Football: A nerve-racking 1999 - the year the action went down to the wire: Giggs fashions goal of pure genius

FA Cup semi-final replay at Villa Park Arsenal v Manchester United
Click to follow
The Independent Online
IT IS often said that the only people who remember FA Cup semi- finals are the fans and players of the beaten team, but last year's Villa Park replay will be remembered long after the final is forgotten.

The first game had incident enough with Nelson Vivas dismissed and Roy Keane's "winner" wrongly disallowed. But that was just a warm-up. The next 90 minutes provided a magnificent goal from David Beckham, another dismissal (of Keane), another disallowed "goal" (from Nicolas Anelka), and late drama when Arsenal won an injury-time penalty after Phil Neville fouled Ray Parlour.

The "Treble" hung in the balance but Dennis Bergkamp, who had missed out on Arsenal's Wembley win through injury the previous year, saw Peter Schmeichel save his kick.

The holders, with an extra man, still seemed to have the edge as we moved into extra-time but Schmeichel stood firm. Then, with 12 minutes left and penalties looming, Patrick Vieira played a tired pass towards Arsenal's right flank. Ryan Giggs intercepted it and, seeing the space ahead, accepted the challenge to "run at them, see what happens". His fresh legs - he was a 61st-minute substitute - and exquisite balance took him past five challenges including those of Lee Dixon, Martin Keown and Tony Adams, before driving the ball over David Seaman into the roof of the net.

"A goal of genius," said Alex Ferguson. "What happened?" said the unfortunate journalist next to me, who dropped his pen as Vieira played the pass and had been searching for it on the floor of the press box throughout Giggs' run.

The goal has since been immortalised in the Old Trafford songbook with the adaptation of the Arsenal homage to Vieira - "He comes from Senegal, he plays for Arsenal" - along the lines of "He gave Giggsy the ball, and Arsenal won ****-all".

It will not happen again, and not just because United are not in this year's FA Cup. As part of the Football Association's craven emasculation of the competition, semi-final replays have been retired, victims of the big clubs' fixture congestion. At least they went out at the top.

GLENN MOORE

Comments