By Dermot Clarke
Newcastle have given themselves a chance to avenge last year’s defeat by Arsenal in the F.A. Cup final. On Sunday, Alan Shearer’s two goals gave them victory over Spurs and they will know their opposition after today’s replayed Arsenal-Manchester United replay.
Newcastle have two people to thank, other than Shearer. Referee Paul Durkin and Spurs defender Sol Campbell. Durkin gave Newcastle a penalty when Sol Campbell inexplicably punched the ball inside the box in extra time; Shearer converted. Yet he might not have had to make that decision had he given Tottenham a penalty in the game proper. In the 57th minute Nikos Dubizas clearly handled in his own box. Shearer wrapped it up with a cracking right foot shot in the dying moments to send the Geordie boys back to Wembley.
Durkin admitted to making a mistake. "I have not watched the video, but from what I’ve been told I obviously missed a crucial decision," he said.
David Elleray, the ref in the other semifinal, won’t accept any blame for his disallowance of Roy Keane’s goal for Manchester United versus Arsenal. Indeed, Elleray rarely admits to his errors, such is the frequency with which he makes them. His assistant had his flag up, down and up again when Ryan Giggs skipped past Lee Dixon with Dwight Yorke in an offside position, although not interfering with play. The able assistant said that he put his flag up for Yorke but put it down when he thought Giggs wouldn’t be quick enough to reach the ball, and when he did, he put it back up again. New clause in the offside laws there.
Poor old Roy Keane was denied a brilliant, probably game-winning goal. Weary United add an extra game to the schedule this evening. David Elleray still gets to referee big games. He’s the man that denied Chesterfield the chance to become the first team from Level Three to reach the final.
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In the semifinal they would have led 3-1 in a game that was ultimately drawn — had he allowed a goal when the whole ball had clearly crossed the line. I can’t recall who put the ball over the line, nor do I remember who cleared it from behind the line, but I remember it was definitely Elleray.
I would like to thank Manchester United for their performance on Sunday. Getting up at 7:30 to watch Arsenal is unfair, because you’re falling asleep already. United, however, turned in a performance that was hardly imaginable after their rigorous European Cup tie in mid-week. Wave after wave of attack failed to bring them a goal, even after extra time. And you know Arsenal didn’t score. So it goes to a replay.
Martin Keown believes that the return of suspended Emmanuel Petit will make all the difference tonight. It might tonight, but it would have made little difference on Sunday. With all the differing nationalities in the English game, breakdowns in communication and misinterpretations are commonplace. Arsene Wenger probably told Petit’s replacement Nelson Vivas to go out and emulate Emmanuel, so Nelson went out and got sent off.
United were facing a mountain to climb situation when they went a goal down to Juventus on Wednesday last in the home leg. Conte had put Juve ahead after a clever through ball from Edgar Davids, Giggs equalized in the last minute. United must score in Turin, but the incline is not as steep by virtue of the Giggs goal.
Celtic vs. Rangers
It’s Celtic and Rangers at Hampden Park on May 29 in the Scottish Cup final. Both teams had easier passages than they must have imagined they would have in the semis. But the bottom line is, the final we all wanted to see has arrived. The Reggie Blinker plan has worked, it seems. Back at his best having been eased into the team again, Blinker and Viduka gave Celtic the necessary to qualify, when their goals beat Dundee, 2-0. Rangers swept aside St. Johnstone, 4-0.
Brian Kerr takes his Under-20s and his wizardry to Kano, Nigeria, today to play a host nation in disarray. Ireland destroyed Australia, 4-0, to qualify for the last 16 in the competition. Nigeria, on the other hand, have sacked coach Tunde Disu and replaced him with Dutchman Thijs Libregts. The Flying Eagles, it seems, don’t take too kindly to defeat. Disu enjoyed a roller-coaster ride in the group, a draw with Costa Rica saw him having to be bundled out of the stadium to safety. He was then a hero again after the 2-0 defeat of Germany, but then defeat against Paraguay saw his demise. If Ireland play as they did against Australia, they’ll have to dig a tunnel for Libregts.
Liverpool, it seems, have taken on the role of spoilers this term. They went to then high-flying Villa early and inflicted on them their first defeat at Villa Park. On Monday the Reds halted Leeds in their club record eight wins in a row quest when they tied 0-0 with Dave O’Leary’s young Lions. Liverpool boss Gerard Houlier said that he was dreaming of a clean sheet. I much prefer the dreams of Bob Paisley. Michael Owen pulled a hamstring and had to leave the field after 25 minutes, adding to the Anfield woes.