BY STEVE MITCHELL
FA CUP SEMI-FINAL SPECIAL:
LATE HANSEN STRIKE RESCUES LIVERPOOL IN MAINE ROAD THRILLER:
Scotland central defender Alan Hansen kept Liverpoolâ€™s dream of a league and cup double alive, after a late equaliser in a thrilling FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United at Maine Road this afternoon.
Normally cagey affairs, this game ripped up the rule book as both teams went toe to toe to serve up an absolute treat. After 90 minutes of breath-taking action, theyâ€™ll have to do it all again on Wednesday night at Goodison Park following this afternoonâ€™s 2-2 draw.
Unusually, both teams wore their away kits for this encounter and England manager Ron Greenwood, who was watching from the stands, saw some of his players turn in five-star performances.
After an opening quarter of an hour in which United striker Jimmy Greenhoff tested Liverpool keeper Ray Clemence, the favourites and First Division leaders took the lead courtesy of Kenny Dalglish; the Scotsman taking advantage of some fine work from Terry McDermott and Jimmy Case before slotting the ball past United keeper Gary Bailey.
If anyone thought that Dave Sextonâ€™s team would crumble, they were made to think again when just two minutes later, United drew level after Joe Jordan headed home Greenhoffâ€™s cross.
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The noise inside Maine Road was deafening and tempers on the pitch began to fray as Graeme Souness squared up to first Brian Greenhoff, then his international team-mate Jordan. Souness was lucky to still be on the field in many peopleâ€™s eyes having already been warned after his altercation with the United midfielder.
The underdogs seemed to benefit more from the physical nature of the contest however, with England star Steve Coppell causing problems down Liverpoolâ€™s left. His intelligent play almost led to Unitedâ€™s second, but Jimmy Greenhoffâ€™s shot flew just wide.
Against the run of play, Liverpool were awarded a penalty on 38 minutes, when United skipper Martin Buchan was adjudged to have fouled Dalglish as the two players went up for a header. Gordon McQueenâ€™s protests saw him booked by referee Richardson, but United were let off the hook, as McDermottâ€™s spot-kick hit the post before rolling agonisingly across Baileyâ€™s goal-line. The return cross from Dalglish fell to Souness but his shot was brilliantly saved by the United keeper.
In the second-half, with the foul count standing at United 14, Liverpool 12, Sammy Mcllroy had an early chance to set up Brian Greenhoff, but his centre ended up finding no-one and Liverpool cleared.
The Anfield club ignored the warnings and on 56 minutes, United went ahead when a cross from Arthur Albiston, left Jordan tangling with both Hansen and Phil Thompson; the ball fell at the feet of Brian Greenhoff who made no mistake.
Having stopped Liverpool winning the treble two years ago, the Red Devils were now on course to upset the form-book again.
Liverpool refused to surrender, however, and United were forced to repel wave after wave of yellow shirts streaming into their half of the field. McDermott, determined to make up for his penalty miss, had the chance to redeem himself, but his shot hit Albiston and deflected to safety.
With 15 minutes to go, Welshman Mickey Thomas almost put the game beyond Liverpool, but his free-kick was brilliantly turned over by Clemence.
Next it was Dalglishâ€™s turn to look in astonishment, as he chipped over the bar with only Bailey to beat as United defenders called for offside. Then Steve Heighway burst into the United box to set up Ray Kennedy, whose shot was saved by Bailey.
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With seven minutes left on the clock, the incessant Liverpool pressure finally paid off; David Johnsonâ€™s shot rolled off a United defender and there was Hansen of all people, to coolly slot the ball home.
Liverpool almost got a late winner, but Heighwayâ€™s shot was saved by the brilliant Bailey who kept his team in the cup. Now itâ€™s off to Goodison on Wednesday for part two of this epic battle.
Liverpool â€“ Clemence, Neal, Hughes, Thompson, Kennedy (R), Hansen, Dalglish, Johnson, Case, McDermott, Souness; Sub, Heighway
Manchester United â€“ Bailey, Nicholl, Albiston, Mcllroy, McQueen, Buchan, Coppell, Greenhoff (B) Greenhoff (J), Jordan, Thomas
Referee: Mr D. Richardson
ARSENAL BACK AT WEMBLEY AFTER SEEING OFF WOLVES AT VILLA PARK:
This afternoonâ€™s second semi-final was a much more straight-forward affair, as Arsenal booked their place back at Wembley with a 2-0 win over Wolves.
