2nd-3rd April 1999

Results: Aston Villa 0-0 West Ham United, Blackburn Rovers 0-0 Middlesbrough, Charlton Athletic 0-1 Chelsea, Derby County 3-4 Newcastle United, Leeds United 3-1 Nottingham Forest, Liverpool FC 3-2 Everton, Sheffield Wednesday 1-2 Coventry City, Southampton 0-0 Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur 0-2 Leicester City, Wimbledon 1-1 Manchester United

The three-way title battle in the 1998-1999 Premier League season closed up further after this weekend of action which ended with just five points covering Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.

The Red Devils were still busy chasing ‘The Treble’ and experiencing a careless moment at Selhurst Park where an error by Gary Neville allowed Jason Euell to put Wimbledon infront after only five minutes. David Beckham equalised to earn the visitors a point that kept them top of the table.

That was because second-placed Arsenal were unable to breakdown a stubborn Southampton side at The Dell. The Saints were still scrapping for points themselves to keep their top-flight status and frustrated Arsene Wenger’s side in a nervy match which saw defenders finish completely dominant over attackers.

This meant Chelsea could close in further and their fourth win in five games arrived in a London Derby against another team needing points at the wrong end of the table in Charlton Athletic. It was the softest of goals that won the game for the Blues at The Valley. Charlton goalkeeper Sasa Ilic failed to judge a cross correctly and Roberto Di Matteo had a simple finish in the 11th minute. Chelsea were now just a point behind Arsenal in the table and had a game in-hand on the reigning champions too.

Fourth-placed Leeds United maintained their winning sequence, equalling a mark set by Don Revie’s all-conquering side in the 1970s. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink continued his quest for the Golden Boot, powering Leeds into a 43rd minute lead against bottom club Nottingham Forest. Further goals from Ian Harte and Alan Smith helped Leeds to a 3-1 victory which saw them stretch 10 points clear of the chasing pack. Forest had Carlton Palmer sent off and were now 11 points adrift of safety. Relegation was virtually guaranteed for the club for the third time in their Premier League history.

Another manager feeling the pressure was Walter Smith. In his first season as Everton manager, he was experiencing the pressures of a relegation dogfight for the first time after his glowing success in Scottish football with Rangers. Despite Olivier Dacourt’s spectacular strike in the opening minute at Anfield, Everton lost the latest edition of The Merseyside Derby 3-2 to Liverpool FC, leaving the Toffees in 17th place and only one point clear of the relegation zone. Liverpool’s win was overshadowed by Robbie Fowler’s controversial goal celebration after he scored a penalty. He used the white line of the penalty area to simulate cocaine use. The FA took a dim view, fining him £32,000 and gave him a six-match ban for this incident and another episode earlier in the season with Chelsea defender Graeme Le Saux which had seen the striker wave his backside in Le Saux’s direction. Liverpool fined the player too for bringing the game into disrepute.

Elsewhere, Derby County’s European hopes took a knock when they lost a goal-filled match with Newcastle United. Five goals were scored in the first half with Gary Speed getting two of them and the Magpies eventually prevailed 4-3 winners with the decisive goal coming from Nolberto Solano. There was also some personal joy for Leicester City forward Tony Cottee. He scored the 200th goal of his professional career in the Foxes’ 2-0 victory at White Hart Lane as Leicester exacted some quick revenge for their League Cup final defeat to Tottenham 13 days earlier.

What else happened in April 1999?

  • British television is left in mourning when popular presenter, Jill Dando is shot dead on the doorstep of her home in Fulham, west London.
  • David Copeland plants three nail bombs in three weeks across the capital. The third in The Admiral Duncan pub in Soho kills a pregnant woman and injures 70 others.
  • Two teenagers open fire in Colorado in the Columbine High School massacre. 12 students and 1 teacher are killed, before they kill themselves.
  • Former EastEnders actress Martine McCutcheon reaches number one in the UK Singles Chart with her debut single,“Perfect Moment”
  • A minimum wage is introduced in the UK for the first time, set at £3.60 an hour for workers over 21 and £3 for workers under 21.
  • The UN suspends sanctions against Libya after two Libyans suspected of being behind the Lockerbie bombing of 1988 are handed over to Scottish authorities for trial in The Hague.
  • BSkyB Chief Executive Mark Booth announces his resignation after 18 months in the role.
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