Liverpool and Arsenal have played out some of English football’s most thrilling fixtures. Yousef Teclab looks back at one particular goal-fest…
Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal (Premier League, 2008-09)
Liverpool vs. Arsenal is a fixture that has several memorable moments – from the 1989 title decider to the 2001 FA Cup Final. But many remember the madness that occurred in April 2009. Liverpool were tied at the top of the table with Manchester United before kick-off, but Liverpool had played an extra game, so three points were crucial. Arsenal were still in the hunt for a Champions League spot.
The first 30 minutes largely consisted of Liverpool being frustrated by the heroics of Lukasz Fabianski, as the Polish goalkeeper denied Fernando Torres on three separate occasions. The Gunners soaked up the pressure and struck on 36 minutes. Liverpool were caught in possession, leading to Samir Nasri to play in Cesc Fabregas on the right and have his low cross finished off by Andrey Arshavin via the underside of the bar. Anfield was a place of frustration at seeing Liverpool a goal down at half time despite their efforts.
Yet Liverpool started the second half in blistering fashion by equalising on 49 minutes, as Torres converted Dirk Kuyt’s inviting cross past Fabianski. An emboldened Liverpool needed just seven minutes to take the lead and it came about when Arsenal gave away possession in their own half. Kuyt was the provider once more, as his cross was bravely headed towards goal by Yossi Benayoun. His effort just crossed the line despite Fabianski’s best efforts.
Liverpool felt confident to try and press their advantage but Arshavin struck again. The Russian playmaker nicked the ball ahead of Alvaro Arbeloa and sensationally beat goalkeeper Jose Reina from 20 yards. Arshavin needed two minutes to complete his hat-trick and put the Gunners in the lead. Nasri crossed the ball from the left, which led to Fabio Aurelio slicing his clearance towards Arshavin, his low shot from 12 yards squirming under Reina and into the back of the net.
However, just as it took Arsenal two minutes to regain the lead, it would take two minutes for them to lose it. With his back to goal, Torres expertly controlled Albert Riera’s cross, turning and unleashing a shot Fabianski couldn’t keep out. Pressed on by their fans, Liverpool tried to find a winner, but as the clock teetered towards the 90th minute, Arsenal struck once more.
A Liverpool corner was cleared towards Theo Walcott, as the substitute blistered forward on the counter-attack. When Walcott entered Liverpool’s half, he played the ball to a free Arshavin on the left. The Russian controlled the pass, drove forward and lashed the ball beyond Reina. Arsenal fans still remember him raising four fingers in celebration in light of his four goals.
Somehow, there would be a final twist in the story. As the game entered the 92nd minute, a lofted ball into Arsenal’s box caused havoc, with the ball falling to Benayoun and his scuffed shot beating a dejected Fabianski. The final whistle soon blew, with both sets of players and fans trying to take into account what had just occurred. A draw may not have suited Liverpool or Arsenal but football would be the winner that night.