Crazy Cup tie serves up super Sunday for fans

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 April, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 April, 1997, 12:00am

FA Cup Sunday (on Wharf) was all you could have hoped for and then some.

Apart from Middlesbrough fans, everybody else must have been delighted with Chesterfield's amazing (yet somehow not that surprising) late, late equaliser in their barmy 3-3 draw.

With two penalties, a red card, a comeback from two down, and a 'did it cross the line?' controversy all that was missing was a dog on the pitch and the ball bursting for the whole gamut of Roy of the Rovers plot devices.

It all struck an echo with the semi-final madness of 1990 when Manchester United drew 3-3 with Oldham and Crystal Palace beat Liverpool 4-3, both in extra-time.

Chelsea v Wimbledon was a different kettle of fish.

Chelsea ran the show while the Dons, praised for their improved passing this season, resorted to the crudest of long-ball games.

Gianfranco Zola and Mark Hughes did more than get the goals for Chelsea - they produced moments of electric excitement which remind us why we all watch the game. Zola's flick and turn before his goal was breathtaking.

Likewise Hughes' thigh-trap, turn and shot which just cleared the bar.

That's left a hard act to follow. But this week's lineup of live fare is extremely promising.

Tomorrow, of course, sees the much-awaited clash between Liverpool and Manchester United (Wharf).

This has been weighted with significance for months in advance, seen by pundits as a title decider.

Liverpool have done their best to ruin that scenario by blowing numerous winnable matches. But at least they scratched a win at Sunderland last week and a point at Everton in midweek to give this the semblance of being a six-pointer.

On the evidence of last Saturday's live match, however, I wouldn't bet on Liverpool.

Manchester United looked awesome in their 3-2 win at Blackburn.

Their passing and off-the-ball movement was as crisp as anything west of Turin.

This game is followed by a rarity, a live Bundesliga match. Borussia Dortmund host Bayern Munich - champions v leaders, Sammer v Klinsmann, the Rhine v Bavaria. In other words it is a biggie. A German version of the Liverpool v United match, in fact.

Wharf's reasoning for the switch to live German games is that the other two major European leagues they cover - Italy and Spain - look like one-horse canters for Juventus and Real Madrid respectively whereas the German race is still very competitive.

Of course, later in the week the juxtaposition of United and Dortmund becomes more than a matter of scheduling as Old Trafford is the scene for the sides' European Cup semi-final second leg (ESPN, Thursday morning).

This has all the makings of a classic. Delicately poised at 1-0 to the Germans, the possible permutations are mouth-watering.

An early United goal could open the floodgates a la the Porto game. An early Dortmund goal would force United's hand and leave them vulnerable to counter-thrusts. Place your bets.