Arsenal v Liverpool: we’re spolit for choice for this fixture. We’ve opted for one Arsenal’s all time greatest matches – the 1971 FA Cup final. Enjoy!
Date: Saturday 8 May 1971
Competition: FA Cup final
Location: Wembley Stadium
Referee: Norman Burtenshaw (Great Yarmouth)
Liverpool 1 Arsenal 2
Heighway 92 mins Kelly 101, George 111
Having won the League at White Hart Lane earlier in the week, Arsenal were looking to emulate their North London neighbours and complete the double. However, this would not be an easy task against the First Division’s tightest defence.
Liverpool had the upper hand in the early minutes as Arsenal conceded a number of free-kicks, and Brian Hall gave their defence a torrid time. But the Gunners slowly took control and created a number of chances that kept Ray Clemence busy. Ray Kennedy had a couple of half chances and the Liverpool custodian was forced to sprint out of his area to deny John Radford.
Charlie George was given the space to hit a thundering shot from 30 yards which, although clearing the crossbar, was a prelude of things to come. The best chance of the half fell to George Armstrong whose header from John Radford’s cross required two attempts by Clemence to stop it.
With neither team wanting to concede the first goal, the early part of the second half was tense, with few chances being created. The introduction of both substitutes just past the hour would, eventually, turn the game.
With twelve minutes remaining, George Graham had two opportunities to win the game. A Radford throw-in fell perfectly for him but his header hit the bar. Tommy Smith cleared the ball for a corner which George Armstrong took. Graham, again, headed towards goal and, this time, was denied by a goal-line clearance from Alec Lindsay.
The game finished goalless at 90 minutes, requiring a further 30 minutes of extra-time to be played in the blistering heat. It took Steve Heighway just two minutes to open the scoring as he received Peter Thompson’s pass, cut inside and placed the ball between Bob Wilson, who was expecting a cross, and the near post.
As they had shown countless times throughout the season, Arsenal’s tenacity refused to wane. Nine minutes later an overhead kick by Radford caused confusion in the Liverpool box, allowing Eddie Kelly to push the ball towards the goal. Graham took a swing at the ball as it passed him and it somehow squeezed under Clemence into the net.
With nine minutes remaining, George and Radford exchanged passes, and the darling of the North Bank hit a screamer from 20 yards that left Clemence clutching at thin air as the ball hit the back of the net.
As Charlie lay prostrate on the Wembley turf his team mates knew that the double was theirs.
Liverpool: R Clemence, C Lawler, A Lindsay, T Smith, L Lloyd, E Hughes, I Callaghan, A Evans (substitute 68 minutes: P Thompson), S Heighway, J Toshack, B Hall.
Arsenal: B Wilson, P Rice, B McNab, P Storey (substitute 63 minutes: E Kelly), F McLintock, P Simpson, G Armstong, G Graham, J Radford, R Kennedy, C George.
For Frank McLintock, in the dressing room after the game, the win had yet to sink in: “I can’t grasp it yet. I’m still too involved in the game. I’m not as pleased as I thought I would be. Mind you it hits you very quickly when you’ve lost. Winning has to sink in.”
Bertie Mee: “We’ve come from behind before. One recaptures experiences of the past and one says ‘Come on, we can do it again.’ It really all happened in the last four or five weeks. We picked up a team momentum just at the right time and nothing went wrong.”
Then Bertie spotted someone in the dressing room who shouldn’t have been there: “I want that gentleman in the maroon suit removed from this dressing room.”
On being presented with the man of the match award, George Graham joked: “They’re fair judges. I can’t disagree, can I? No, don’t put that down, I was joking!”
On the equaliser: “I’m quite happy for Eddie Kelly to take the credit for our equaliser. He did all the work and I might just have got a final touch although I’m not sure.”
A cocky Charlie George: “Of course I didn’t expect Liverpool to play any better. Where are they in the League, eh?”
Bill Shankly: “I’m not interested in talking about Mr Mee. And I’m not interested in talking to you.”
Steve Heighway: “I was more tense than I thought I’d be. It was Friday Night at the London Palladium that did it. Anita Harris said there were some stars in the audience and they all cheered. I realised then it was more than just Liverpool against Arsenal.
Brian Hall: “They had older heads on their side who created more chances, but it will come.”
Frank McLintock took the cup into the Liverpool dressing room and told them: “I really feel for you all. I’ve been through just what you’re experiencing too many times. Thanks for a great game and tell your fans we think they were magnificent in their tribute to us at the end.”
Facts about linked to the match or players:
Eddie Kelly was the first substitute to score in an FA Cup final.
Many early reports gave George Graham was the scorer of Arsenal’s equaliser, before TV pictures showed it was Eddie Kelly who had scored.
Arsenal played a total of 64 competitive games during the double winning season. George Armstrong and Bob Wilson played in all 64 games.
Frank McLintock finally got to taste victory at Wembley, having lost on his four previous visits.
Each Arsenal player earned about £12,000 in bonuses accrued through the season: £5,000 each for winning the League and FA Cup and about £2,000 in win bonuses.
For their previous FA Cup win in 1950 Arsenal were drawn at home in every round. This time they were drawn away in every round.
One of the deciding factors of the game is thought to be that Arsenal wore short sleeved shirts, keeping the players that little bit cooler in the May sunshine.
The Arsenal team recorded “Good Old Arsenal” for the FA Cup final. The lyrics were written by Jimmy Hill, and the song peaked at number 16 in the UK singles chart. This made Arsenal the first club side to have a hit single.
Facts relating to the season:
In November, Arsenal carried out tests on all of their players to see if any of them were colour blind. Thankfully none were.
In April, The London Borough of Islington conferred upon the club the honorary freedom of the borough for “their consistently high standards of sportsmanship and ability” which had “rendered eminent service to the Borough”
In another “double” Bertie Mee was voted Manger of the Year and Frank McLintock picked up the Football Writers’ Player of the Year award.
Background to the article
This season we’ve been asked to write a regular page in the official Arsenal programme based on a classic match featuring the opponents for each game we play in. Programme editor Andy Exley has kindly given us permission to reproduce the match reports on our blog. We will also be including additional material that didn’t make the final edit of the programme. If you can’t get to The Emirates, the programme is available on iPad, iPod and android for a bargain 79 pence per issue.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog (top right). You know it makes sense.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal – crowd behaviour at the early matches