By Dermot Clarke
Manchester United reached it’s second European Cup final with a stunning 3-2 victory over Juventus in Turin last Wednesday. Alex Ferguson is one step away from his ultimate dream, the club championship of Europe. But, as is often the case in battle victories of such significance, the winners suffered casualties. The yellow-carding of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes means that the Irish skipper and his obvious understudy will miss the final.
It would have been extremely difficult for an aggressive player such as Keane to avoid caution against "Legends of the Fall" Juventus. "Diving" comes between "Set Pieces" and "Doggies" in the daily training routine. The accentuation of the fall can sometimes mean the difference between a free kick and a free kick and a yellow. Zidane and Deschamps both received perfect 10s from the judges, and Keane and Scholes were booked for the tackles. The two Frenchmen seem to have forgotten the World Cup when similar antics by Croatia’s Bilic eliminated their teammate Laurent Blanc from fulfilling his dream of playing in a World Cup final.
The game itself was another classic. A second in as many weeks served up by United. Filippo Inzaghi had the Italians 2 up in 10 minutes. He was on the end of a clever one-two corner between Zidane and DiLivio after 6 minutes, and then was fortunate that his shot was deflected over the head of Peter Schmeichel by Jaap Stam after 10. The mini-disaster didn’t seem to affect the Dutchman, who went on to play his finest game in a United uniform.
Italian teams don’t often score twice in the first 10 minutes. They were, it seemed, a tad confused at the alien situation they found themselves in. Should they go for a third or should they retreat in good old Italiano style? United went on the attack while they were deciding. Twenty-four minutes gone and memories of Tommy Smith, Rome ’77 were evoked, when Roy Keane charged into the box to meet a Beckham corner. Keane’s header had a little more finesse to it than Smith’s, but the result was the same — a goal.
When Dwight Yorke’s diving header made it 2-2, the Reds had the away goal and the impetus. Edgar Davids said before the game that they would take the game because United have no "stars" on the team. When Roy Keane knew he’d lost his place in the final, he continued to play as he had before the booking. Davids all but disappeared when he got the booking that would have eliminated him. That’s what "stars" do. United wrapped it up when Yorke burst through the Juventus center of defense, he rounded Peruzzi, who hauled him to the ground. The referee waved for play to continue, it was the second time that Yorke was hauled down in the area without gaining a spot-kick for his troubles. The ball rolled to Andy Cole, who scored from an acute angle. If the referee wasn’t giving the penalty, it was a terrible decision. If he was playing the advantage, Peruzzi should have been sent to the line. Bottom line: United won 3-2 and meet Bayern Munich, who beat Kiev, 4-3 on aggregate, to qualify for the May 26 final in Barcelona.
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If omens mean anything the Cup could be headed Old Trafford way. The last time Juventus lost a European Cup tie in the home leg was 1968 in the semifinal against Benfica. The winners of the cup that year? Manchester United. Bobby Charlton collected the cup, because the club captain, Denis Law, wasn’t playing. The club captain, Roy Keane, won’t be playing this year either. In the ’68 final, United scored one goal at home and three away to Real Madrid. This year they did the same against Juventus. The third goal was one above the requisite, United had already qualified on away goals on both occasions.
Chelsea failed in their attempt to hold on to the Winners Cup. Real Mallorca beat the holders by 1-0, having tied with them at Stamford Bridge. Dennis Wise missed an easy chance to bring the game into extra time, but missed. Chelsea could wind up empty handed from a season that promised so much.
Alex Ferguson’s men were back to league duties on Sunday. A tough fixture against Dave O’Leary’s young Leeds team. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink gave Leeds the lead, but Cole secured a vital point for United in the second half. Arsenal — with a game more played than United — are now a point ahead in the title race. The Gunners scored 11 times (was that a pig that just flew past my window?) in two games, in a 5-1 win over Wimbledon and a 6-1 thrashing of Middlesborough. Three ties in a row may have put paid to Chelsea’s chances, the latest a dismal 0-0 against Sheffield Wednesday. Liverpool’s role of spoiler continues. Jason McAteer’s old buddies sent his team further into relegation trouble when they went there and won 3-1.
Everton, it seems, have escaped again. A 4-1 victory over Charlton sees them on 40 points and almost out of the drop zone. Kevin Campbell brought his tally to six in three games with another brace there. Forest are gone, and it looks like only one of Southampton, Charlton or Blackburn, will play Premiership football next year.
Rangers will recapture the Scottish title should they win the Old Firm game at Celtic Park on Sunday next. The Bhoys let it slip on Saturday, losing to St. Johnstone 1-0. Rangers came from behind to beat Aberdeen, 3-1. The gap is now at seven with four games remaining. It’s not looking good for Celtic.
Cork City success
A Pat Morley goal 9 minutes from time gave Cork City a 2-1 victory over Shelbourne and ensured that the League of Ireland race would go down to the wire. Cork must beat Shamrock Rovers and hope that lowly Bray can go to Inchicore and win. Pat’s got by the Rovers hurdle on Friday winning 1-0.
In answer to a recent letter, Jackie Carey played for Shamrock Rovers in April 1941 and April ’42, having been given permission to return home from his Club Manchester United. During the war years many Irish players returned home for good from England. Others were allowed to guest on occasion. Carey scored once in a 5-0 victory over Limerick and twice in a 7-1 rout of archrivals Shelbourne. Peter Farrell was in the side that day also.