FeatureClassic goal: 'It was magical' - when Neil Mellor stunned Arsenal

Published 28th November 2022
By Joe Urquhart

It was a swing of the right boot that sent Anfield into delirium on this day in 2004.

Deep into added time with the score stuck level at 1-1 between Liverpool and Arsenal, goalkeeper Chris Kirkland lifted a kick forward in a last-ditch attempt to find a winner more in hope than expectation.

Gunners defender Sol Campbell thrust his head at the ball as it raced towards his own box, believing the danger to have been averted.

But by the time he had turned around, the ball was settling firmly into the back of the net and Liverpool supporters were leaping up and down in delight.

Neil Mellor – an Academy product making only his second Premier League start – allowed the loose ball to bounce in front of him, shaping his body to unleash a venomous drive at goal from 30 yards.

The effort left his foot in laser-like fashion with only one place in mind, evading the despairing dive of Jens Lehmann and flying into the bottom corner of Arsenal's net.

WATCH: Mellor's iconic goal v Arsenal

It was a goal worthy of winning any football match and a moment etched into Kop folklore, Mellor darting away arms aloft before being mobbed by anyone within reach.

The striker had endured two injury-hit seasons since stepping into the senior ranks, but it was a day and a moment that saw him truly announce himself to the Liverpool faithful.

"It was magical for me – the best part of it all was to share it with the Kop," Mellor told Liverpoolfc.com.

"You want to score that winning moment. As a young player at the Academy, I was always thinking that I want to score a winning goal, but to do it at the Kop end in the last minute against a top side – that made it even more special.

"It was big, it showed we could beat the best. It's not often Liverpool are underdogs at Anfield but we were at that time for one reason or another.

"I think it gave everyone belief for the rest of that season. I look back and I think it was nice to have that moment. Yes, of course, I'd have loved to have had a lot more moments and played a lot more games and won a lot more trophies, but it was a special moment that I got to share with the Kop."

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Arsenal arrived on Merseyside as favourites despite a recent indifferent run, with Rafael Benitez's side struck by injuries up front, leaving inexperienced duo Mellor and Florent Sinama-Pongolle to lead the attack.

Arsene Wenger's outfit, though, fell behind in the 41st minute with Xabi Alonso dispatching a pinpoint shot into the back of the net after a trademark Steven Gerrard pass that split open the defence.

The visitors then hauled themselves back on terms after the half-time interval, Patrick Vieira cleverly dinking an equaliser over the onrushing Kirkland.

It was a contest that ebbed and flowed with no winner looking likely, until Mellor's stoppage-time effort saw the home team take the spoils in one stunning moment.

The match-winner added: "It was a huge result to beat the then 'Invincibles' – they were one of the best teams around, they hadn't been beaten many times at that stage.

"What is nice is that fans still come up to me now, even though it's 18 years ago, and they tell me where they were and how they remember that goal. Fans that were at the stadium, fans who were watching it in pubs around the world. It's nice to have that moment that fans do remember.

"For many players, they play a lot of games for the club, but to have one specific moment is quite nice. That's why it's unique in that sense – even today fans come up to me still and it's nice to hear those stories."

Published 28th November 2022