Arsenal’s 1989 title win at Anfield: Football’s most dramatic finale

Arsenal’s 1989 title win at Anfield: Football’s most dramatic finale
“It’s up for grabs now,” commentator Brian Moore famously said as Michael Thomas broke away from the Liverpool defence to tap the ball past Bruce Grobbelaar. (AFP)
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Updated 25 May 2020

Arsenal’s 1989 title win at Anfield: Football’s most dramatic finale

Arsenal’s 1989 title win at Anfield: Football’s most dramatic finale
  • Not even Sergio Aguero’s famous title-winning goal in 2012 can match Michael Thomas’s last-gasp heroics 31-years-ago

DUBAI: It’s up for grabs now.

If you recognize these words, then you probably know one of the most dramatic moments in football history.

On May 26, 1989, Arsenal went to Anfield needing to beat reigning champions Liverpool by two goals to win their first league title in 18 years. Everyone thought it was an impossible mission.

Arsenal, having led the 1988-89 First Division league table comfortably at the turn of the year, had slipped, allowing Liverpool to overtake them by three points by the time the match had been rescheduled for the delayed final day of a turbulent season. This was a Liverpool team, and a city, recovering from the Hillsborough tragedy which would eventually claim the lives of 96 of their fans.

Liverpool had pulled off one miracle after another to get themselves into that position at the same time Arsenal seemingly decided to shoot themselves in the foot. 

Only days before the showdown, Liverpool, then on the same number of points as Arsenal and with an exact goal difference, faced West Ham at Anfield in another match rearranged in the wake of the tragedy.

A storming 5-1 win gave Liverpool a three point lead and superior goal difference of four over Arsenal. The title was all but theirs.

But it was a deceptive, if still hugely significant, lead for Liverpool. Arsenal needed to win by two goals, not four, to swing the situation around.  

The match is now football folklore. Alan Smith scored a 52-minute header to ramp up the nerves at Anfield, but against a visibly tiring home team, Arsenal still needed a winner.

It came, astonishingly, in the 92nd minute.

“It’s up for grabs now,” commentator Brian Moore famously said as Michael Thomas broke away from the Liverpool defence to tap the ball past Bruce Grobbelaar. 

 

 

It was Arsenal, not Liverpool, that had pulled off the biggest and final miracle of the season.

League titles rarely deliver such stunning finales. And the nature of this particular match meant it had a winner-takes-all cup final feel that the guardians of today’s Premier League can only dream of. It was in effect a second-leg of a cup tie and Thomas’s winner ensured that the two clubs finished on the same number of points and with identical goal differences of +37. Arsenal were crowned champions on account of having scored more goals. That goal was, in effect, an away goal that settled a whole season.  

Have football fans enjoyed greater, better matches? Sure. 

But greater moments?

Not even the greatest cup finals of all time can claim bigger stakes being won and lost in such fashion.

The world’s oldest competition, the FA Cup, has seen some memorable stories since its first edition in 1871-72, and Arsenal themselves delivered the greatest end to a final ever. 

In 1979, the Gunners led Manchester United 2-0 as a seemingly average final entered its dying moments. But two goals by Gordon McQueen and Sammy McIlroy in the dying embers of the match stunned Wembley and set up a scarcely believable extra time. Except that from the kick-off Arsenal immediately went up the other end and scored through Alan Sunderland to win what would become known as the “Five-minute Cup Final”.

But just ask any Arsenal fan which moment remains the most dramatic in the club’s history.

Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League triumph makes a strong claim for the most dramatic conclusion to a match ever. But, while the two-goal injury time turnaround was close to miraculous, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winning goal lacks Thomas’s defeat-to-victory aspect.

At the risk of sounding like a killjoy, Alex Ferguson’s men had already saved themselves with Teddy Sheringham’s equaliser and would have had a chance to claim victory in extra-time, a luxury Arsenal did not have in that 92nd minute at Anfield.

And then there is the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul. Liverpool’s still incomprehensible triumph over a vastly superior AC Milan team ticks off all the boxes for drama. it boasted some of the best players on the planet at the top of their game. In Hernan Crespo’s third goal for Milan, one of the competition’s finest ever goals. There was a seemingly unassailable 3-0 half-time lead for the favourites. But then a comeback for the ages as a Steven Gerrard-inspired Liverpool equalized the match within 15 minutes of the restart. This was followed by an unbearably tense extra time, and finally a penalty shootout which saw Jerzy Dudek, seemingly in his last moments as Liverpool goalkeeper, redeemed himself to win the cup for the Reds.

