BY STEVE MITCHELL
FOREST CLOSE IN ON EUROPEAN CUP SEMI-FINAL PLACE AFTER EARLY SCARE AT THE CITY GROUND:
European football returned after the winter break this week and Nottingham Forest took a giant step towards a semi-final place in the European Cup, despite suffering an early scare against Grasshoppers of Zurich in the first-leg at the City Ground last night.
Brian Cloughâ€™s side were expected to overcome the Swiss club, but they were given the shock of their lives when Sulser opened the scoring in the early stages to give the visitors an important away goal.
On a playing surface that was not conducive to Forestâ€™s slick passing game, the home side nearly got level from a corner, but skipper John McGovernâ€™s shot was cleared off the line by Hey. That incident sparked the English champions into life and shortly afterwards, they were back in the contest.
A Larry Lloyd header found Tony Woodcock who in turn set off on one of his trademark runs. The England international slid the ball to Garry Birtles who fired a left-foot shot past the helpless Berbig. Relief echoed all around the City Ground and made Cloughâ€™s half-time team talk a much calmer affair.
After the interval, Forest set about taking an advantage to Switzerland for the return in two weeksâ€™ time. Almost immediately, more combination play between Woodcock and Birtles won the home side a penalty and despite protestations from the visitors, replays showed there was a clear hand- ball as Birtles tried to get through on goal. Up stepped John Robertson to coolly slot home.
Robertson almost doubled his tally soon afterwards but watched as his left-foot effort went agonisingly wide of the far post.
The red tidal wave continued as Forest looked to put the tie to bed in the first-leg; Birtles went close after good work from McGovern and Woodcock, but as the clocked ticked down, it looked as though Grasshoppers were going to see the match out.
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They almost levelled fifteen minutes from time when Sulser found himself clear, but goalkeeper Peter Shilton, returning from a lengthy injury lay-off and who had been a virtual spectator in the second-half, made a fantastic save to keep his side in front.
Dave Needham then went close for Forest after a lovely floated free-kick from Robertson, before the home side finally broke Grasshopperâ€™s resistance.
Larry Lloyd, of all people, found himself out on the right-wing, and his cross caused havoc in the visitors back-line who failed to clear under pressure from Birtles; the ball fell to Scottish midfielder Archie Gemmill who fired home to make it 3-1 with just two minutes remaining.
Martin Oâ€™Neill then looked in amazement as his instinctive header was expertly tipped over the crossbar by Berbig, but the visitors reprieve was short-lived as from the ensuing corner, Lloyd headed in his sideâ€™s fourth to give Forest a huge advantage to take to Switzerland.
GATES DOUBLE GIVES IPSWICH SLENDER ADVANTAGE TO TAKE TO THE CAMP NOU:
Ipswich Town will take a slender 2-1 lead to the Camp Nou in two weeksâ€™ time for the second-leg of their Cup Winners Cup quarter-final tie against Barcelona.
In front of a sell-out crowd at Portman Road, a cagey first-half saw neither team stamp their authority on proceedings, but after the break, Eric Gates put the home side in front after a cross from Alan Brazil was fumbled by goalkeeper Artola.
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Amid Spanish protests believing that Artola had been fouled as heâ€™d jumped for the ball, the referee Karoly Palotai waved them away as the FA Cup holders celebrated.
Barcelona were visibly shaken by conceding the opener, but when they dusted themselves down, they got level after Vigo finished off a fine move from the visitors.
Ipswich refused to lie down however, as Bobby Robsonâ€™s men went in search of an advantage to take to Catalonia. They finally got it, thanks to Gates, who finished off a move started by George Burley for his second of the evening.
WEST BROM NARROWLY BEATEN IN BELGRADE BEAR PIT:
In front of 95,000 people in the Yugoslav capital, West Bromwich Albion were narrowly beaten 1-0 by Red Star Belgrade in their UEFA Cup quarter-final first-leg.
Ron Atkinsonâ€™s men had been warned to expect a volatile atmosphere and they were not disappointed, as the fanatical home crowd drove their team forward.
The English side did well to hold out during a first-half in which they were constantly up against it and avoided what seemed like a penalty, when Albion midfielder John Trewick looked to have handled. Match referee Vojtech Christov refused to be swayed by the Red Star players and fans, whose jeering almost deafened the ears.
Laurie Cunningham has Albionâ€™s best effort of the half, which was comfortably saved by goalkeeper Stojanovic.
