By Dermot Clarke
Arsenal became the first team to qualify for the FA Cup semifinals when they overcame Derby County by a score of 1 to nil. Substitute Nwankno Kanu was the hero of the hour, when he avoided a replay with a last-gasp goal.
You would have to feel sorry for Jim Smith’s Derby side. They battled all the way and were within 90 seconds of bringing the double winners back to Pride Park when disaster struck. The Smith plan seemed to be to soak up the pressure and maybe sneak one on the break and it oh so nearly came off.
A feature of the scheme was the man-to-man job given Republic International Lee Carsley, whose task it was to follow Dennis Bergkamp around for the afternoon. The way that Carsley handled it summed up the Derby display as a whole. When Kanu chested down a Martin Keown effort and rifled it home, every neutral and maybe even a few Arsenal supporters must have felt for the hardy Rams. Dean Sturridge was sent to the line for dissent shortly after the goal and 11 cards in all were shown in a comparatively clean game.
Arsenal will meet the winners of Manchester United and Chelsea, who played to a scoreless draw on Sunday. It’s Chelsea who will have the tails up, though, by virtue of the fact that tonight’s replay is at Stamford Bridge and because they brought United back despite having been a man down for almost all of the second half. Roberto di Matteo’s sending off was matched by that of Paul Scholes in the dying moments, but perhaps Alex Ferguson will have to reconsider the resting roster approach. It brought up the names Cole and Yorke this week, the most lethal strike force in Europe at present. Either one would have put away at least one of the chances that fell to the less experienced in front of goal on Sunday. So now he will probably have to use both at Chelsea, by virtue of the fact that he rested them on Sunday. It means that the rest of the team will have to play an extra game in an already long season. Where’s the logic, Alex? The players wore black armbands as a mark of respect to "Busby Babe" Dennis Viollet, who died at the weekend.
The winners of the postponed-because-of-snow Barnsley-Spurs tie will meet Newcastle, who beat Everton by 4-1. Unsworth brought Everton back into the game when he equalized Ketsbaia’s first-half strike, but the Georgian Geordie ran amok after this, scoring a second and unselfishly laying off for his out-o- sorts colleague Alan Shearer to crack home. Many feel that the winners of the Arsenal semifinal will take the Cup, but I’ve a funny feeling it could be Arsenal-Newcastle again this year and this time the black and white ribbons of Ruud Gullitt’s team could well grace the famous trophy.
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United win Euro quarterfinal
The ABU’s (Anyone But United) must be fuming at present. Dwight Yorke kept Manchester United on course for the treble with a brace of first-half goals against Inter Milan in the European Cup, quarterfinals first leg last Wednesday. If they keep their heads and don’t let the partisan atmosphere of the San Siro Stadium get to them, they should go through. Bayern Munich will probably join them there, but the other two spots are up for grabs. Juventus, seemingly comfortable at 2-0 — as any Italian team would be — gave away a goal via the penalty spot in their home leg against Olympiakos of Greece. They won’t be looking forward to next Wednesday night and the away game.
John Toshack, the former Liverpool stalwart is either a brave man or is strapped for cash. Back again as Real Madrid coach, Tosh can already see that there are problems both on and off the playing surface at Bernabeau. International’s Fernando Hierro and Clarence Seedorf were reported to have come to blows after the home 1-1 tie with Dynamo Kiev. The champions could be on their way out and Toshack’s tenure could be even briefer than some of those before him. But if he stays he might get to welcome another soon to be ex-Liverpool player Steve McManaman to the club. Big John would do well to remind the board that it wasn’t him that signed Steve, if he wishes to stay on even longer.
Chelsea look like they are about to take a further step toward retaining their Cup Winners Cup title. A comfortable 3-0 home victory against Valerenga should see them through to the last four and as the weary season draws to a close the Chelsea phenomenal strength in reserve should stand them in good stead for the remainder of the competition. Denis Wise may have wrapped this tie up when he scored in the 85th minute. Wise is usually showered, shaved and clothed by that stage of the game.
In Scotland it looks like we could have an Old Firm final for the revamped Hampden Park. Rangers having beaten Falkirk, 2-1, are due to meet St. Johnstone who went to Motherwell and won 2-0. Celtic will play host to Dundee or Ayr United in their semifinal. Celtic had little difficulty in disposing of Greenock Morton 3-0, Viduka (2) and Larsson were the scorers.
Michael’s courageous struggle
At home, Shelbourne emerge as hot favorites to lift another FAI Cup. Shels had a fine 2-0 victory over Derry at the Brandywell, and with Galway upsetting St. Pat’s, the Ringsendmen are hot favorites. A testimonial was held for a talented 16-year-old from Donaghmede last Friday. Michael McKiernan had attracted the eye of the Liverpool scouts, among others. This was before he was stricken with leukemia. Three thousand turned up to pay tribute. Brian Kerr provided the opposition for Michael’s XI. The Air Corps had agreed to fly Michael over to see his team, Manchester United, play Chelsea in the FA Cup on Sunday. Alas, Michael didn’t make it. His battle with the dreaded disease ended in the early hours of Saturday morning.