Football: Hirst on-off night for Wednesday

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The Independent Online
Kaiserslautern. . . . 3

Sheffield Wednesday. .1

WHAT PROMISED to be an outstanding contest of inspirational attacking football, in the first leg of this Uefa Cup second-round tie last night, was ruined just before half- time when Wednesday's England striker, David Hirst, who had earlier scored a fine goal, was sent off, apparently for violent play against the Kaiserslautern defender, Marco Haber.

As the Germans had equalised with a penalty for another alleged foul by Viv Anderson, the French referee, Joel Quiniou, may not be the most popular man in South Yorkshire. The first impression of both decisions was that they were won more by dramatic reaction than by nastiness; televised evidence could prove otherwise.

Hirst, who was starting his first game for Wednesday in two months, must now miss the second leg at Hillsborough - but the tie is by no means over.

The referee had given Wednesday an instant warning when he booked Nigel Pearson for the first real tackle, in the fourth minute, which proved to be as exciting an opening to a European tie as could be expected.

Injuries had reduced both teams, the Germans being without two significant players, Stefan Kuntz and Jan Eriksson, on this cool dry autumn evening in the Fritz Walter stadium, a ground situated among pleasant woods.

Wednesday opened with enormous confidence, Chris Waddle looking lethal every time he touched the ball. Their goal, in the fifth minute, was all shiny angles, Waddle's long, slanted centre being met by Hirst's diagonal run across the box, the striker confounding the goalkeeper with a subtly glanced header.

A minute later, Bjarne Goldbaek tumbled in to the box under challenge from Anderson, and while Wednesday were angry they remained disciplined as Wolfgang Funkel equalised with the penalty.

By the second quarter, Wednesday's central defence had begun to resemble the pound when floating against the mark, neither stable nor solid, but their attack, even through the second half, remained potent.

Goldbaek had a shot tipped on to the post, Hirst's low effort was saved. Pearson could have been lucky to escape further penalty when Marcel Witeczek claimed he had been held in the box, but the crucial blow came two minutes from the interval when Hirst and Haber were jostling each other when the German keeled over. The referee glanced at his linesman and then lifted the red card.

By the second half, the shaky Sheffield defence had also become apprehensive of tackling, and the speedy Witeczek missed one chance when he lobbed over, but he soon helped Marcus Marin to score the second in the 51st minute, then ran through himself to add a third two minutes later. Thomas Vogel should have added a fourth goal - Chris Woods's one-handed diversion keeping the Owls' hopes just alive.

Indeed, Carlton Palmer contrived two chances which he could not take, as Wednesday, sending on Chris Bart-Williams and Gordon Watson, finished with spirit.

Kaiserslautern: Ehrmann; Goldbaek, Wagner, Ritter, Kadlec, Funkel, Hotic, Haber, Witeczek, Schafer, Marin (Vogel, 66).

Sheffield Wednesday: Woods; Harkes, Worthington, Palmer, Pearson, Anderson, Wilson, Waddle, Hirst, Warhurst (Watson, 80), Hyde (Bart-Williams, 66).

Referee: J Quiniou (France).