Category: Archive

Soccer Scene Highbury heartbreak as United take title

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Dermot Clarke

They entered the final furlong, Arsenal and Manchester United were neck and neck, with Chelsea about five lengths behind in third. Best that the Blues could hope was the legs to buckle under the front two, that they might steal it on the line. It was a forlorn hope, for Chelsea were the first to wilt, drawing 2-2 with Tottenham last Monday. The best they could do was hang on for the show.

United went a half-length in front on Tuesday without coming under the whip. By virtue of Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink’s 86th minute winner for Leeds against Arsenal, United went ahead on goal difference. On Wednesday, they had the chance to kick clear, but could manage only to edge a little further ahead as they headed for the finish line. The 0-0 draw at Blackburn, meant that the pupil had failed, even if in doing so, he didn’t do the master any favors. Blackburn needed to win to have any chance of staying up.

And on Sunday, the final drive to the title. United just had to emulate Arsenal’s achievements on the day, to lift the League. Both teams played at home. Both faced unpredictable opponents. United faced a rejuvenated Tottenham, the League Cup winners possess in David Ginola a man who can turn a game in the blink of an eye. Aston Villa were up with the big boys early on, then suddenly they began to slump. There was the stress on poor old Stan Collymore: they were playing relegation-type football and were virtually unrecognizable from the Villa of early season. Recent weeks have seen an improvement from John Gregory’s side and on Sunday they had a chance to deprive Arsenal of the title. An intriguing situation, to say the least.

At Old Trafford a crowd of 55,000 turned up, the vast majority were there to urge United to victory. Spurs didn’t look like they were about to spoil a party. United pitched tent in their half from the kick-off. When David Ginola limped off, so did, you would have thought, the only real threat to the United defense. Then, with 24 minutes on the clock, Les Ferdinand put Spurs in front. A knock on by Iverson, left Ferdinand and Johnsen in a race for possession. Ferdinand got to it first and his perfect lob beat the advancing Schmeichel and found the net. Silence in Manchester, bedlam in North London as the news filtered through.

United knew they needed to score before halftime. To go into the second period needing two goals would be a daunting task on such an emotional day. With 41 minutes on the clock it could have been 2-0 but for Peter Schmeichel, who saved from Iverson. A minute later United were level. Scholes found Beckham all alone on the edge of the area and his shot flew past the hitherto unbeatable Walker in the Tottenham goal. The teams went in level at the break. Down at HIghbury it was scoreless at half-time.

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In the 48th minute, Andy Cole put United in front with a strikers goal of pure class. Controlling a difficult ball and lobbing Walker in almost the same motion. Cole had come in for Teddy Sheringham at the start of the half. Those that view Alex Ferguson as being some kind of God will see the move as another masterful stroke by the Scot. Others will wonder at Cole’s absence from the starting lineup in the first place.

When Nwamkno Kanu scored for Arsenal after 66 minutes, the nail-biting could begin in earnest. United fans begged for another. Arsenal supporters prayed for the North London rivals, that they might sneak an equalizer. Happy in the knowledge that the one goal had been scored for the day at Highbury and that they had the chance to actually roar for two scores, even though one was at a different ground.

There was to be no further scoring at Old Trafford, though. United had little difficulty in containing their opponents and as the minutes ticked away the crowd began to sing the praises of their Red heroes. Two minutes into injury time the referee blew his whistle to signal another title for United. While down at Highbury the stunned fans still can’t believe what their old friend David O’Leary has done to them.

Southampton escape

Down at the bottom, Southampton did it again. Another last-gasp escape act, a 2-0 victory over Everton, means that Charlton join Blackburn and Nottingham Forest in the First Division next season.

Two goals from Pahars sent the Saints faithful home happy, Charlton losing anyway, 1-0 at home to Sheffield Wednesday. Nottingham Forest, the first team relegated, won their third straight game, 1-0 at home to Leicester.

Steve McManaman waved goodbye to Liverpool to a mixed reception. McManaman is off to Real Madrid for a brief spell before joining Tranmere Rovers, after which he’ll move on to Scunthorpe before ending his career with Accrington Stanley. Liverpool won 3-0 at home to Wimbledon, Berger, Riedle and Ince the scorers.


The FAI Cup final saga goes on. An extra 120 minutes on Saturday evening failed to produce a winner. But although the attendance halved for this game, the excitement more than compensated as the two sides got over the stage fright of the first game to play out a Cup final in keeping with tradition. Bray Wanderers trailed to a Jonathan Speak goal with three minutes left in regulation, when Barry O’Connor clawed them back into it. Then right at the end of extra time, with Harps in front again courtesy of Tom Mohan, Bray were awarded a penalty. Brian McKenna in the Harps goal saved from Colm Tresson but Ciaran O’Brien was quickest to the loose ball and he knocked it home to force a second replay, venue and date to be decided.

Auction items

And, finally, it’s been brought to my attention by Sean Rice that some of the more valuable items from the Omagh auction are still up for grabs, having failed to reach their reserve price. Among them a signed Manchester United jersey, a valuable piece, particularly in this red letter season. A Liverpool jersey signed by Steve McManaman, among, others and a Niall Quinn Irish jersey, worn against Malta and signed by the Irish team. Any interested parties can reach Sean at (718) 278-9372.

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