BY STEVE MITCHELL
LIVERPOOL RETURN TO WINNING WAYS WITH IMPRESSIVE DISPLAY AT OLD TRAFFORD:
A real Christmas cracker saw Liverpool travel to Old Trafford this afternoon to face Manchester United in what has always been one of British footballâ€™s fiercest rivalries. After 90 minutes, however, the gulf between the two teams was evident as the men from Merseyside returned home with the points after a convincing 3-0 win.
Having had the benefit of having last weekend off due to their home match against Wolves falling victim to the weather, the league leaders were determined to make up for their defeat at Bristol City last time out and manager Bob Paisley kept faith with young striker David Fairclough who performed so admirably in the recent Super Cup encounter with Anderlecht.
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United boss Dave Sexton also kept faith with his young striker Andy Ritchie whoâ€™s netted himself three goals in as many games for the Red Devils. In front of a crowd of almost 55,000 Liverpool exerted their dominance from the first whistle and the visitors were in front inside the opening five minutes thanks to a header from Ray Kennedy following good work by Jimmy Case.
The difference in quality between the two sides was evident as the visitors took control of the contest. On 25 minutes, the European champions doubled their advantage as Case smashed home from close range after United keeper Gary Bailey could only parry a Kenny Dalglish effort. Liverpool were good value for their lead and the United faithful on the Stretford End were already fearing their side would be the subject of a Boxing Day humiliation.
To their great credit, the home side came out guns blazing in the second half as Sexton threw off the shackles in an attempt to get a foothold in the game. As the Red Army found their voice, Welsh winger Micky Thomas, a recent arrival from Wrexham, was proving to be a thorn in Liverpoolâ€™s side but despite his and his sideâ€™s best efforts, they could not find a way through the visitorâ€™s back-line.
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As the United fire began to fizzle out (save for one effort from Lou Macari that was cleared off the line by Phil Thompson) Liverpool sensed blood once again as Terry McDermott, Case and Graeme Souness regained control of the midfield.
On 67 minutes, the result was put beyond any doubt as Fairclough left four United defenders in his wake before flicking the ball over the advancing Bailey to score a truly memorable goal. After the game Sexton, who has now seen his side ship six goals without reply over the Christmas period so far, declared that Liverpool would almost certainly by crowned league champions in May. No-one who was inside Old Trafford this afternoon had reason to disagree with that statement.
WEEK 22 ROUND-UP:
The Christmas fixture list normally draws up a host of local derbies so West Bromwich Albion fans would have been unhappy at having to head to London to face Arsenal. The return journey back to the Midlands would have been sweet though, as Ron Atkinsonâ€™s young side won 2-1 to keep up the pressure on Liverpool.
Midfielder Bryan Robson and Alistair Brown got the goals for the visitors with Liam Brady, fresh from his wonder goal against Spurs on Saturday, getting the Gunnersâ€™ consolation from the penalty spot.
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Everton are back to winning ways with a hard earned 1-0 win at Goodison Park against Manchester City. Young central defender Billy Wright, tipped to be a future England international, got the gameâ€™s only goal.
The East Midlands derby between Nottingham Forest and Derby County ended in a 1-1 draw. Tony Woodcock was on target for the champions with Gerry Daly replying for the Rams from the penalty spot. Another Midlands derby at Molineux saw Wolves grab a vital win over Birmingham City in a titanic basement battle. A Kenny Hibbitt strike and a Peter Daniel penalty sealed the points for John Barnwellâ€™s men with Alan Buckley grabbing a consolation for the Blues.
The big game in the capital today saw Queens Park Rangers and Tottenham Hotspur draw 2-2 at Loftus Road. Both sides scored from the penalty spot; Stan Bowles for Rangers and Peter Taylor for the visitors; Don Shanks and Colin Lee getting the other goals for their respective sides.
Chelsea drew another blank under new boss Danny Blanchflower, this time grabbing another valuable point in a goalless draw at The Dell against Southampton. Bristol City striker Joe Royle, fresh from being the match winner against Liverpool recently, fired in a hat-trick as the Robins hammered Coventry City 5-0 at Ashton Gate; Tom Ritchie and Peter Cormack grabbing the others.
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Derby day in East Anglia ended in parity as Ipswich Town and Norwich City fought out a 1-1 draw at Portman Road. Skipper Mick Mills was on target for the hosts, Ian Davies netting for the Canaries. Aston Villa and Leeds United shared four goals at Villa Park this afternoon. John Gregory scored a brace for the hosts with Eddie Gray doing likewise for Leeds.
Boltonâ€™s Frank Worthington was on the scoresheet again this afternoon as the Trotters grabbed a point at Ayresome Park against Middlesbrough. Young Stan Cummins grabbing the home sideâ€™s goal.
FIRST DIVISION RESULTS â€“ TUESDAY DECEMBER 26:
Arsenal 1-2 W.B.A. (Brady pen; Robson, Brown A.)
Aston Villa 2-2 Leeds United (Gregory 2; Gray E. 2)
Bristol City 5-0 Coventry City (Royle 3, Ritchie, Cormack)
Everton 1-0 Manchester City (Wright)
Ipswich Town 1-1 Norwich City (Mills; Davies) (FULL MATCH PROGRAMME BELOW)
Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool (Kennedy R, Case, Fairclough)
Middlesbrough 1-1 Bolton Wanderers (Cummins; Worthington)
Nottingham Forest 1-1 Derby County (Woodcock; Daly pen)
Q.P.R. 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Bowles pen, Shanks; Lee, Taylor pen)
Southampton 0-0 Chelsea
Wolves 2-1 Birmingham City (Hibbitt, Daniel pen; Buckley)
UPCOMING FIXTURES â€“ SATURDAY DECEMBER 30:
Arsenal v Birmingham City
Aston Villa v Bolton Wanderers
Bristol City v Manchester City
Everton v Tottenham Hotspur
Ipswich Town v Chelsea
Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion
Middlesbrough v Derby County
Nottingham Forest v Norwich City
Queens Park Rangers v Leeds United
Southampton v Liverpool
Wolves v Coventry City
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