Few can argue the Miracle of Istanbul is not a superior match to the 1989 showdown in almost every aspect. But although penalty shootouts are naturally won or lost with the last kick of the game, they inherently lack the element of utter surprise that Thomas’s goal provided. 

The closest comparison to Thomas’s historic moment is without doubt Sergio Aguero’s title-winning goal for Manchester City against QPR in the dying seconds of the 2011-12 Premier League campaign. Like Manchester United’s Champions League win in 1999, the two injury-time goals rightfully lend the comeback legendary status. And, like Thomas’s win, it had the winner takes all away-goal factor; there was no safety net of extra-time here for City.

But despite the moment’s extraordinary drama, it still marginally loses out to the events at Anfield. For a start, it was not a face-off between the top two teams. Roberto Mancini’s team were also firm favourites to win against a team fighting for relegation. The match was at the Etihad Stadium in front of City’s own fans and the decisive goals finally arrived against an exhausted 10-man QPR. This is a match City were expected to walk and blowing it would have been the real miracle.

The 1994-95 Premier League season also provided one of the more recent dramatic finishes; it even had a last minute goal, and at Anfield as well. But the fact that it came against eventual champions Blackburn, who could afford to lose 2-1 to Liverpool while challengers Manchester United wasted one chance after another at West Ham to only draw, means it cannot quite be compared to Arsenal’s heroics at Anfield.

In Spain, Atletico Madrid went to the Nou Camp on the final day of the 2013-14 La Liga season needing a draw against the Barcelona of Leo Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi to claim a shock title win, but when Alexis Sanchez gave the home team the lead, it looked like Atletico’s dream was over. But a 49th minute equaliser from Diego Godin gave them a priceless point that would see them crowned champions.

A head-to-head final day clash between the two top teams had been won by the underdog, just like in 1989. But this was an underdog needing only a draw, and there were no comparable last-minute heroics or drama.

Perhaps closest was the conclusion of Portugal’s 2012-13 Primeira Liga race. On May 11, 2013, Benfica travelled to the Estádio do Dragão to play fierce rivals Porto, with a two-point lead over their opponents. As the match entered its final seconds locked at 1-1, Porto broke away to score an astonishing winner and break their opponents’ hearts. All over the pitch, there were tears of joy and despair as Porto leapfrogged their opponents in the standings at the death. It was one of the most dramatic matches the Portuguese top division has ever witnessed.

However, this was only a de-facto finale; watching those dramatic scenes now, it is often forgotten that there was, in fact, one round of matches left. Both teams would win their last games, with that late winner proving ultimately decisive, though not quite with the finality of Thomas’s strike.

But what about matches of sheer importance? Surely many World Cup moments are bigger and more dramatic than a First Division title win. But which?

The 1970 World Cup semi-final between West Germany and Italy is often dubbed the “Game of the Century”, and for good reason. In an unforgettable back and forth battle with many incredible moments, Italy would prevail 4-3 after extra time. But the fabled match does not have a last-minute goal, and ultimately the winners went on to lose the final.

In that final they played a Brazil team considered the greatest football team of all time. Pele, Jairzinho, Tostao, Rivellino and Carlos Alberto put on a masterclass that day, eventually destroying their exhausted opponents 4-1. For many, it remains the greatest football match ever played.

But it was, especially in those final minutes, literally a walk in the park for Brazil.

The 1982 World Cup saw two truly stunning matches within days of each. Italy got revenge for 1970 with Paolo Rossi’s hat-trick in a 3-2 second-round group win over Brazil; and then West Germany’s semi-final penalty shootout win over France after a controversial 3-3 draw.

Both were matches of extraordinary tension and quality; but without a magic moment to rival Thomas’s silver bullet.

In his era-defining book “Fever Pitch,” Arsenal fan and author Nick Hornby tried and, and his own words, failed, to describe the drama of that finale at Anfield. No metaphor or event, footballing or otherwise, could quite convey its sheer joy and improbability.

“Childbirth must be extraordinarily moving, but it doesn’t have that crucial surprise element.” he said, adding: “What else is there that can possibly provide the suddenness?”

And the answer is nothing. 

Sorry, Sergio. Sorry, Manchester City. But football's most dramatic moment is not up for grabs.


