Back in 2009, Arsenal and Liverpool constituted half of the “Big Four” as it was known then. When they clashed at Anfield in April, Liverpool were fighting for the title and absolutely needed to win the game to stay in the title race.
Liverpool v Arsenal – The Game
The opening exchanges of the game were mostly Liverpool’s but Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski was in inspired form, frustrating the hosts early. In fact, it was actually Arsenal who would strike the first blow.
After 36 minutes, Russian star Andriy Arshavin gave the Gunners the lead from inside the area, as Cesc Fabregas cut the ball back to him from the byline. His effort cannoned in off the crossbar and he ran away with his finger on his lips, shushing the Kop.
It took until the 49th minute for Liverpool to draw the game level and, when they did, the goal came from the usual source – Fernando Torres. Dirk Kuyt got down the wing and stood a nice ball up, Torres rose highest and headed the ball down into the corner in expert fashion to make it 1-1.
Just seven minutes later, Liverpool took the lead. Again, the move came from Kuyt down the right-wing – this time, his cross was a more teasing one to Yossi Benayoun at the back stick.
The winger just about managed to get something on it and turn it in despite being sandwiched between two defenders. Fabianski managed to push the ball away but the linesman deemed the ball to have crossed the line and referee Howard Webb signaled for the goal. 2-1.
The lead was short lived though as 11 minutes later, Arshavin popped up again to continue a frantic second half. He stole the ball from Alvaro Arbeloa on the Arsenal left, drove infield and unleashed a pile driver into the far corner to grab his second goal and level the scores once more.
Then, just three minutes later, Arshavin made his brace a hat-trick. He worked the ball wide to Samir Nasri, the Frenchman then crossed the ball to the back post where Nicklas Bendtner was arriving, but he couldn’t reach it.
The ball fell to left-back Fabio Aurelio but he totally scuffed the clearance right into the path of Arshavin, 10 yards from goal. He made Liverpool pay for the error and squeezed his effort underneath Pepe Reina to seal his hat-trick!
The Arsenal joy was short-lived though as two minutes later, Fernando Torres pulled Liverpool back on terms again. The ball came to him at the edge of the box with his back to goal, he shifted it to his left, swiveled and hammered it past Fabianski. That made it 3-3, but Liverpool NEEDED to win to stay in the title race.
In the 90th minute, as Liverpool pushed for a winner, a young Theo Walcott picked up the ball in his own half, looked up and saw acres of open space to run into. He took off at pace, with a tired Benayoun in chase and Xabi Alonso the last defender – obviously a mismatch.
He ran the ball deep into the Liverpool half, looked up and who did he see? Andriy Arhshavin, in all sorts of space screaming for the ball. Walcott obliged, played him in and the Russian nabbed his fourth goal of the game, seemingly giving Arsenal all three points and killing off Liverpool’s title hopes.
That wasn’t quite the case though as, just a few minutes later, Yossi Benayoun popped up to give Liverpool another glimmer of hope. Alonso lifted the ball to the back stick, Javier Mascherano nodded it back across and the ball fell to Benayoun who finished with aplomb.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, they didn’t have enough time to get another and the game ended 4-4. What a game. Watch the highlights of it below.
What happened in the league?
The draw put Liverpool back on top of the Premier League table via goal difference over their rivals Manchester United. The problem was, United had two games in hand – that’s why Liverpool needed to win so desperately.
Unfortunately for them, United would make full use of their slip up and they went on to win the Premier League title by four points. United finished on 90 points, with 28 wins while Livepool finished on 86, with 25 wins.
This, for me, is the year Liverpool absolutely should have won the Premier League title. Their team was fantastic, it had everything you could possibly need – but games like this one, wherein they just couldn’t get the job done, would ultimately cost them.
Still, it provided one of the greatest games in the history of the Premier League. For me, only the Liverpool v Newcastle famous 4-3 match beats this one in the list of the Premier League’s greatest games.