Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle: Remembering the 1996 Premier League classic
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 04/04/16 3:25pm
Twenty years on, we reflect on Liverpool's legendary 4-3 win over Newcastle - a game widely regarded as the greatest in Premier League history…
Two decades have passed but the memories of Newcastle's trip to Anfield in 1996 still burn brightly. Kevin Keegan's faltering 'Entertainers' were in urgent need of victory having seen a 12-point lead over Manchester United replaced by a three-point deficit, while third-placed Liverpool harboured title ambitions of their own.
The encounter featured a plethora of attacking talent and had all the ingredients to be a classic, but it still managed to exceed just about everyone's expectations. "We were third and Newcastle were second and we were going to try to keep things tight and try to nick a win," reflected former Liverpool striker Stan Collymore. "Game plans went out the window pretty early on, though."
Collymore would become Liverpool's hero by dispatching the winning goal in second-half stoppage time in front of a delirious Kop, but his first major involvement came just two minutes in when he set up Robbie Fowler's opener with a looping cross from the left flank.
The far-post header was the 19-year-old's 27th goal of the campaign, and it set the tone for the pulsating drama that followed. Within 12 minutes, Newcastle had turned the game on its head. Les Ferdinand equalised with a sharp finish from Faustino Asprilla's cut-back, and David Ginola struck their second after springing Liverpool's offside trap.
The momentum swung back in the home side's favour when Fowler rifled home his second from a Steve McManaman pass 10 minutes after the break, but Newcastle mustered another immediate response as Asprilla latched onto Rob Lee's through ball and finished beyond advancing Liverpool goalkeeper David James two minutes later.
Newcastle continued pouring forward despite the 3-2 lead, and they were punished when an attack broke down on the halfway line in the 68th minute. Liverpool worked the ball to Jason McAteer on the right-hand side, and the Irishman's teasing cross was met with impeccable timing by Collymore to level the scores once again.
The Sky Sports cameras panned to dejected Newcastle supporters in the away end, but things were about to get a whole lot worse. With the clock ticking down and both sides still searching for a winning goal, John Barnes and Ian Rush combined for the former to tee up the onrushing Collymore on the left-hand side of the Newcastle box.
"All I can remember thinking was: 'Hit the target'," said Collymore. "I wanted to hit it across Pavel Srnicek, which is what you're supposed to do, but I hit it so hard that it beat him at his near post. I didn't know what to feel after. It was fantastic. I ran over to the Kop and was thinking: 'What have I done?'"
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Jamie Redknapp was among the Liverpool players who sprinted over to celebrate with Collymore. "Incredible game," said the Sky Sports pundit. "Newcastle took the lead, we came back, Newcastle took the lead, we came back… It had everything, and in that last minute, I think it was Barnes to Rush, to Barnes, to Rush, to Collymore."
In the Newcastle dugout, Keegan's despair was famously captured on camera. "When I look back now, just seeing Kevin Keegan sprawled across the advertising hoardings, I think he was a beaten man after that," added Redknapp.
The Newcastle manager rejected criticism of their gung-ho playing style after the game, but Liverpool boss Roy Evans was rather more pragmatic. "That was kamikaze football," he said. "Great for the fans but realistically nobody will win the championship defending every week like these teams did tonight."
Evans, of course, was right. Newcastle and Liverpool failed to overhaul United in the final weeks of the season, and Sir Alex Ferguson's men clinched their third Premier League title with a four-point cushion.
Ginola described the defeat as "the turning point" for Newcastle in a campaign that had promised so much. "We were an entertaining team," he said, "but we then realised we could lose games." Never again have they come so close to winning a Premier League title, and the wait continues for Liverpool too.
Watch Jamie Carragher and Jamie Redknapp join Ed Chamberlin to dissect Liverpool's 4-3 win over Newcastle on a Monday Night Football special at 6.30pm and 10.30pm on Sky Sports 1 HD.