Wales beat Turkey to close on Euro 2020 knockout stage

Wales beat Turkey to close on Euro 2020 knockout stage
Updated 16 June 2021

Wales beat Turkey to close on Euro 2020 knockout stage

Wales beat Turkey to close on Euro 2020 knockout stage
BAKU: Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts scored as Wales took a huge step toward reaching the last 16 at Euro 2020 with a 2-0 win over Turkey in Baku on Wednesday.
Turkey is facing an uphill challenge to reach the knockout stages after losing their first two Group A matches without scoring.
Wales, semifinalists five years ago, should have won more convincingly, but wasted several chances including a second-half penalty which was blazed over by captain Gareth Bale.
Turkey coach Senol Gunes dropped Juventus defender Merih Demiral after he scored an own goal in Friday’s tournament-opening defeat in Italy.
Robert Page kept the same Wales side from Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Switzerland in Baku.
A hostile crowd was expected due to the close links between Ankara and Baku due to a centuries-long relationship solidified with Turkey’s support of Azerbaijan in last year’s conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Every early Wales touch was welcomed with whistles from the 30,000 crowd, with up to 4,000 Turkish fans having traveled, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In a very open first half an hour both sides had very good chances to open the scoring including Turkey skipper Burak Yilmaz, whose effort was deflected out for a corner, and Wales’ Ramsey.
With opportunities at both ends as the two teams refused to sit back, the Crescent Stars had two efforts blocked by last-gasp defending on the 30-minute mark.
With two minutes of the half remaining the vocal home support were stunned into silence by Ramsey’s opener.
Bale found Ramsey free in the box and the Juventus man chested the ball down before side-footing coolly past Ugurcan Cakir, making amends for missing two glorious earlier chances.
The muted crowd rediscovered their voices after the interval as Turkey pressed forward for an equalizer, their best chance falling to Yilmaz who sent his volley from close range high into the stands.
The game remained open going into the final 30 minutes and Ramsey was just stopped from adding a second as Cakir blocked with his foot, before Bale had an opportunity to seal the three points.
He charged into the box and was tripped by Zeki Celik but the one-time most expensive player in the world fired his penalty over the crossbar.
Page brought Ethan Ampadu on for the tiring Joe Allen, one of just two players remaining from the starting team in the semifinal defeat to Portugal in 2016, with a quarter of an hour left before Gunes sent on Halil Dervisoglu to partner Yilmaz up front.
Turkey, who were knocked out of the group stage in France at the previous tournament, applied incessant pressure in the closing moments.
With three minutes left the previously dropped Demiral had a golden chance but his free header from a Hakan Calhanoglu corner was wasted.
A scuffle broke out in the Wales box at the start of injury time after a collision on the floor and Ben Davies, Chris Mepham and Yilmaz were shown yellow cards before Page’s men claimed a second goal.
Bale powered into the box from a short corner, found Roberts and the Swansea right-back claimed his second international goal to send the 400 Wales fans into pandemonium behind the goal.
Turkey face Switzerland in the Azeri capital on Sunday while Wales head to Rome at the same time.

France’s Pavard felt KO’d for nearly 15 seconds at Euro 2020

France’s Pavard felt KO’d for nearly 15 seconds at Euro 2020
Updated 16 June 2021

France’s Pavard felt KO’d for nearly 15 seconds at Euro 2020

France’s Pavard felt KO’d for nearly 15 seconds at Euro 2020
  • Pavard slammed into the turf in the 59th minute of France's 1-0 victory over Germany on Tuesday
  • “I was a bit KO'd for about 10-15 seconds,” Pavard told broadcaster beIN Sports

