Liverpool vs. Arsenal: A history of drama

Gerry Dobson and Craig Forrest preview the weekend’s action in the Barclays Premier League, including the marquee tilt between Liverpool and Arsenal.

Sparks tend to fly whenever Liverpool plays Arsenal, especially at Anfield.

The Reds host the table-topping Gunners this weekend in a key game for both sides in the Barclays Premier League title race.

Ahead of Saturday’s affair, Sportsnet looks back at five memorable clashes from the past between these two English heavyweights.

Arsenal complete “the Double”

Teams have “done the double” only six times during the Premier League era. Before that, it only happened four times—twice in the late 1800s.

Ten years after North London rivals Tottenham turned the trick, Arsenal pulled it off during the 1970-71 season. The Gunners secured the old First Division title at White Hart Lane, home of Spurs, and then completed the double in the same week with a thrilling win over Liverpool in the FA Cup final at the old Wembley Stadium

On a gloriously, sunny day in London, Steve Heighway put Bill Shankley’s Liverpool squad in the lead after only two minutes into extra time. It looked as though the Gunners were on the ropes, but Eddie Kelly levelled things 10 minutes later before Charlie George smashed in the winner from 20 yards out in the 111th minute.

Baptista burns the Reds

Julio Baptista is nicknamed “the Beast,” and not because of his winning personality.

The former Arsenal striker, now at Cruzeiro, stands six-feet-one, weighs 160 pounds and is built like a linebacker, so it’s no surprise that he is renowned for his size and strength. But he can score the odd goal, too.

Liverpool found that out to their peril in the 2007 League Cup quarter-finals when the burly Brazilian put four goals past the Reds at Anfield in a 6-3 win.

Saturday programming alert: Watch Liverpool vs. Arsenal (on Sportsnet 360, 7:30 am ET), Chelsea vs. Newcastle United (on Sportsnet 360, 9:30 am ET), Southampton vs. Stoke City (on Sportsnet World, 9:30 am ET) and Swansea City vs. Cardiff City (Sportsnet 360, noon ET). Also, watch Crystal Palace vs. West Bromwich Albion at 9:30 am ET exclusively on Sportsnet World Online | TV schedule

Fabulous Fowler

In one of the single-greatest performances in the history of this rivalry, Robbie Fowler recorded a hat-trick in just four minutes and 33 seconds—a Premier League record that still stands today—in a 3-0 win during the 1994-95 Premier League campaign.

Arshavin’s brilliance not enough

Remember when Andrei Arshavin was good? There was a time when he was, you know. No, really!

The Russian put on a masterful performance for the Gunners on Apr. 21, 2009, scoring all of Arsenal’s goals in a wildly entertaining 4-4 draw. No visiting player had scored four goals in a single game at Anfield since Wolverhampton’s Dennis Westcott in 1946.

Too bad it was all downhill for Arshavin at Arsenal after that.

Thomas to the rescue

Long before Sergio Aguero clinched Manchester City the league title in the dying minutes of the 2011-12 season, Michael Thomas did the same for Arsenal, but in even more dramatic circumstances on May 26, 1989.

The game was originally slated to take place in April, but was pushed back a month in the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy. Liverpool topped the table with a three point-lead over Arsenal going into the final game of the season as the Gunners visited Arsenal. A 1-0 win by the Gunners would not have been enough—they needed to win by two clear goals in order to secure the tile via the goals scored tiebreaker.

What’s more, Liverpool had not lost by two or more goals at Anfield in three years, and Arsenal had not won away to Liverpool in fifteen years. Liverpool was the overwhelming favourite, so much so that the Daily Mirror newspaper ran the headline “You Haven’t Got A Prayer, Arsenal” in the buildup to the game.

After a dour first half, Alan Smith scored a header off a free kick in the 52nd minute to give Arsenal hope. But as time ticked away, it looked as though Liverpool would hold on. In the second minute of injury time, the Reds’ John Barnes was stripped of the ball in Arsenal’s 18-yard box, and goalkeeper John Lukic quickly fed the ball to right fullback Lee Dixon who punted a long ball forward.

Dixon’s pass was flicked on by Alan Smith and found Michael Thomas, who made a surging run forward and fended off Liverpool’s Steve Nicol before slotting the ball past advancing Reds goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar.

Liverpool scrambled to net the equalizer in the little injury time remaining, but Thomas made a key interception inside his penalty area to snuff out the danger. Moments later the whistle blew and Arsenal were crowned champions.