The final league match of the season could not have had a better script. Arsenal travelled to highly-favoured Liverpool in the last game of the season, 3 points (and a 4 goal difference) behind the Reds. Arsenal had been struggling in the second half of the season, while the Anfield outfit had been scrambling up the table to take first place heading into the last game. Only a victory by 2+ goals could hand Arsenal the trophy; equal on points and goal difference, Arsenal would win on goals scored in the event of a victory by two.
Key striker Alan Smith scored on 54′, but it looked like it was not to be enough as the 90th minute came with a score of Arsenal up 1-0.
However, with 2 minutes of stoppage time (and a minute of it elapsed) one of sports most memorable endings occurred.
Liverpool’s John Barnes opted not to hold the ball up at the corner, and was instead stripped of possession by Arsenal fullback Kevin Richardson. Richardson passed the ball back to goalkeeper John Lukic. Lukic rolled the ball to Lee Dixon. “Arsenal come streaming forward now in surely what will be their last attack” broadcast commentator Brian Moore of ITV. Dixon sent the ball long. “A good ball by Dixon, finding Smith” … “for Thomas, charging through the midfield!” Michael Thomas broke free, past the last defender to the dramatic cry of “Thomas! It’s up for grabs now!!“.
The rest is history. Michael Thomas scored an improbable and sensational second goal, and Arsenal won the league that evening to the dismay of the majority home support and the sheer ecstacy of the travelling Arsenal faithful.
Few competitions without a “playoff” structure could have such an unlikely and downright epic ending. The Hollywood-esque script became exactly that, with the plot of the Arsenal-fan-favorite film “Fever Pitch” surrounding the 1988-89 season.
Notable era players: David O’Leary, David “Rocky” Rocastle, Tony Adams (C).
Manager: George Graham.