Last gasp Thomas breaks Liverpool hearts

Last gasp Thomas breaks Liverpool hearts26 May 1989

When Michael Thomas signed for Liverpool in December 1991 it was safe to say that the irony was not lost on the Anfield faithful.

After all, two-and-a-half years earlier he had broken the hearts of Kopites worldwide when he struck a last-gasp goal at Anfield to secure a 2-0 win for Arsenal and deprive Liverpool of the League Championship on goals scored.

It was a match that was, for once, quite rightly billed as the title decider with Kenny Dalglish's FA Cup winning heroes looking to secure their second league and cup double at the expense of George Graham's Gunners in what was the final game of the season.

It had been a long and difficult campaign for Liverpool, who had overcome the inconsistencies of the first part of the season to mount a late, late title bid that had also been interrupted by an FA Cup run that was marred by the tragic events at Hillsborough.

In spite of the difficulties, the Reds went on to win the cup in honour of their lost supporters and were now favourites to land an 18th title at home to second placed and long time league leaders, Arsenal.

The Gunners knew they had to come to Anfield and win, a tough task in itself, but not only did they need the three points, they also had to win by two clear goals.

Few outside North London gave them much hope against an in-form Reds outfit, but the scenario could well have worked in the visitors' favour as Liverpool went into the clash knowing they did not have to win to emerge as champions.

Throughout the history of football it has so often been the case that teams needing to triumph have a greater appetite for goals and while Kenny Dalglish's side will not have consciously gone into the encounter looking to settle for a draw, it may well have been a different story had they needed to pick up the three points.

As it was the game got underway on an even keel with both sides showing signs of nerves in the early exchanges.

The first goal was always going to prove crucial and unfortunately for the hosts it was the Gunners who broke the deadlock just after the interval.

A devilish free-kick was driven into the Reds' box allowing Alan Smith to ghost in and flick a feint header into the Anfield Road end net to silence three quarters of Anfield.

It was a huge moment and one that wasn't without its controversy.

The Liverpool players protested, claiming the indirect free-kick had gone straight in and Smith had failed to get a touch, but after much deliberation the referee gave the goal.

A glance at the scoreboard showed Arsenal a goal to the good and it was now very much game on.

The title was now in the balance and Liverpool were suddenly shocked into life -although in truth they rarely troubled the Arsenal rearguard.

As the clock ticked down the Reds edged closer and closer to the title with many later recalling the image of a drained Steve McMahon telling his teammates they had one more minute to hang on.

Unfortunately it would be in that final minute in which the league title would sensationally be snatched away from Merseyside.

The Gunners knew they had one last throw of the dice and in their final attack they got a huge slice of luck when Steve Nicol's attempted clearance cannoned back into the path of Michael Thomas, who raced clear to fire in Arsenal's all-important second and leave Liverpool's shell-shocked players lying forlorn on the Anfield turf.

As the Arsenal players celebrated a miraculous victory McMahon tried to sum up his emotions after seeing the title snatched away from his grasp.

"It hurts me," he said. "It hurts me. It hurts me so much. It was just unreal. It just flashed before you, the goal. It was like 'Nah, is this really happening?"