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As the match went on, it seemed as though the English side would return to the Black Country with a goalless draw, but with just four minutes remaining, Red Star won a free-kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the Albion penalty area.
Striker Dusan Savic curled an absolute beauty over the wall which left Tony Godden with no chance in the Albion goal. Cue delirium on the terraces, but make no mistake, this tie is far from over.
CITY HELD BY BUNDESLIGA GIANTS AT MAINE ROAD:
Manchester City were held to a 1-1 draw in their UEFA Cup quarter-final first-leg against Borussia Monchengladbach at Maine Road last night.
England international Mick Channon gave the home side the lead in the first-half but Malcolm Allisonâ€™s men were pegged back after the interval thanks to a goal from Lienen. It now looks like a tough ask for the English side to progress into the last-four.
FIRST DIVISON ROUND-UP â€“ LIVERPOOLâ€™S LEAD AT THE TOP IS TRIMMED TO THREE POINTS:
Another goalless draw, their second in consecutive games, saw Liverpoolâ€™s lead at the top of the First Division cut to three points. Although Bob Paisleyâ€™s men have games in hand on second placed Everton, their failure to find the net for the second time in four days will be of concern.
After a shut-out against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the Reds were unable to break down a Coventry City side who were worthy of a point at Highfield Road on Tuesday.
Evertonâ€™s 2-1 win against Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park on the same night ensured that Gordon Leeâ€™s men cut the deficit at the summit thanks to goals from Ross Jack and Bob Latchford; David Armstrong grabbing Boroâ€™s consolation.
West Bromwich Albion could leap-frog the Toffees into second spot if they win at least two of their four games in hand.
The basement battle between Birmingham City and Queens Park Rangers went the way of the home side, as Jim Smithâ€™s men ran out 3-1 winners at St Andrews thanks to goals from Alan Buckley, Tony Towers (penalty) and Kevan Broadhurst. Rangersâ€™ consolation was scored by Martyn Busby.
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Despite the victory, which was marred by striker Keith Bertschin breaking his leg, the Blues remain eight points from safety at the foot of the table.
Aston Villa kept Bolton Wanderers in the relegation dog-fight after a comfortable 3-0 win at Villa Park last night. Andy Gray, Kenny Swain and an own-goal by Paul Jones, moved the home side into eighth place in the table.
Finally, Norwich City and Wolves played out a goalless draw at Carrow Road on Tuesday. The visitors sit just two points ahead of the relegation zone but their minds will now turn to this weekendâ€™s FA Cup quarter-final against Shrewsbury Town.
TUESDAY MARCH 6:
EUROPEAN CUP QUARTER-FINAL FIRST-LEG:
Cologne 1-0 Rangers (Muller)
Birmingham City 3-1 Q.P.R (Buckley, Towers pen, Broadhurst; Busby)
Coventry City 0-0 Liverpool
Middlesbrough 1-2 Everton (Armstrong; Jack, Latchford)
WEDNESDAY MARCH 7:
EUROPEAN CUP QUARTER-FINAL FIRST-LEG:
Nottingham Forest 4-1 Grasshoppers (Birtles, Robertson pen, Gemmill, Lloyd; Sulser)
CUP WINNERS CUP QUARTER-FINAL FIRST-LEG:
Ipswich Town 2-1 Barcelona (Gates 2; Vigo)
UEFA CUP QUARTER-FINAL FIRST-LEG:
Manchester City 1-1 Borussia Monchengladbach (Channon; Lienen)
Red Star Belgrade 1-0 W.B.A (Savic)
Aston Villa 3-0 Bolton Wanderers (Gray, Swain, Jones o.g)
Norwich City 0-0 Wolves
League Division One table after close of play on 07 March 1979
|3||West Bromwich Albion||25||15||6||4||52||25||27||36|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||29||4||10||15||26||45||-19||18|
SATURDAY MARCH 10:
FA CUP FIFTH ROUND:
W.B.A V Southampton
Ipswich Town v Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United
Wolves v Shrewsbury Town
Arsenal v Bristol City
Birmingham City v Coventry City
Derby County v Leeds United
Everton v Nottingham Forest
Middlesbrough v Aston Villa
Norwich City v Chelsea
FOLLOW THE WHOLE 1978-79 SEASON IN THE ENGLISH FIRST DIVISION WITH STEVE MITCHELL HERE ON THE FOOTBALL PINK. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @barafundler