Category: Archive

Soccer Scene: United set up Cup final with Newcastle

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Dermot Clarke

It’s Manchester United and Newcastle in this year’s F.A. Cup Final. The odds against this pairing were pretty high after 91 minutes had elapsed in the former’s replay with Arsenal at Villa Park last Wednesday. It was then that Dennis Bergkamp faced Peter Schmeichel from the penalty spot. Conversion would have sent The Gunners through. The best United could hope for was extra-time with 10 men. Bergkamp hit his spot-kick well, but the Great Dane guessed correctly and sent the game into overtime.

The Arsenal support were stunned into silence. United fans had opportunity, once again, to pay homage to Schmeichel. The connoisseurs and neutrals alike rubbed their hands together at the prospect of 30 minutes more of this.

Last Wednesday’s game will go down as one of the classics of the modern era. Last season, Alex Ferguson seemed to be thumbing his nose at this competition a little. No evidence of that here as the Scot was seen experiencing every emotion this game had to offer. Marcel Marceau couldn’t have told us how he was feeling any better.

The deadlock was finally broken after 17 minutes of the replay. David Beckham took a slick return from Teddy Sheringham and, in true Beckham fashion, whipped his shot past David Seaman into the far corner. United went in immediate search of a second.

No time to put the kettle on, this game swayed from end to end at an unbelievable pace. United had the better of the exchanges, but Arsenal always looked dangerous on the break. A turning point on the 73rd minute brought the Gunners back into it, though. Roy Keane was sent off for a second bookable offense. Nobody would have complained had referee David Elleray left his card in his pocket, but Elleray can’t go through a game without ensuring himself a mention in the next day’s newspaper, so off went Keane. Keane had protested in the first half when a throw-in was awarded to Arsenal. It should have been United’s ball. Elleray decided to take it on the chin, perhaps he knew that he was in error. He probably knew also that he would have the opportunity to punish Keane later on. The chance came and Keane was gone.

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Shortly after Keane’s departure Arsenal scored through Anelka. Enter Elleray again, to rule it offside. It was close, but I think he was right on this occasion. And so to extra time — after, that is, the penalty save by Schmeichel. It looked like the 10-man United were happy to hang on and risk a penalty shootout.

Ryan Giggs had other ideas. The young Welshman joined an elite group of Maradona, John Barnes and Ricardo Villa in the argument as to who scored the best individual goal of all time. Giggs danced past five Arsenal defenders in a move that required pace, close skill and a finish capable of beating the England keeper, David Seaman. Having left the Arsenal defense in his wake, Giggs dealt with the final part with aplomb, when he cracked an unstoppable left footer past Seaman. It was a goal befitting of this wonderful game, it was a goal that Giggs will never forget, it was a goal that took United to Wembley and a step nearer the treble.

Chelsea’s missed opportunity

While the table-toppers were engaged in Cup battle, Chelsea had a chance to go top at Middlesboro. It was a chance they failed to take, the game ended 0-0. In Scotland the gap stayed at 6 when both big boys won. Rangers scraped home 1-0 against lowly Dunfernline.

While Celtic scored a 4-2 victory over Hearts courtesy of goals from Viduka (2), Riseth and Blinker. A 5-2 victory over Bury means that Niall Quinn will be back in the Premiership next year with Sunderland. On the same night, Kevin Keegan’s Fulham booked a place in Div. I. It emerged last week that the Pontiff himself was a big Fulham fan. As a student in Roehampton, he frequented the Cottage. He couldn’t be too happy with Keegan’s other team, England, who beat his beloved Poland, 3-1, a couple of weeks back.

Hillsborough anniversary

The next day, Thursday — not normally a football day — the game was in the news again. April 15 was the 10th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy. Liverpool F.C. were riding on the crest of a wave. In line for the double, their fans, young and old, headed for the home of Sheffield Wednesday for the F.A. Cup semifinal against Nottingham Forest. At 3:06 p.m., referee Ray Lewis was alerted to the situation at the Leppings Lane end of the ground. He stopped the game as the mayhem developed. The South Yorkshire Police, in an effort to avoid crushing outside, opened the gates to let the fans in. The decision caused the biggest tragedy in football history. At the end of that afternoon, 95 Liverpool fans had lost their lives, the toll rising to 96 a few days later.

On Thursday, Ray Lewis blew his whistle at 6 minutes past 3 again as thousands remembered the victims at a ceremony in Anfield. The day changed the face of English football forever. The Taylor Report called for tighter security and all-seater stadiums. Hooliganism has all but been stamped out and families can now attend games in comfort. It was an extremely expensive horse that had to belt before this particular stable door was made secure alas.

Sheffield Wednesday seemed sympathetic to United’s treble quest on Saturday. The Old Trafford visitors offered little resistance to Alex Ferguson’s back-up squad. With the big "S" missing — keeper Peter Schmeichel out through injury — the lesser "S" men, Sheringham, Scholes and Solskj’r provided the goals in a 3-0 victory. Chelsea are stammering to a third place shoot-out with Leeds, they drew again, 2-2 with Leicester.

Are "The Toffies" about to pull themselves out of yet another sticky situation? Following a 2-0 victory against Coventry, Everton went to Newcastle and beat the Cup finalists 3-1. Kevin Campbell on loan from Trabzonspor of Turkey, scored twice in both these games. Deadline signing Scott Gemmill, made it 3-1 after Shearer had scored from the spot, having missed a penalty earlier. Both Blackburn and Southampton needed full points from their encounter at the Dell. The game of the weekend finished 3-3. Both clubs are in it deep.

Liverpool lost at home to Aston Villa. Ian Taylor scored, spoiling what would have been a record two clean sheets in a row for David James. Robbie Fowler had one of the bodily parts that has gotten him into so much trouble recently broken — his nose. Fowler and a friend were involved in a hotel fracas at the weekend, two men were arrested in the incident. Fowler it appears needs a good kick up the other anatomic region that has him out of football for the rest of the season.

The gap is down to four points in Scotland. Both the big boys struggled, but a Henrik Larsson penalty gave Celtic a 1-0 win, while the Gers were held 1-1 by Dundee. Claudio Reyna the U.S. International made his debut for the Glasgow club in that one. In Ireland, St. Pat’s took a huge step toward another title when they beat Cork City 1-0. Veteran star and skipper for the day, Paul Osam scoring the winner. The teams had identical records going in, but Pat’s are now three points clear. Both teams have two games left.

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