Terry Neillâ€™s men now have the chance to make up for the disappointment of 12 months ago, when they were surprisingly beaten by Ipswich Town in the final.
After a goalless first-half, The Gunners took charge in the second 45 minutes and goals from Frank Stapleton and Wolves old boy Alan Sunderland, gave the North London side the chance to win the FA Cup for the first time since 1971.
FIRST DIVISION ROUND-UP:
Despite their cup defeat in the Midlands today, Wolves will have been keeping an anxious eye on developments in the First Division basement and they would have been pleased to see that both Queens Park Rangers and Bolton Wanderers failed to capitalise.
Rangers remain third bottom, two points behind Wolves having played two games more, after a 2-2 draw against Derby County at the Baseball Ground. Paul Goddard and Mickey Walsh got the visitors goals which were cancelled out by Andy Crawford and Gerry Daly.
Bolton drew 1-1 against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground. Alan Gowling gave the visitors a surprise half-time lead before million pound man Trevor Francis, scored his first goal for Forest since his big-money move from Birmingham.
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Birmingham City are now almost relegation certainties along with Chelsea after a 2-1 defeat at Bristol City. New signing Gert Meijer scored on his debut for the Robins, having joined from Ajax on Tuesday. Chris Garland got the home sides second, Joe Gallagher grabbing Birminghamâ€™s consolation.
Southampton and Leeds United shared four goals at the Dell. A Malcolm Waldron brace looked to have done enough for the Saints, but two goals from John Hawley ensured the West Yorkshire side took a share of the points.
A Mark Proctor goal was enough to give Middlesbrough the points against Spurs at Ayresome Park, whilst Ipswich Town defeated Manchester City 2-1 at Portman Road; David Geddis and Alan Brazil got the home sideâ€™s goals, Barry Silkman was on target for City.
On Friday night, Everton were held to a 2-2 draw by Norwich City to extinguish any hopes they might have had of catching Liverpool at the summit. Skipper Mick Lyons got the Toffeesâ€™ goals; a Kevin Reeves brace gave Norwich a share of the points.
FRIDAY MARCH 30:
Everton 2-2 Norwich City (Lyons 2, Reeves 2)
SATURDAY MARCH 31:
FA CUP SEMI-FINALS:
Liverpool 2-2 Manchester United (Dalglish, Hansen; Jordan, Greenhoff B) at Maine Road
Arsenal 2-0 Wolves (Stapleton, Sunderland) at Villa Park
Bristol City 2-1 Birmingham City (Meijer, Garland; Gallagher)
Ipswich Town 2-1 Manchester City (Geddis, Brazil; Silkman)
Middlesbrough 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur (Proctor)
Nottingham Forest 1-1 Bolton Wanderers (Francis, Gowling)
Q.P.R 2-2 Derby County (Goddard, Walsh; Crawford, Daly)
Southampton 2-2 Leeds United (Waldron 2; Hawley 2)
League Division One table after close of play on 31 March 1979
|3||West Bromwich Albion||28||18||6||4||57||27||30||42|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||33||5||11||17||33||53||-20||21|
TUESDAY APRIL 3:
Arsenal v Coventry City
Birmingham City v Ipswich Town
Bolton Wanderers v Everton
Bristol City v Q.P.R
Wolves v Tottenham Hotspur
WEDNESDAY APRIL 4:
FA CUP SEMI-FINAL REPLAY
Liverpool v Manchester United (at Goodison Park)
Chelsea v Derby County
Nottingham Forest v Aston Villa
W.B.A v Manchester City
SATURDAY APRIL 7:
Birmingham City v Southampton
Bolton Wanderers v Q.P.R
Chelsea v Nottingham Forest
Coventry City v Aston Villa
Derby County v Bristol City
Leeds United v Ipswich Town
Liverpool v Arsenal
Manchester City v Wolves
Norwich City v Manchester United
Tottenham Hotspur v Middlesbrough
W.B.A v Everton
FOLLOW THE WHOLE 1978-79 SEASON IN THE ENGLISH FIRST DIVISION WITH STEVE MITCHELL HERE ON THE FOOTBALL PINK. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @barafundler