By Joe Behan
The FA Cup didn’t produce a game of football that will go down in history as one of the greats, but the occasion did come up with a dramatic goal full of trauma for Villa goalkeeper David James, who was victimized in the 1-0 loss.
It was a dull first half in this year’s FA Cup Final. Chances were few and far between. Aston Villa sat in at the back and Chelsea could not break down their rear guard. Villa were hitting long balls up to Dion Dublin and Carbone all day only to have Lebouef and Desailly win the service to restart Chelsea offensively.
Villa could not consistently put more than three passes together but were by no means out of the game. Both teams canceled each other out. Chelsea needed to rethink their strategy for the second half and the Blues improved. In the 73rd minute it was over for Villa and the effect of the goal surfaced mostly with their losing goalkeeper David James.
The tearful keeper had his head tucked inside his jersey as he sat on the ground defeated and unable to face the world. It was quite the opposite for Roberto Di Matteo, who scored the winner for Chelsea. The Italian hero had his face for all to see in Wembley as he gazed into the thousands of Blues celebrating.
The annual story of the FA Cup unfolded in a dead ball situation where James misjudged Chelsea’s free kick crossed in by Zola. Goalkeepers, often the savior of big games, can become suspect in the blink of an eye.
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James ran off his line to intercept a driven free kick from Chelsea’s Zola. He ran into a crowded area just outside the six-yard-line to clear the ball. There were too many bodies in the way for James to control his box. By the time he got to the ball he was all out of sorts and he had set himself up for the sucker punch. His arms were never going to line up to punch the ball away. Zola is a dead ball specialist. The world-class veteran’s free enticed James to leave his goal line in the first place.
James admitted after the game that he took his eye of the ball. A desperate attempt to reach over players for the ball is a goalkeeper’s no-go area, and that’s where he was, in uncharted territory.
The trauma of the goal extended as the ball hit of the unlucky Gareth Southgate’s chest. The Villa defender, too many times a Cup loser, could do nothing as he watched the ball drop for Chelsea’s predator Roberto Di Matteo. The Italian, lurking in the box, caught the net with a composed instinctive finish.
For Di Matteo it was FA Cup history. Three years ago, the Italian scored the fastest FA Cup goal, 43 seconds, and now he has added the last goal in the Cup at Wembley stadium, as we know it. For Southgate, it was another Wembley woe. As for David James, he’ll have to carry Zola’s cross on his shoulders for a while.
Arsenal fall in final
Arsenal were beaten 4-1 on penalties by Galatasaray in the UEFA Cup final during midweek. It wasn’t that Arsenal did not play well, their opponents were simply too good. Arsene Wenger was outcoached, and rarely does that happen.
Galatasaray were first to every ball. They wanted it more. Arsenal sat in trying to hit on the counter, but it did not go as planned. The Gunners faced a good team, with lots of talent and chemistry. Hagi’s hat full of tricks had Arsenal players diving in only to see the little Romanian put it through their legs or play a short pass. He made one of the best defensive teams in the premier look silly at times.
Hagi, getting carried away even at his age, was sent off seven minutes into extra time for raising his hand to Tony Adams. With 10 men and 23 minutes left, Galatasaray’s goalkeeper, Claudio Tafferal, became man of the match.
The shootout hero of the 94 World Cup, when Brazil beat Italy, was at it again. Suker’s kick hit the post, the ball crossed the goal line and out it went. Vieira hit the cross bar then hit the goal line and bounced out again. The Galatasaray penalty kicks were one of the best penalties seen in a shoot out. They were placed high and away from Seaman, who had no chance.
Ipswich makes it to Wembley for a promotion showdown with Barnsley after a 5-3 victory over Bolton. After a 2-all first-leg escape against Bolton Wanderers, the Town was on fire banging in five in the crunch replay. A 12-goal total in two games would have to concern any goalkeeping coach.
Ipswich goalie Richard Wright, England’s young No. 3 keeper, was suspect as he flapped like a bird for a high cross; Kevin Keegan has work to do on goalkeeping, especially crossing, for Euro 2000. The ball fell to Bolton’s Dean Holdsworth, who scored from close range. Just before the fumble, Wright was nearly caught out with a chip from 35 yards.
Bolton’s goalkeeper, Jussi Jaaskelain, in the meantime, saved a penalty. Then Wright knew nothing about Allan Johnston’s shot 25 yards out on the left. Goalkeepers succumbed to the tension in the premier race as the Bolton players raged around after the referee.
Ipswich continued to provide the now expected classic in these final games. Their play all year has been consistent. They’ve been knocking on the door of premier football for three years. However, their form dipped before in the promotion race and Barnsley will be all over that as they have stuff to prove also. One of the better attacking teams in Div. 1, Barnsley’s first-leg hammering of Birmingham City was enough for the Tykes to go through to Wembley for a premier play off. Not that long out of the premier Barnsley has come back for more.
Rayo Vallecano, Div. 1 Primera Liga, have shown interest in Irish International and now Tramere Rovers manager John Aldridge for £1 million. Spain wants their adopted soccer son back as a manager. Aldridge has done wonders with a small budget at Rovers, getting within one game of Europe after going down to Leicester City in the league cup final. Real Madrid meet Valencia in the Champions League tonight.
Colin Healy will be out of the Ireland’s U 21 team for next weeks Toulon Tour. Cork City’s Greg O Halloran will replace Healy. Ireland plays Colombia next Thursday then Ghana and Portugal.
In Scotland, Hearts piped Motherwell for an UEFA Cup qualification. Henrik Larson made a great comeback, coming of the bench in Celtics 2-nil win over Dundee United. Simon Lynch and Mark Burchill scored for Glasgow. Arberdeen play Rangers in the Scottish Cup on Saturday.
Liverpool beat Celtic 4-1 in coach Ronnie Moran’s testimonial at Anfield. Moran, who spent 50 years at Liverpool, had 33,000 fans show up for him. After sitting on the bench for the first half, Moran could not give enough thanks to everyone involved. The Celtic fans, he commented, are a great bunch. The Liverpool legend concluded that he’d remember the moment for the rest of his life.