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Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 05:57 GMT 06:57 UK
Match delayed for EastEnders climax
Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) in screen grab from Tuesday's EastEnders
Someone's got a visitor in EastEnders...
The BBC has negotiated a delayed kick-off for a European football match so viewers can find out who shot EastEnders' Phil Mitchell without missing any of the football action.

Uefa Cup matches are traditionally screened at 2000 BST when the soap finishes, but a special 40-minute episode means the football fans will have to wait.

The start of the Uefa Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Barcelona from the Nou Camp stadium will begin at 2010BST on Thursday, to allow for the soap's nailbiting finish.

The EastEnders storyline has gripped viewers since the former Queen Victoria landlord was gunned down outside his Albert Square home five weeks ago.

The nation will be on the edge of its seat

BBC spokesman

In Tuesday's episode, viewers saw bad guy Phil, played by Steve McFadden, discharge himself from hospital after telling godson Jamie (Jack Ryder) he knows the identity of his would-be assassin.

After the culprit is revealed on Thursday, viewers will be able to take in the big match in Spain.

BBC Sport spokesman Mike Hales said: "We asked both sides nicely and they agreed to start later because of EastEnders.

"It is a well-known programme so the Spanish realise it was important for the BBC."

Suspects

Phil returned to Albert Square seeking revenge in Tuesday's episode, and as night came he was seen knocking on a door.

Viewers saw all five of the main suspects - Steve Owen (Martin Kemp), Dan Sullivan (Craig Fairbrass), Mark Fowler (Todd Carty), Lisa Shaw (Lucy Benjamin) and Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) hear callers at their door.

Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden)
Going down: Phil's shooting has gripped viewers
The guilty party slowly opened the door and the camera focused on Phil, who grinned and said: "Guess who."

The storyline has been billed as the biggest whodunit since the 1980 shooting of oil magnate JR in American soap Dallas.

A spokesman for the soap said: "The nation will be on the edge of its seat in this cliff-hanger of all cliff-hangers as we prepare to reveal the guilty party."

Betting

The storyline also caused bookmaker William Hill to stop taking bets after a flurry of wagers on a character played by former New Avengers star Gareth Hunt, who has yet to appear in the series.

When betting re-opened, ex-girlfriend Lisa Shaw was favourite with odds of 4/5.

Dan Sullivan, who returned to the soap on the eve of the shooting, was the second favourite with odds of 2/1.

He was also the favourite of BBC News Online users in a poll conducted last month.

Others suspected by users include Phil's former sister-in-law Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean), Steve Owen's mother and Robbie Jackson's dog, Wellard.

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See also:

05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Dirty Dan your favourite to pull trigger
07 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Hunt 'ruled out' of EastEnders shooting
01 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Soaps gunning for ratings
16 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
Thief steals EastEnders scripts
04 Apr 01 | Uefa Cup
Liverpool duo staying put
02 Apr 01 | Uefa Cup
Barcelona fire warning
22 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
The ups and downs of TV ratings
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