BY STEVE MITCHELL

ARSENAL WIN THE FA CUP AFTER DRAMATIC WEMBLEY FINALE:

For 85 minutes, this afternoon’s FA Cup Final was destined not to live long in the memory (except for supporters of Arsenal), but then in a dramatic final five minutes, the Gunners lost control of the game before getting it back with almost the final kick of the match.

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On a red hot afternoon at Wembley, Terry Neill’s side started as slight favourites against a Manchester United side that were appearing in their third FA Cup Final in four years. Arsenal, of course, were returning to Wembley just 12 months after suffering a shock defeat at the hands of Ipswich Town and Neill was aware that the only way to bury the memory was to win the trophy for the first time since 1971.

In a totally one-sided opening, mercurial midfielder Liam Brady was pulling all the strings for the north London side and on 12 minutes, he played a key part in their opening goal when he slipped the ball out to the right for his international team-mate Frank Stapleton. He in turn, spotted a useful run from David Price, who reached the ball before United keeper Gary Bailey and as he pulled the it back across goal, there was club record signing Brian Talbot to fire home, courtesy of a slight deflection off Jimmy Nicholl.

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United’s best chance of the opening stages fell to Jimmy Greenhoff, who latched on to a high cross from Nicholl before shooting narrowly over the crossbar. Next it was Stapleton’s turn to show his agility in the penalty area, but his spectacular overhead-kick failed to trouble Bailey.

Gordon McQueen thought he’d got United level just after the half-hour, but referee Ron Challis ruled the goal out for a push on Arsenal keeper Pat Jennings; replays suggesting it was the right decision.

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Then, two minutes before the break, Brady set off on one of his trade-mark dribbles into the United penalty area, as he looked up, he picked out Stapleton with an inch perfect cross and the striker had no problem heading into a virtual empty net with Bailey stranded.

United looked a shadow of the side that had beaten Liverpool in the semi-final and as the two teams emerged from the tunnel for the second-half, no one inside the famous old stadium would have given them a hope of turning the contest around.

The temperature at pitch level was stifling and surprisingly, it was United who seemed to be handling it better. McQueen was now playing in a more advanced role, as the Red Devils tried to get at least a foot-hold in the game.

It was Arsenal, however, that almost extended their lead further, when another Brady centre fell to the head of Stapleton who could only direct the ball into the body of Bailey.

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Back came United – and a clever run from Mickey Thomas found Lou Macari free in the Arsenal penalty area, but his flicked header was turned over by Pat Jennings. Then Steve Coppell collected a ball from Greenhoff, but once again, the big custodian held firm.

Dave Sexton’s team never stopped probing for an opening, but time was ticking away. With four minutes remaining, United got a free-kick just outside the Arsenal penalty area. Coppell played the ball in, Thomas almost got a flick on but as it came out to Joe Jordan, he turned it back into the box for McQueen to fire it home.

Two minutes later, Nicholl hit a hopeful ball up front; the ball was not cleared properly by the Arsenal defence and when it came out to Coppell, he slipped it through to Northern Ireland midfielder Sammy Mcllroy, who left two Arsenal defenders in his wake as he poked it past an on-rushing Jennings to bring the scores level.

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As Sexton prepared to bring on Brian Greenhoff for what looked like 30 minutes of extra-time, Brady picked up the ball on half-way and set off once more towards the United penalty area. Despite the attentions of both Thomas and Macari, he slipped a pass out wide to Graham Rix on the left and his cross was misjudged by Bailey, leaving Alan Sunderand with the simplest of chances to put the Gunners back in front almost immediately.

There was barely time for the game to re-start before Mr Challis blew for full-time as both sets of players sank to their knees in sheer exhaustion.

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Afterwards, Neill explained that; “This final will not be remembered for its flowing football, but it will live on in the memory for its explosive finish”. His opposite number, Dave Sexton, stated that; “It’s a cruel result. After fighting back from two goals down we were thinking about extra-time and lost concentration.”

