ALMOST two decades to the day since ‘that’ volley by Tony Yeboah against Liverpool, the Gelderd End witnessed yet another screamer that will surely be talked about for many years to come.
Marco Matias, a Portuguese winger who few in this country had heard of before Sheffield Wednesday spent £1.1m bringing the 26-year-old from Nacional this summer, was the scorer with a quite outrageous strike that must, even at this early stage, be a strong contender for ‘Goal of the Season’.
Collecting a long pass out of defence from Liam Palmer, Matias – after springing the Leeds offside trap with a perfectly timed dart forward – wrong-footed Liam Cooper courtesy of a deft flick over the Leeds defender that he followed with the sweetest of left-foot volleys.
Marco Silvestri, in the home goal, could then only watch helplessly as the ball sailed way over his head before crashing into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Like the thunderous strike that Yeboah had unleashed on August 21, 1995, it was a goal so stunning that the initial response was to rub the eyes in disbelief and wonder, ‘Did that really happen?’
For Matias, his first strike in English football was one to savour. Even if, according to the Owls wideman, it was not a unique goal with last season bringing a similar effort back home in Portugal.
“I am really happy to score this amazing goal and for it to be the first goal of my career with Sheffield Wednesday,” he said. “I am hoping this is the first of many and that I will score plenty more as the season goes on.
“I have scored a lot of goals. I scored one last season very similar to this one but I reckon this is the best goal of my career. I am hoping my goals this season can really help the team.”
Matias’s 37th-minute opener was a genuine thing of beauty. Not only did the goal require tremendous technique, it could also only have been scored by a player with both tremendous vision and awareness.
In that respect, Matias’s strike perhaps had more in common with another spectacular goal scored at that end of Elland Road by a certain Eric Cantona.
Back before he incurred the wrath of Leeds fans everywhere by moving to Old Trafford, the one-time Owls trialist sealed a 3-0 home win over Chelsea during the ultimately successful League title push of 1992 with a sublime individual goal that left defender Paul Elliott looking every bit as confused as Cooper did on Saturday.
No wonder Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvalhal was purring over the summer arrival at full-time.
“It was an amazing goal,” said the Portuguese about his fellow countryman. “Marco has scored some fantastic goals, so many of them – and usually when coming in from the left. You should check on Youtube.
“He is a winger who can score goals. He is not a striker but he got 17 goals last season in Portugal. It is always difficult to score goals there in that league. For example, (Radamel) Falcao and other big players usually get 20, 21, 22 goals. And yet Marco did 17.
“Marco is a player who has a big influence in our team. For example, last match (the 1-1 draw against Reading) he did a fairly bad performance and our team had some problems in attack.”
Matias’s wonder goal would have been worthy of winning any derby. In the end, though, it was the trickery of another wideman who ensured that Leeds claimed a deserved share of the spoils from the 90th meeting of these two great rivals.
Stuart Dallas, a £1m capture from Brentford, was United’s saviour with a wonderful piece of skill that left Rhoys Wiggins trailing out towards the touchline.
After darting into the penalty area, Dallas then ignored the cries of two team-mates on the edge of the area to drill a cross that was just begging Chris Wood to tap in from a couple of yards out.
The Kiwi did just that, ensuring that an all-White Rose contest that only rarely spluttered into life would end even.
It was a fair result, with Wednesday clearly heading up the M1 intent on keeping their hosts quiet.
Carvalhal opted for a 4-1-4-1 formation with Atdhe Nuhiu as the lone frontman and the industrious Jose Semedo sitting in front of the back four.
The Owls chief had also sent his players out with the instruction to hassle and harry United at every turn, an approach that ensured Uwe Rosler’s men struggled during a first half that offered little in the way of entertainment other than Matias’s stunning opener eight minutes before the interval.
Only Mirco Antenucci carried much threat among those clad in white during those opening 45 minutes and it took a double substitution by Rosler just before the hour to spark his men into action.
Luke Murphy and Alex Mowatt were the duo that the East German turned to and it proved an astute move. Just six minutes after coming off the bench, Mowatt displayed fine vision to spread the play to Dallas and three or four seconds later the scores were level.
After that, Leeds always looked the more likely to get a winner. Wood should perhaps have done better than head narrowly wide after being picked out by the ever-impressive Charlie Taylor, while Tom Lees did very well to block Antenucci’s drive after the Italian had been picked out by Sol Bamba.
Wednesday also threatened on the break, the visitors’ best second-half opening seeing Kieran Lee’s shot blocked by Bamba and Palmer heading straight at Silvestri.
It meant an afternoon that will always be remembered for Matias’s stunning strike ended with these two great rivals sharing a 1-1 draw at Elland Road for the third consecutive season.