To celebrate 25 years of the Premier League each week in Football Fancast we’re going to be looking back at a memorable game that took place on the corresponding date. This time out we revisit a rain-soaked Anfield and a thrilling climax that beckoned a fairy-tale.
There are certain pivotal moments to every season that only reveal their true importance in hindsight. At the time they are significant enough to raise a nation’s eyebrows and start a thousand conversations but they soon peter out, replaced by debates centring on the next game, the next drama. It is only when we look back, at the big missed chance or costly injury, that we see it for what it really is: a crossroads, and with fate taking us down one path. History as we know it is made.
Between approximately 9.40pm and 9.47pm on a very wet Wednesday evening of January 13th 2016 seven minutes ultimately led to the most amazing fairy tale that English football could ever possibly conceive. At 9.39pm Arsenal were 3-2 up at Anfield courtesy of a sleek second goal of the night for Olivier Giroud that capped off a blistering opening-25 minute spell that heralded two goals apiece and Klopp and Wenger soaked and entertainingly animated on the touchline. In that moment, with Liverpool revving themselves up for a frenetic finish the Gunners had doubled their lead at the top over Leicester to four points. Who knows what might have happened had it stayed that way. Would Arsenal’s belief have been fortified? What the Foxes’ tails have drooped?
Sixty seconds later at a deadlocked White Hart Lane, Robert Huth rose at a corner to grab all three points for the dream chasers and keep Leicester’s farcically daft title aspirations alive and well. Two draws and a defeat over the Christmas period had seen Claudio Ranieri’s men written off. No-one would be making that mistake again.
As frustrating as that was for any Gooner checking their phone in the Anfield away end it still meant the status quo would prevail at the night’s end should things stay as they were and with Leicester scheduled to face Manchester City and Liverpool in the weeks ahead – before travelling down to the Emirates – then a two point lead was by no means a disaster. Plus Spurs had lost. There was always that.
Liverpool however kept pushing for an equaliser. After 83 pulsating minutes that all began with a crazy goal-spree before levelling off to being merely enthralling this was by no means over.
From the home side’s perspective this was becoming a strange season indeed. The arrival of Klopp in October had injected fresh impetus into a campaign that was going nowhere and two impressive away wins in quick succession at Chelsea and City had many Reds believing their German coach could perform instant wonders. But then came dire defeats at Newcastle and Watford and the general thinking was that a summer rebuild couldn’t come soon enough. A week prior to this rainy classic Liverpool had been easily downed by the Hammers.
Still they pushed and probed, with quick, incisive passing and movement and the in-form Benteke prowling. In the 91st minute Joe Allen met a speculative cross and the ball skidded off his boot past a stranded Petr Cech. It all-but-kissed the post on its way in.
Cue uproar and a berserk Kop while Klopp fist-pumped and gurned, the ferocious rain making him appear positively unhinged. That four-point lead from seven minutes earlier was now nothing but goal difference.
Looking back at this typically manic fixture (typical because the four games that followed it to the present day consist of a 4-3, 3-1, 4-0, and 3-3) two aspects stand out besides the dramatic turn-around that righted Leicester’s charge to a fairy-tale. The first concerns Arsenal’s two-goal hero on the night Giroud whose celebration of Arsenal’s third denoted a man who had showed his critics a thing or two. The BBC suggested post-game that perhaps he was not on borrowed time after all. Perhaps he still had a apart to play. Two years on and those same discussions are still taking place.
The same can most definitely be said of Simon Mignolet who was arguably at fault for two here, compounding his reputation for unwelcome thrills and spills. “An accident waiting to happen,” was the blunt assessment of the Beeb and surely he was a cert to depart in Klopp’s summer rebuild?
That’s the thing with hindsight: it’s not only the pivotal moments that come to light but the lessons not learned.
What happened next?
Arsenal beat Leicester in contentious fashion at the Emirates but still drifted away from the title reckoning, eventually trailing by ten points.
Liverpool limped home in eighth spot but reached the Europa League final. Unlike Manchester United a year later however they weren’t able to secure Champions League qualification and gloss over a disappointing campaign. They lost 3-1 to Sevilla.
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