Results: Everton 0-1 Blackburn Rovers, Fulham 2-0 Charlton Athletic, Leicester City 1-1 Manchester City, Manchester United 0-1 Liverpool FC, Middlesbrough 1-2 Aston Villa, Southampton 1-2 Bolton Wanderers, Leeds United 1-2 Portsmouth, Birmingham City 2-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers, Newcastle United 2-1 Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Arsenal
This was the weekend in the 2003-2004 season where Arsenal could wrap up the Premier League title. A win at North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur would be enough to secure a third championship in the Premier League era and they were still protecting an unbeaten record when they made the short trip to White Hart Lane.
Both Chelsea and Manchester United went into the weekend still with mathematical chances of denying the Gunners but their chances were slim, given Arsenal’s ‘Invincible’ form so far. For Manchester United, that faint hope completely disappeared at Old Trafford when they were beaten 1-0 at home by Liverpool FC. Danny Murphy’s penalty – the first converted spot-kick in the Premier League at Old Trafford since December 1993 was enough to see Liverpool claim three vital points in their own battle to finish in the top four. It was the third time in four years that Murphy had scored the winning goal at The Theatre of Dreams against The Red Devils.
24 hours later and Chelsea slipped up away at Newcastle United, who were among the challengers for that coveted fourth place spot too. Joe Cole gave the visitors an early lead with his first Premier League goal for the Blues but Shola Ameobi equalised and then, Alan Shearer produced a long-range special that flew into the top corner of Marco Ambrosio’s net. John Terry hit the post in stoppage-time but Claudio Ranieri’s side were beaten 2-1 and now winless in five matches in all competitions. So, Arsenal now only required a point to claim the title.
They were never going to settle for a draw and Patrick Vieira gave the visitors the lead inside the first two minutes from a trademark devastating counter-attacking move. Robert Pires continued his run of scoring against Tottenham to double the lead before half-time before the home side, having experienced a poor season, showed some battling qualities in the second half. Jamie Redknapp pulled a goal back midway through the second half before in injury-time, Jens Lehmann got involved in some unnecessary wrestling with Robbie Keane at a Spurs corner. A penalty was awarded which Keane dispatched to earn Tottenham a point in a 2-2 draw. However, Arsenal were champions and they were keen to let everyone know about it on their neighbours’ home ground. The Gunners were now just four games away from ‘Invincibility.’
At the wrong end of the table, relegation rivals Leicester City and Manchester City shared the points in a 1-1 draw. Andy D’Urso awarded a penalty in the 82nd minute when Michael Tarnat was adjudged to have fouled Muzzy Izzet, despite Izzet having handballed in the build-up. Chaotic scenes emerged as both sets of players squared up to one another and it took several minutes for order to be restored. Eventually, Paul Dickov’s penalty was saved by David James. The result was a damaging one for the Foxes, who remained six points adrift of safety and on the periphery of relegation.
At Elland Road a day later, Portsmouth took a giant stride towards safety with a 2-1 victory away at Leeds United. Pompey strike partners Yakubu and Lomana Lualua both scored to guide Portsmouth to a fifth win in six matches. Like Leicester, Leeds’ situation looked desperate – six points behind Manchester City with just three games left to play. Like Portsmouth, Blackburn virtually guaranteed survival with a third successive win, edging out Everton 1-0 at Goodison Park thanks to another goal from January arrival, Jon Stead.
What else happened in April 2004?
- “The Gherkin” building in the City of London, designed by Norman Foster, opens for the first time.
- Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi is killed after Israeli helicopters fire missiles at a convoy of vehicles in the Gaza Strip.
- Michael Grade is appointed as the new chairman of the BBC. He succeeds Gavyn Davies, who stepped down in the wake of the Hutton Report.
- David Beckham is accused of cheating on his wife Victoria by Dutch glamour model Rebecca Loos. The Beckhams came out in public support of each other, whilst Loos gave an exclusive interview, detailing encounters of their ‘supposed’ romance to Sky One.
- Prime Minister Tony Blair announces that there will be a referendum on the proposed EU Constitution – a change on previous plans.
- After 17 years hosting the Capital FM Breakfast show, Chris Tarrant presents his final show. He is replaced in the hotseat by Johnny Vaughan.