Arsenal: Jennings, Rice, Nelson, Talbot, O’Leary, Young, Brady, Sunderland, Stapleton, Price (Walford 83), Rix

Manchester United: Bailey, Nicholl, Albiston, Mcllroy, McQueen, Buchan, Coppell, Greenhoff (J), Jordan, Macari, Thomas, Sub: Greenhoff (B)

 

Referee: Mr R Challis (Kent)

Att: 100,000

 

FIRST DIVISION ROUND-UP:

On Friday evening, newly crowned First Division champions Liverpool continued their dominance of domestic football with a 1-0 win against Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park; David Johnson getting the only goal of the game.

West Bromwich Albion have a three point cushion over Nottingham Forest in second place after a narrow 1-0 win against Aston Villa at Villa Park. John Trewick’s first-half goal was enough for Ron Atkinson’s men, who now travel to the capital to face Tottenham Hotspur on Monday.

On the day that Queens Park Rangers announced that Tommy Docherty would be returning to the club as manager, the west London side were hammered 4-0 by Ipswich Town at Loftus Road. Terry Butcher, Eric Gates (2) and Alan Brazil were on target for the visitors.

 

RESULTS:

FRIDAY MAY 11:

Aston Villa 0-1 W.B.A (Trewick)

Middlesbrough 0-1 Liverpool (Johnson)

Q.P.R 0-4 Ipswich Town (Butcher, Gates 2, Brazil)

League Division One table after close of play on 12 May 1979

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Liverpool 41 29 8 4 82 16 66 66
2 West Bromwich Albion 40 24 11 5 72 33 39 59
3 Nottingham Forest 40 19 18 3 58 25 33 56
4 Everton 42 17 17 8 52 40 12 51
5 Leeds United 40 18 14 8 69 47 22 50
6 Ipswich Town 42 20 9 13 63 49 14 49
7 Arsenal 41 17 13 11 60 47 13 47
8 Aston Villa 41 14 16 11 56 47 9 44
9 Manchester United 41 15 14 12 59 62 -3 44
10 Coventry City 42 14 16 12 58 68 -10 44
11 Middlesbrough 42 15 10 17 57 50 7 40
12 Bristol City 42 15 10 17 47 51 -4 40
13 Southampton 42 12 16 14 47 53 -6 40
14 Manchester City 41 13 13 15 56 53 3 39
15 Tottenham Hotspur 41 12 15 14 47 61 -14 39
16 Norwich City 42 7 23 12 51 57 -6 37
17 Bolton Wanderers 42 12 11 19 54 75 -21 35
18 Wolverhampton Wanderers 42 13 8 21 44 68 -24 34
19 Derby County 42 10 11 21 44 71 -27 31
20 Queens Park Rangers 42 6 13 23 45 73 -28 25
21 Birmingham City 42 6 10 26 37 64 -27 22
22 Chelsea 40 5 8 27 42 90 -48 18

SATURDAY MAY 12:

FA CUP FINAL:

Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United (Talbot, Stapleton, Sunderland; McQueen, Mcllroy) at Wembley

(FULL MATCH PROGRAMME BELOW)

UPCOMING FIXTURES:

MONDAY MAY 14:

Chelsea v Arsenal

Tottenham Hotspur v W.B.A

TUESDAY MAY 15:

Leeds United v Nottingham Forest

Manchester City v Aston Villa

WEDNESDAY MAY 16:

Manchester United v Chelsea

THURSDAY MAY 17:

Leeds United v Liverpool

FRIDAY MAY 18:

W.B.A V Nottingham Forest

FOLLOW THE WHOLE 1978-79 SEASON IN THE ENGLISH FIRST DIVISION WITH STEVE MITCHELL HERE ON THE FOOTBALL PINK. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @barafundler

PROGRAMMES COURTESY OF MILES MCCLAGAN https://www.flickr.com/photos/114058793@N05/sets

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