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Thursday, May 6, 1999 Published at 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK

Title race goes to the wire

Denis Irwin's penalty joy was wiped out by a second half sending off

Alex Ferguson blasted referee David Elleray after he awarded Liverpool a penalty and sent off Denis Irwin in a match which saw Manchester United drop two vital Premiership points.

Alex Ferguson: "I think its fair to say the referee denied us victory" (BBC Radio 5 Live)
The United manager pointed the finger of blame at the referee as the 2-2 draw at Anfield left Arsenal three points clear at the top.

Ferguson said: "It's a disappointing night for us and at 2-0 we felt there was no way they could beat us or score a goal.

[ image: Anelka scores as Arsenal pull clear at the top]
Anelka scores as Arsenal pull clear at the top
"I think the referee has handed it to them and it does not do our game much good when you see things like that."

He was critical of the second booking Irwin received for kicking the ball away. His dismissal means he misses the FA Cup final clash with Newcastle.

Ferguson said: "I am disappointed for Denis at missing the final for that and it's tragic.

Mike Ingham: Five games in the next ten games will decide the championship
"But we will recover from it and it looks like it will go to the wire.

"I think goal difference is important and that extra game we have is going to be important to us."

'A bloody good result'

Liverpool skipper Paul Ince, who scored the 89th minute equalizer against his former club, said he would not be bothered if it cost United the title.

"No not really, they have won it so many times that it's nice that other teams are in there challenging," he said.

Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier praised his team for the come-back, saying: "At two-nil down, the players never gave in and this is a fair result and it's a bloody good result for our supporters.

"They have achieved a massive performance to come back from two-nil and score two goals against that team who are the best team in Europe - it proves the players have not only the talent and heart, but the passion and commitment they showed was something the supporters must be extremely proud of."

At White Hart Lane, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insisted Manchester United were still in control of their own destiny in the title race, despite the Gunners' 3-1 win.

'A huge game'

Wenger said: "It's still in the hands of Manchester United.

"If we win all the games and they win all the games, we might have a problem because they have scored more goals.

"The one thing we have said all along is that we must do as well as we can and don't give anything away."

"After that, no matter what has happened it is a great achievement for us.

"That was a huge game for us. We knew we wanted the three points and we deserved them.

"We played great, as a unit and as a team, we looked sharp and our passing was good.

"What can you say as a manager? I am just happy that the players gave everything tonight, they showed a real desire to win."

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