BY STEVE MITCHELL
LIVERPOOLâ€™S TITLE PROCESSION GETS DERAILED AT VILLA PARK:
Just when it seemed as though Liverpool were strolling to the First Division title, the league leaders were undone at Villa Park on Easter Monday as Aston Villa ran out shock 3-1 winners.
It was the first time for 15 months that the Merseyside giants had conceded three goals in a single league game and this result must have given hope to the chasing pack. Bob Paisleyâ€™s side had only let in 11 goals in 33 league games before Monday, but added another 25 per-cent to that total on a forgettable afternoon in the Midlands.
Paisley was highly critical of his players after the game, stating that; â€œTheyâ€™ve been reading too many papers, thinking they had won the league already. This will prove to them that we havenâ€™t.â€
The way Liverpool started the match must have brought great concern to the manager and although the opposition did not create a decent opening in the first-half, incredibly, they found themselves two-up heading into half-time.
Villaâ€™s first came courtesy of a rare mistake from goalkeeper Ray Clemence, who spilled a relatively weak effort from Gordon Cowans which allowed big defender Allan Evans to knock in the easiest of chances.
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Eight minutes later and the home side collected another gift from the visitors when a tame header by Evans was inadvertently turned into his own goal by Phil Thompson; the England defender slicing a straight-forward clearance over Clemence and across the goal-line via an upright.
Midfielder Graeme Souness came closest to scoring for the Reds in the opening 45 minutes, but his shot cannoned back off the post; to be fair, this would have been harsh on Villa. With Jimmy Case sidelined with flu, Steve Heighway came in as replacement but the visitors could not grab any midfield supremacy.
A half-time dressing down from Paisley obviously perked the team up, as Liverpool came out after the interval with guns blazing in an attempt to repair the damage. Shots rained in on Villa goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer as Kenny Dalglish, Souness, Ray Kennedy, David Johnson and Terry McDermott all had efforts saved.
Liverpool now looked like champions and with 25 minutes on the clock, Johnson halved the deficit with a 25 yard shot that left Rimmer stranded.
As the visitors pressed for an equaliser, Villa skipper Dennis Mortimer and young Colin Gibson led by example as they kept the league leaders at bay. Liverpoolâ€™s offensive drive left gaps at the back however and when John Deehan found himself in the clear, he casually knocked the ball under the legs of the advancing Clemence to close out the contest.
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Paisley sat motionless on the bench as Villa Park celebrated like they had won the championship themselves. Liverpool were left to regret what might have been had they played the entire 90 minutes like they played the second 45.
The Anfield club are still overwhelming favourites to lift the title in May, but Villa have managed to plant a little seed of doubt into the minds of Paisleyâ€™s all-conquering side.
ALBION FAIL TO CAPITALISE ON LIVERPOOL DEFEAT:
24 hours after losing at Villa Park, Liverpool boss Bob Paisley will have been heartened by the news from Ashton Gate that West Bromwich Albion had been beaten by Bristol City. A second-half goal from Kevin Mabbutt ensured that Ron Atkinsonâ€™s side remain six points behind the leaders with a game in hand.
FOREST DRAW TWICE IN 72 HOURS AS THEIR TITLE ASPIRATIONS SUFFER HUGE SETBACK:
Defending champions Nottingham Forest all but conceded the title to Liverpool after two home draws in 72 hours. On Easter Monday they were held to a goalless draw at the City Ground by Leeds United whilst last night, a Trevor Francis goal was not enough to see off Manchester United who levelled courtesy of Joe Jordan.
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CHELSEA RELEGATED AFTER HIGHBURY HAMMERING:
Chelseaâ€™s wretched season will end in relegation to the Second Division after a 5-2 mauling by Arsenal at Highbury on Monday. Two goals from Frank Stapleton and further strikes from Alan Sunderland, David Oâ€™Leary and David Price ensured the west London side returned to the second-tier after a two-year stay in the top-flight. For the record, Chelseaâ€™s goalscorers were Clive Walker and Tommy Langley.
FIRST DIVISION ROUND-UP:
Birmingham City look set to join Chelsea in Division Two next term after they lost 3-0 to Ipswich Town at Portman Road on Tuesday. Eric Gates, Terry Butcher and Alan Brazil were on target for the home side and Birmingham will be relegated if they fail to beat Nottingham Forest at the weekend.
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Wolves picked up a priceless home win over Norwich City on Monday to keep their First Division survival hopes on track. Kenny Hibbitt was the hero at Molineux with a first-half strike.
Derby County continue to look nervously over their shoulders after a Bank Holiday defeat to Ipswich on Monday. Paul Mariner and Mick Mills were on target for Town, Andy Crawford grabbing Derbyâ€™s consolation.
Manchester City Head-Coach Malcolm Allison was left fuming after his side went down 2-0 to Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park on Tuesday. Mark Proctor and Mickey Burns did the damage for the home side and afterwards, Allison confirmed that there would be major changes for this weekendâ€™s home game against Queens Park Rangers.
Everton consolidated fourth place this week with a narrow 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers at Goodison Park; a goal from Mark Higgins in the first-half enough to give Gordon Leeâ€™s men the points.
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There were no goals at Old Trafford on Monday as Manchester United and Coventry played out a drab encounter at the Theatre of Dreams, but it was raining goals at The Dell where Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur shared six in a 3-3 thriller.
The home sideâ€™s opening two goals came courtesy of the penalty spot with both David Peach and Alan Ball making no mistake. Phil Boyer got the third for The Saints, but the visitors fought back thanks to goals from Peter Taylor, Chris Jones and John Pratt.
MONDAY APRIL 16:
Arsenal 5-2 Chelsea (Oâ€™Leary, Stapleton 2, Sunderland, Price; Walker, Langley)
Aston Villa 3-1 Liverpool (Evans, Thompson o.g, Deehan; Johnson)
Everton 1-0 Bolton Wanderers (Higgins)
Ipswich Town 2-1 Derby County (Mariner, Mills; Crawford)
Manchester United 0-0 Coventry City
Nottingham Forest 0-0 Leeds United
Southampton 3-3 Tottenham Hotspur (Peach pen, Ball pen, Boyer; Taylor, Jones, Pratt)
Wolves 1-0 Norwich City (Hibbitt)
TUESDAY APRIL 17:
Bristol City 1-0 W.B.A (Mabbutt)
Ipswich Town 3-0 Birmingham City (Gates, Butcher, Brazil)
Middlesbrough 2-0 Manchester City (Proctor, Burns)
WEDNESDAY APRIL 18:
Nottingham Forest 1-1 Manchester United (Francis; Jordan)
League Division One table after close of play on 18 April 1979
|2||West Bromwich Albion||33||20||8||5||64||30||34||48|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||37||5||13||19||35||58||-23||23|
SATURDAY APRIL 21:
Birmingham City v Nottingham Forest
Bolton Wanderers v Ipswich Town
Chelsea v Middlesbrough
Coventry City v Southampton
Derby County v Arsenal
Leeds United v Everton
Liverpool v Bristol City
Manchester City v Q.P.R
Norwich City v Aston Villa
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United
W.B.A v Wolves
FOLLOW THE WHOLE 1978-79 SEASON IN THE ENGLISH FIRST DIVISION WITH STEVE MITCHELL HERE ON THE FOOTBALL PINK. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @barafundler