzer against Liverpool. Read about what it was like to watch him nearly take the Elland Road net off first-hand.
By the final game of the 1995/96 season Leeds United had lost six games on the trot, slumped to thirteenth in the Premiership and had been booed off the Wembley pitch after a battering by Aston Villa in the most one sided cup final ever witnessed… and yet it was a campaign that had started with so much promise. After winning their opening game at West Ham, the residents around the Elland Road stadium were tightening their hub caps for the first home fixture against Liverpool.
The scousers would also end the season in embarrassment at Wembley – strolling on to the pitch before the cup final against Man Utd wearing matching cream suits like a cheap and cheesy cabaret cruise act, but despite their Spice Boys tag, Roy Evan’s team came to Leeds United on that balmy summer evening with a hit squad that would put the frighteners up anyone.
Barnes, McManaman, Fowler and Rush etc were on a roll after an opening game win against Sheffield Wednesday, helped in spectacular fashion by the Premiership’s new golden boy Stan Collymore, who had left Nottingham Forest to join them in a record eight million pound deal.
Games between Liverpool and Leeds United had always been special, none more so than the valiant 5-4 defeat several years previous to this encounter and the atmosphere that Monday night as we took our seats in the North West stand was incredible. The place was packed to the gills and the volume of both sets of supporters was set to eleven. Leeds were debuting their new crew neck retro kit and the tackle by Jon Pemberton on Collymore in the opening minutes was as retro as they come. Twenty minutes later Stan hobbled off to sarcastic jeers to be replaced by goal machine Robbie Fowler. It wasn’t looking good. In a fairly tepid first half Liverpool had the better of the chances and must have gone in at half time feeling quietly confident they could pick United’s defensive lock and steal the points. However, they didn’t realise they were about to be the supporting cast for one of the greatest flashes of individual brilliance witnessed in a game of football.
Anthony “Tony” Yeboah was born in Ghana on the 6th day of the 6th month in 1966. Whilst he may not have been the devil he was certainly a beast in the box. He was fast for such a heavy set player and could strike a ball with very little back lift due - he once claimed - to his extra long toes. A natural poacher he had joined Leeds mid way through the previous season for £3.4million from Eintracht Frankfurt.
With the lack of cable TV he was a virtual unknown in the UK, but he quickly gained a reputation for clinical dead eye finishing, scoring eight goals in his first nine starts and with a surname that was easily chantable he became an instant hit with the Leeds fans.
The ball flew 25 yards, screaming like a surface to air missile. It looked like it would end up on the M621, but at the last second it dipped just under the cross bar
Amazingly, by today’s standards, he was the only overseas player on the pitch that night, but despite a couple of wayward efforts he hadn’t really impressed. Five minutes in to the second half I was still struggling to finish my half time burger. Leeds were now attacking the favoured Revie end willed on by some fervent support.
The ball was being pinged around a bit and then Tony Dorigo swept a long hopeful ball forward which was met by a short looping header from Rod Wallace on the edge of the area. It appeared to fall too far behind Yeboah for him take it cleanly. Adjusting himself quickly he somehow positioned himself around the ball before it landed and swung at it viciously with his right foot. The ball flew 25 yards, screaming like a surface to air missile. It looked like it would end up on the M621, but at the last second it dipped just under the cross bar, it’s momentum causing it to ricochet down and behind the line – it’s sheer power bouncing it back in to the roof of the net like a pinball. David James was still clawing at fresh air. If he’d copped it in the mush he would have lost his contract with Armani.
There must have been a nano second frozen in time where - just before the huge roar and just after the ping of leather against steel - there befell the eerie sound of forty thousand people gasping in sync. It was incredible.
We went absolutely nuts. It didn’t seem physically possible for a ball to do that. My burger went flying. Yeboah ran towards the kop, grinning and wagging his finger in the air as grown men shook each other out of their stunned stupor and loudly exchanged a barrage of joyous expletives.
The rest of the game was a blur. Leeds hung on after some intense pressure, but it would have been a crime not to win with such a beautiful goal. When David Elleray blew the final whistle Leeds went top in the Premiership and Yeboah officially became a legend.
"I don't score many with my right foot. Normally I prefer my left foot. But it's a fantastic feeling to score a goal like that and it's important that when you play a club like Liverpool, you win.", he beamed.
Just one month later he went on to score an even better goal against Wimbledon and to this day he is the only player ever to win successive BBC Match of the Day Goal of the Month competitions, doing so in September and October 1995. The goal against Livepool eventually won the Goal of the Season.
Despite our poor season, 95/96 will always be remembered as the Tony Yeboah Show. I have other great memories of him winning games against Monaco and Man Utd, and despite seeing Rivaldo’s wonder goal against Valencia in 2001 I’d have to say that Tony Yeboah’s thunderbolt against Liverpool was the finest goal I’ve ever seen.
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