BUDAPEST: Crashing face-first into the ground, France defender Benjamin Pavard said he felt like a boxer knocked out on the canvas.
Pavard slammed into the turf in the 59th minute of France’s 1-0 victory over Germany on Tuesday at the European Championship following a challenge from opposing midfielder Robin Gosens.
“I was a bit KO’d for about 10-15 seconds,” Pavard told broadcaster beIN Sports after the game. “After that I felt better.”
UEFA and players’ union FIFPRO have questioned why France’s medical staff let Pavard continue playing in the match in Munich.
Teams doctors and coaches from all 24 teams at Euro 2020 signed up to UEFA’s Concussion Charter before the tournament. It states that “if a player of our team is suspected of having suffered a concussion, he will be immediately removed from the pitch, whether in training or match play.”
FIFPRO said it was in touch with UEFA to find out why the Concussion Charter was not applied and Pavard was not removed from the match.
Pavard was about to head the ball away from the goalmouth when Gosens jumped into the air and his knee caught the Frenchman around the neck. It sent the off-balance Pavard tumbling forward and he hit the ground face-first, with his right arm only slightly breaking his fall.
The decision for Pavard to continue rested with him and the team’s doctor.
UEFA said its medical people are in contact with the French soccer federation to ascertain if he is able to train or play under protocol rules.
The federations’s medical director, Emmanuel Orhant, is also a member of the UEFA medical committee.
Soccer’s rule-making panel, known as IFAB, is monitoring early trials with temporary substitutes for players who need to have a suspected head injury assessed, but they are not being used at Euro 2020.
The France team said Pavard had not lost consciousness at any point and was able to continue playing.
Pavard had lunch with his teammates as planned on Wednesday and took part in the afternoon training session. The French national team posted a photo on Twitter of him walking alongside teammate Paul Pogba in their training gear.
“It’s true that I took a very heavy blow, I didn’t see it coming,” Pavard said Wednesday. “But everything is fine and I have recovered well. I feel very well.”
A similar incident happened in a match between West Germany and France in the 1982 World Cup semifinals.
Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher rushed off his line and jumped into France defender Patrick Battiston just after he had taken a shot, catching him full in the face with his knee and sending him falling backward onto the ground.
Battiston received oxygen as he was carried off the field unconscious in Seville as distressed teammate Michel Platini, whose pass Battiston had latched onto, held his hand. Battiston fell into a coma but later recovered.
After Tuesday’s match in Munich, Pavard was lucid enough to talk in detail about the performance.
“We came across a very good Germany team who had more possession. We really played well, whether in attack or defense, and we stuck together when things were tough,” the 25-year-old Pavard said. “We coped well when they were starting to get on top, and they didn’t get many shots on target.”
Other than Pavard’s worrying fall, France has had no other injuries to contend with. The defending World Cup champions next face Hungary in Budapest on Saturday.
“We’re in good shape physically and I think we’re going to keep getting better in the competition,” Pavard said. “It’s very encouraging for what’s ahead.”


Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, NEOM partner to promote sports in the Kingdom

Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, NEOM partner to promote sports in the Kingdom
Updated 16 June 2021

Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, NEOM partner to promote sports in the Kingdom

Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, NEOM partner to promote sports in the Kingdom
  • Five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will set up new sports centers of excellence across the country
  • Agreement provides a roadmap to hosting international sports events and will spark the development of a Saudi Arabian sporting ecosystem

JEDDAH: The Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with NEOM to collaborate on developing a competitive sporting ecosystem through new centers of excellence across the country.

NEOM, an ambitious mega-city project located in the north of the Kingdom, will be the first city to rely solely on natural modes of transportation and eliminate carbon emissions of any kind.

The MoU was signed by Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Sports Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal and Chief Executive of NEOM Nadhmi Al-Nasr. It sets out plans for the two bodies to collaborate on the development of the Saudi Arabian sporting ecosystem and to enhance its collaboration and competitiveness on the world stage. 

It also encourages partnership in the development of a national strategy for sport across the country.

Prince Abdul Aziz said that the MoU is designed to enhance cooperation between the SAOC and NEOM as they develop sporting centers of excellence for specific sports, which NEOM will plan, design and host. 

It also provides a roadmap to hosting international sports events through joint working groups with representatives from the SAOC and the Saudi Ministry of Sports.

Collectively, these activities will help ensure that the Kingdom’s sports activities align with Vision 2030. 

The MoU also provides scope for NEOM to assist the SAOC in realizing its objectives while pushing ahead with the development of sporting infrastructure, including the Concept Lab, NEOM’s sports tech and innovation hub. 

“This partnership is a natural extension of our existing strategy to make NEOM a future international sports destination capable of generating innovative investment opportunities and engendering a greater understanding of active lifestyles in the Kingdom,” Al-Nasr said. 

“This agreement further emphasizes the shared ambitions between our two organizations, which will put NEOM on the global map as a modern hub for global sports.”


Greenpeace apologizes, local police slam Euro 2020 protester

Greenpeace apologizes, local police slam Euro 2020 protester
Updated 16 June 2021

Greenpeace apologizes, local police slam Euro 2020 protester

Greenpeace apologizes, local police slam Euro 2020 protester
  • German Chancellor’s spokesman slammed Greenpeace stunt and said those behind it should reflect on what had happened
  • Greenpeace spokesperson apologized for the botched protest and the injuries caused

