McPhail shines on big stage
Banned from the touch-line and the Leeds United dressing-room he may have been, but David O'Leary might nevertheless have made the transition from caretaker to full-time manager last night when, from the stands of the Olympic stadium, he oversaw one of the most adventurous United performances in recent times.
Leeds may have lost on the night, but it was only by a single goal and after both Bruno Ribeiro and Gunnar Halle had smacked shots against the Roma woodwork. They were also forced to play the last 35 minutes without Ribeiro, dismissed for two needless fouls.
Only Marco Delvecchio's goal will separate the teams for the return leg in Yorkshire in a fortnight. It could have been even better for O'Leary had Lee Bowyer's last-minute volley flashed an inch inside the Roma posts.
It seemed that O'Leary would opt for caution in the hope of a draw, but when the Leeds team sheet came up from the dugout there were gasps at the presence of the 18-year-old Stephen McPhail's name on it.
O'Leary gave McPhail his full debut in the 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest on Saturday and, just over 72 hours later, McPhail found himself playing in one of the world's great sporting arenas.
McPhail was even charged with dead-ball duties, taking three corners within the first eight minutes, an indication of a confident Leeds opening.
Nothing came of them, however, and at the other end Roma's captain and playmaker Francesco Totti was showing ominously good early form as he dropped into midfield to orchestrate the Italian attacks.
Sure enough, in the 18th minute, following another energetic Leeds probe, Totti collected a loose ball and, with a clipped pass, aimed for Delvecchio. Lucas Radebe lunged in, missed the intended interception and Delvecchio sped away unmarked.
Yet in the midst of some panic for Leeds, young McPhail showed a glimpse of his ability with a neat pass to Ribeiro. One-on-one with the Roma goalkeeper, Antonio Chimenti, Ribeiro could only hit the woodwork.
That was in the 24th minute, and 12 minutes later the Whites, having recovered their shape, struck Chimente's other post. Again McPhail's left foot was involved, supplying Halle who surprisingly cut inside the Roma fullback and let go with his weaker right foot.
AS Roma: Chimenti, Cafu, Zago, Di Biagio, Candela, Aldair, Totti, Di Francesco (Alenichev 45), Tommasi, Frau (Bartelt 57), Delvecchio. Subs Not Used: Campagnolo, Petruzzi, Wome, Tomic, Gautieri. Booked: Di Biagio, Di Francesco, Aldair. Goal: Delvecchio 17.
Leeds UTD: Martyn, Radebe, Hasselbaink (Wijnhard 78), Ribeiro, Bowyer, Hopkin, Halle, Kewell (Haaland 67), Hiden, Molenaar, McPhail. Subs Not Used: Wetherall, Sharpe, Granville, Woodgate, Robinson. Sent Off: Ribeiro (55). Booked: Ribeiro.
Referee: A Nieto Lopez (Spain).