20 Years ago today Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield to win the League title. A memory that is considered to be the greatest moment in Arsenal’s history.
Right after the events of the Hillsborough disaster, the league was still to be decided and both Arsenal and Liverpool had their last match in the season against each other.
Liverpool was the strongest team in England and at the time were looking to complete yet another double as they were the favourites to win the league. Not simply because they were the strongest team, but also because they haven’t been beaten at Anfield by two goals in over four years, and the fact that since 1974 Arsenal haven’t beaten Liverpool once at Anfield.
Arsenal had to win by at least two goals to equal Liverpool’s points and win the league by goal differential. A task deemed impossible by everyone considering the fact that Arsenal haven’t won the league since 1971.
Arsenal scored on a header by Alan Smith, but Arsenal were unable to score the needed second goal that would secure Arsenal the League.
Co-commentator David Pleat went on to say that it would be poetic justice should they lose the league on the last day.
It was that close to being decided. The ball was with Liverpool and the Liverpool fans were whistling for the referee to blow his whistle and announce Liverpool as the league champions
Richardson then cut out the ball and Arsenal were on their last attack, their last chance to win the league, it was simply all or nothing.
Dixon passed it long to Smith who made a beautiful pass to Thomas, and with a little luck Thomas was one-on-one with Grobbelaar in the 92nd minute in extra time.
This led the commentator Brian Moore to say what became one of the most famous lines in sport’s history. A line that became so famous that it became used in every other sport and in movies as well.
“It’s up for grabs now!”
Thompson finally scored the second goal in the last minute of the game. In less than 20 seconds the title left Liverpool and became Arsenal’s. That ball decided the fate of the league.
Alan Smith talks about Arsenal’s greatest achievement on Arsenal.com.
“Twenty years – where has it gone? It’s incredible. As for Mickey’s goal, it was remarkable really because we didn’t know how long was left but John Lukic still threw the ball out instead of kicking it out of his hands. Lee helped it up the channel to me and I thought I had to turn first time because the whistle could go at any time. So I took a chance, it was a decent touch and I saw Mickey straight away and helped it on into his direction. After that he got a favourable bounce of the ball and I was following in his path – I could see it all developing with the Liverpool lads closing in. It’s a cliche but it did seem to happen in slow motion, but Mickey never did things quickly anyway. He took his time and, typical Mickey, he waited for Grobbelaar to make his move and flicked it over him. It was bedlam after that.
“As for my goal, it was one of those free-kicks which we used to practice on the training ground day-in day-out, and it never used to come off on a matchday. We used to get so fed up about that – we wondered why we bothered – but it did work on that occasion. Me, Tony and Bouldy would line up, we’d peel off, we were big lads of course – six foot plus – and Tony just threw himself at the ball. He was nowhere near it but it acted as a diversion and I just came in at the far stick and flicked it in.
“There was all the controversy over whether I touched it or was offside but I just helped the ball on its way. The flight of the ball didn’t change direction but I got a good touch. After the game some of the Liverpool players said they had seen the linesman’s flag go up but I didn’t. Then some thought I didn’t get a touch and it shouldn’t have counted because it was an indirect free-kick. When you’ve got Ronnie Whelan and Steve McMahon and some of these players crowding round the referee and linesman, you think the goal will be disallowed, there’s no chance it will stand. So when the ref pointed to the centre circle we just thought ‘game on’.”
Tonight Arsenal’s youth team travels to Anfield with a 4-1 aggregate lead in the FA Youth cup. This time Arsenal don’t need to win by two goals but they can lose by two goals and still bring the youth trophy home.
Good luck to the boys, although i really don’t think they will need it.
Since the 26th May 1989 Arsenal have had some great moments but i don’t think anything comes close to that night.
I doubt we will ever get a Micky Thomas moment again.
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