Michael Thomas day: Reliving Arsenal’s win over Liverpool in 1989

Today is Michael Thomas day so while Liverpool are playing in the Champions League final, let’s take a look back at the day Arsenal beat them to the league title – something they haven’t won since.

On 26 May 1989, Arsenal achieved a victory so dramatic, it was almost as if it had been written for a movie.

The Premier League was still the First Division then, and Arsenal and Liverpool were set to battle it out for the title at Anfield.

The Merseyside club has already won the FA Cup that season and were keen to do the Double over their rivals, coached by George Graham at the time.

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 26: Arsenal players from left Kevin Richardson, Steve Bould, Paul Merson and Alan Smith celebrate in the dressing room with the League Division One trophy after Arsenal had beaten Liverpool 2-0 in the final game of the season to pip Liverpool to the title, at Anfield on May 26, 1989 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM – MAY 26: Arsenal players from left Kevin Richardson, Steve Bould, Paul Merson and Alan Smith celebrate in the dressing room with the League Division One trophy after Arsenal had beaten Liverpool 2-0 in the final game of the season to pip Liverpool to the title, at Anfield on May 26, 1989 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images)

It was the closest title-race in the history of the First Division and going into the clash, just three points separated the two teams. Liverpool were top with 76 points while the Gunners were second with 73. Therefore, a win would bring Arsenal level on points.

However, Kenny Dalglish’s side were on +39 goal difference and Arsenal were on +35. This meant that the Gunners had to not only beat Liverpool for the points, they had to win by two goals or more. At Anfield. This would put them level on points AND goal difference, but the north London side were already six goals ahead (71) of Liverpool’s ‘goals for’ score (65).

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 26: Arsenal goalscorer Alan Smith celebrates in the dressing room with the League Division One trophy after Arsenal had beaten Liverpool 2-0 in the final game of the season to pip Liverpool to the title, at Anfield on May 26, 1989 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM – MAY 26: Arsenal goalscorer Alan Smith celebrates in the dressing room with the League Division One trophy after Arsenal had beaten Liverpool 2-0 in the final game of the season to pip Liverpool to the title, at Anfield on May 26, 1989 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images)

Graham talked before the match about his side being incredibly relaxed. He allowed his men to have a mini-break before the game as the media wrote them off completely. Perhaps it was this lack of pressure that produced one of the most impressive results in our history.

The first goal didn’t come until after half-time, despite Steve Bould having a chance cleared by Steve Nicol early on. Ian Rush, who later went off injured with a groin strain, also had a shot from outside the box for Liverpool.

Michael Thomas and David Rocastle

Alan Smith found the back of the net in the 52nd minute and Arsenal began to push forward. They had nothing to lose.

Michael Thomas had a weak shot 22 minutes later, which was saved by Liverpool goalkeeper, Bruce Grobbelaar.

As the game approached its final 10 minutes, Graham decided to bring on Perry Groves and Martin Hayes, changing to a 4-4-2 formation.

The switch allowed Liverpool to break through John Barnes and John Aldridge but nothing came of their or Ray Houghton’s chances.

Michael Thomas grabbing it

As the match ticked into its final minute, with only two minutes of stoppage time added on, it felt certain that Arsenal had lost out on the title. They could go out with their heads held high, but they had ultimately failed despite commanding a massive lead earlier in the season.

That was until the second minute of added time when Arsenal mounted their final attack.

The attack started from the back. Goalkeeper John Lukic passed the ball to Lee Dixon, who delivered a long ball to Smith. The forward flicked on the pass to Thomas.

Thomas then stormed through on goal and slotted the ball home to win Arsenal the match, the title and a place in history.

“Aldridge is down, Barnes is down, Dalglish just stands there.

“Nicol’s on his knees, McMahon’s on his knees.”

Liverpool, who were the reigning Champions at the time and had won the league 11 times in the previous 17 years, have not won a title since.

I still don’t think they’ve forgiven us, and that’s just a shiny big cherry on top.