ArsenalClubPremier League

Thomas strike seals title at Anfield

Story Highlights
  • Arsenal's victory at Anfield in 1988/89 season
  • George Graham's strategic leadership at Arsenal
  • Michael Thomas last minute goal against Liverpool
  • Alan Smith goal at Anfield in 1989
  • Brian Moore commentary of Arsenal's championship victory
  • Arsenal's championship win after 18 years

On that fateful night at Anfield, Brian Moore’s famous commentary immortalized a climax to the 1988/89 season that Arsenal fans would never forget. The tension was palpable; it was football drama at its finest.

Under George Graham, a member of the 1971 championship-winning team, Arsenal seemed poised for their first championship title in nearly two decades. The team, an impressive blend of bargain purchases and youthful dynamism, was leading the title race weeks before the decisive game.

However, a sudden slump in Arsenal’s form, characterized by a defeat and draw in their final two home games against Derby and Wimbledon, compounded with Liverpool’s 5-1 victory over West Ham, left Arsenal with a herculean task: They needed to win by two goals at Anfield.

Greeted with headlines such as ‘You Have not Got A Prayer, Arsenal,’ the odds were stacked against them. However, Graham had a strategy:

  • Hold firm in the first half.
  • Sneak in an early goal in the second.
  • Finally, take Liverpool down.

Graham’s decision to field a back three allowed Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn to press forward, restricting Liverpool’s wingers. The strategy was fruitful. An early lead came seven minutes after the break when Alan Smith directed Winterburn’s free-kick into the net, despite Liverpool’s vehement protests.

Although Arsenal seemed to miss a golden opportunity when Thomas could not capitalize on Paul Merson’s pass, fate had the last say. In a move that sent chills down the spines of fans, John Lukic’s throw found Dixon, who located Smith, who then found Thomas. A fortunate bounce a ball flick, and Thomas scored.

Moore’s ecstatic commentary captured the moment perfectly – “An unbelievable climax to the league season…!” Arsenal had finally ended their 18-year wait and were back at the top of English football.

Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal

  • Date: Friday, May 26, 1989
  • Kick-off: 8.05 pm
  • Division: One
  • Venue: Anfield
  • Scorers: Smith 52, Thomas 90+1
  • Booked: Rocastle, Richardson
  • Attendance: 41,783
  • Referee: David Hutchinson (Oxfordshire)
  • Assistant referees: Geoff Banwell, P. Cullen
Teams:
  • Arsenal: John Lukic, David O’Leary, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams (c), Steve Bould (Perry Groves 76), Nigel Winterburn, Michael Thomas, David Rocastle, Kevin Richardson, Paul Merson (Martin Hayes 73), Alan Smith. Manager: George Graham
  • Liverpool: Bruce Grobbelaar, Gary Ablett, Steve Nicol, Alan Hansen, Steve Staunton, Ray Houghton, Ronnie Whelan (c), Steve McMahon, John Barnes, John Aldridge, Ian Rush (Peter Beardsley 32). Sub not used: Barry Venison. Manager: Kenny Dalglish.

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