MUNICH: Greenpeace has apologized and Munich police are investigating after a protester parachuted into the stadium and injured two people before Germany’s game against France at the European Championship.
The protester used a powered paraglider with a motor attached to his back but lost control and hit overhead camera wires attached to the stadium roof, careening over spectators’ heads before he landed on the field ahead of Tuesday’s game. Debris fell on the field and main grandstand, narrowly missing France coach Didier Deschamps.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman on Wednesday slammed the Greenpeace stunt and said those behind it should reflect on what had happened.
“This was an irresponsible action that put people in great danger,” Steffen Seibert said, adding that it was a relief nothing more serious had happened.
Greenpeace spokesperson Benjamin Stephan apologized for the botched protest and the injuries caused.
“The paraglider didn’t want to go into the stadium yesterday. The pilot wanted to fly over the stadium while maintaining the necessary safety distance and only let a balloon float into the stadium with a message to Volkswagen, a main sponsor, with the demand that they get out of the production of climate-damaging diesel and gasoline engines quicker,” Stephan said.
“And there was a technical problem during the flight over — the hand throttle of the electric para motor failed, and because there was no more thrust, the glider suddenly lost height.”
Stephan said the pilot had no option but to make an emergency landing on the field after striking the steel cables attached to the stadium’s roof.
“We are in the process of clarifying this and are working with everyone and of course we take responsibility and would like to emphasize again that we’re very sorry, and that we apologize to the two people who were harmed,” Stephan said.
Bavaria interior minister Joachim Herrmann said snipers had the pilot in their sights.
“Because of the Greenpeace logo, it was decided not to have the snipers intervene,” Herrmann told the Bild tabloid. “If the police had come to another conclusion, that it was a terrorist attack, then the pilot might have had to pay for the action with his life.”
Seibert called on the organizers to “critically reflect on the purpose of such actions, which are about maximum spectacle for maximum PR-effect. This leads to such situations which potentially endanger the public.”
Local police had earlier blasted “such irresponsible actions in which a considerable risk to human life is accepted.”
Police spokesman Andreas Franken said the two men who were hurt both sustained light head injuries and have since been discharged from the hospital. They had been working at the game.
The 38-year-old pilot, who has an address in the southwestern state of Baden Württemberg, was unharmed. He was released late Tuesday but remains under investigation for a string of charges, including interfering with air traffic and bodily harm, as well as breaching the peace, Franken said.
Franken said security measures will be toughened for Saturday’s match between Germany and Portugal, but declined to give further details.
“Of course this will lead to us looking at our measures again and if necessary adapting them,” Franken said. “This must disturb and alarm us, and lead to us reviewing our concept.”
The protester’s parachute had the slogan “KICK OUT OIL!” and “Greenpeace” written on it.
The parachutist managed to land on the field and Germany players Antonio Rüdiger and Robin Gosens were the first to approach him. He was then led away by security stewards.
UEFA called the action “reckless and dangerous” and said “law authorities will take the necessary action.”
The German soccer federation also condemned the action.
“It could probably have turned out much worse,” Germany team spokesman Jens Grittner said.
UEFA and one of its top-tier tournament sponsors, Russian state energy firm Gazprom, have previously been targeted by Greenpeace protests.
In 2013, a Champions League game in Basel was disrupted when Greenpeace activists abseiled from the roof of the stadium to unfurl a banner protesting Russian oil and Gazprom, which sponsored the visiting team, German club Schalke.
Greenpeace later donated money to a charity supported by Basel, which was fined by UEFA for the security lapse.
UEFA defended its environmental credentials in a statement on Tuesday after the incident.
“UEFA and its partners are fully committed to a sustainable Euro 2020 tournament,” UEFA said, “and many initiatives have been implemented to offset carbon emissions.”


Russia player Fernandes hospitalized after fall at Euro 2020

Russia player Fernandes hospitalized after fall at Euro 2020
Updated 16 June 2021

Russia player Fernandes hospitalized after fall at Euro 2020

Russia player Fernandes hospitalized after fall at Euro 2020
  • Brazilian-born right back Mario Fernandes was carried off on a stretcher in the 26th minute
  • Russian team said Fernandes is suspected of having damaged part of his upper spine

ST. PETERSBURG: Russia defender Mario Fernandes was taken to the hospital with a suspected spinal injury after landing on his back in a fall Wednesday during a European Championship game against Finland.
The Brazilian-born right back was carried off on a stretcher in the 26th minute after a lengthy period of treatment on the field. He had jumped for a header and was unable to break his fall as he landed on his back. He was wearing a yellow support device on his head and neck as he was carried off the field.
The Russian team said Fernandes is suspected of having damaged part of his upper spine and was taken to the hospital for an examination.
The injury could add to personnel problems for Russia.
Veteran left back Yuri Zhirkov has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament after injuring his thigh in the opening 3-0 loss to Belgium on Saturday. Defender Fyodor Kudryashov has yet to play after he was injured in a pre-tournament friendly. Winger Andrey Mostovoy was replaced in the squad last week after testing positive for the coronavirus.