Saturday, May 14, 2011

14 May 1988 - Game, Set, Match For Wimbledon

On 14 May 1988, Wimbledon won the FA Cup thanks in part to the first-ever penalty save in the history of the tournament final. It was the last major trophy for the club, who moved to Milton Keynes in 2004 to become the MK Dons.

Wimbledon's opponents in the Final were Liverpool, who had won the league by finishing nine points clear of Manchester United. Prior to the Final, they had lost only three times--twice in the league and once in the League Cup--and were heavily favored over Wimbledon, who were seventh in the final table and who had taken only a single point from Liverpool in their two league meetings that season.

Playing before a crowd of over 98,000 at Wembley, Wimbledon took a shock first-half lead when midfielder Lawrie Sanchez headed a free kick home in the 37th minute. Liverpool looked certain to equalize in the second half when the referee awarded them a penalty kick in the 60th minute. But Wimbledon keeper and captain Dave Beasant guessed correctly, diving to his left to stop the shot from John Aldridge. It was the first time in the history of the FA Cup that a keeper saved a penalty in the Final.

Manager Kenny Dalglish subbed Aldridge out four minutes later for Craig Johnston, but the Reds were unable to crack Wimbledon's defense and the score held, 1-0 to Wimbledon. With their reputation as the "Crazy Gang," rumors swirled about wild post-match celebrations, but Beasant later said that he and his teammates were so exhausted after the match that they enjoyed a small party with their families then got to bed early.

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