Arsenal and Liverpool FC were among the title challengers to Manchester United in the 1996-1997 Premier League season. They went head-to-head in March 1997 with the loser of the game at Highbury likely to be knocked out of the title race.
Liverpool were already 1-0 ahead through Stan Collymore’s strike when the controversial moment in this game occurred and also, remarkable sportsmanship at the heat of battle. Liverpool defender Mark Wright played a long-ball through for Robbie Fowler. Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman came charging out of his goal and Fowler went over under his challenge. Referee Gerald Ashby gave a penalty.
Amazingly, Fowler tried to challenge the referee’s decision, insisting no contact had been made by Seaman and he simply skipped over the attempted tackle and his momentum saw him fall over. Despite his pleas, Ashby insisted he wasn’t changing his mind. Fowler did take the resultant spot-kick which was saved by Seaman. Unfortunately for the England no.1 goalkeeper, Jason McAteer hammered home the rebound and Liverpool went home with all three points, winning 2-1.
Fowler received a UEFA Fair Play certificate for his sportsmanship approach. In 2017, he told the Liverpool Echo: “It wasn’t a penalty and because he was my mate from the England side, I just said it wasn’t a pen.”