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Thursday, April 15, 1999 Published at 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK

Sport: Football

No more second chances

The penalty save which helped decide Wednesday's epic

There might not be a night like it for some time. In fact there might never be a night like it again.

Manchester United's 2-1 FA Cup win over Arsenal will be the last semi-final replay in the competition.

Penalty shoot-outs will take place at the end of the first matches from next year.

This year's final will be the first to be held under the same format, although replays will remain for earlier rounds of future competitions.

But without replays the course of FA Cup history is sure to be changed - seven times they have decided finals of semi-finals in the 1990s alone.

Some of them have been memorable, but others have been anti-climaxes after thrillers in the first games.

[ image: Beckham: Chaired from the pitch]
Beckham: Chaired from the pitch
The abolition of replays is part of a continuing trend, which has already seen the end of cup sagas such as the 1980 semi between Arsenal and Liverpool.

A 0-0 draw at Hillsborough, was followed by two 1-1 games at Villa Park and finally a 1-0 win for the Gunners at Highfield Road.

After all this perhaps it was no surprise to see Arsenal lose the final to West Ham, although they may have preferred four matches to a shoot-out defeat to file alongside their demise in the Cup-Winners Cup final that season.

The 1993 Arsenal did not leave it to chance as they beat Sheffield Wednesday with a last-minute goal in a final replay that was slightly more entertaining than the first match.

Ricky's goal

The eighties saw Arsenal's north London rivals Spurs playing the replay game, with great success.

It took two games to overcome Wolves in the 1981 semi before the first Wembley final replay in history and the best goal scored there on a Thursday.

Under the new rules, we would never have seen Argentinian Ricky Villa waltzing through the Manchester City defence to win the cup for Spurs.

But replays do not always produce goals such as that, or Ryan Giggs' winner on Wednesday. Too often the original game is remembered far more fondly than the second.

[ image: United's Mark Robins gets the Beckham treatment after the 1990 semi-final replay]
United's Mark Robins gets the Beckham treatment after the 1990 semi-final replay
1990 saw Oldham holding Manchester United to a 3-3 semi-final draw., before United comfortably won the replay.

They repeated the trick against Palace in the final as a subdued second match saw them beat Crystal Palace 1-0 after another 3-3 thriller.

These United victories are pivotal in the history 1990s football, with Alex Ferguson widely regarded to have been facing the sack before winning the trophy. How different it might have been had they lost either game on penalties.

but for all their success United have been taken to a second game a surprising number of times, particularly by Oldham and Palace.

[ image: Keown: No fans to carry him]
Keown: No fans to carry him
The Lancashire club lost another replayed semi to their bigger neighbours in 1994, and Palace went out in similar fashion a year later.

In fact replays usually see the stronger side prevail, although Liverpool needed a late equaliser and then panalties to beat Portsmouth in the 1992 semis.

But the smallest club to miss out this decade were second division Chesterfield, who dramatically held Middlesbrough to a 3-3 draw in 1997, before losing the replay 3-0.

Even more galling for the Derbyshire minnows was the fact that they had a perfectly good goal disallowed in the first game.

The debate over the changes will go on. Traditionalists bemoan the loss of another special aspect of the FA Cup although some fans argue that the drama is enhanced by penalties.

Time will tell, although reports of the cup's demise may be premature if the reaction of both United and Arsenal on Wedsnesday is anything to go by.

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