TOP 5… GOALS FIT TO WIN ANY FOOTBALL MATCH (THAT DIDN’T)

Whether it’s a consolation goal or an equaliser, ultimately a goal that doesn’t result in a win is somehow less satisfying than one that does. Would we still hold El Diego’s ‘Goal of the Century’ in such reverence if it had levelled proceedings rather than finished them? Would Beckham’s halfway line megachip have been quite so awesome if it’d been a late peg-back? Perhaps not, but surely a great goal in a non-winning effort should also be celebrated, hence this blog. Here are my Top 5 goals that were not scored by a winning side (NOTE: if a team wins on penalties, the game is officially a draw. Rules pedantry, GO!)

1. Mauro Bressan vs. Barcelona, Champions League Group Stage, 1999 (Final score 3-3)

Not the most obvious choice, but for that reason alone it stands out as one of the best. Fiorentina went into the final group game knowing that a point would be enough to see them qualify for the next round at Arsenal’s expense, but that already-qualified Barcelona would hardly be a pushover. The deadlock was broken 14 minutes in when a headed clearance found its way to relatively-unknown midfielder Mauro Bressan, who unleashed a 25-yard overhead kick that looped over Ruud Hesp and touched the crossbar on its way into the net. The game (a real rip-roarer) finished 3-3 at full-time but Bressan’s goal was voted the goal of the competition.

2. Graeme Le Saux vs. Brazil, Umbro Cup Final, 1995 (Final score 1-3)
The Umbro Cup was advertised as ‘seeing England back in full competition at last’ after failure to qualify for USA 94 and their status as host nation of Euro 96 meant they hadn’t played a competitive fixture since 1993. Having seen off Japan 2-1 and eeked out a memorable 3-3 draw with Sweden, England qualified for the final match against favourites (and World Champions) Brazil and took the lead through the unlikely left boot of Graeme Le Saux. A headed clearance found Le Saux some 30 yards out, he proceeded to cushion the ball on his chest and open up with a superb left-foot volley that brought Wembley to its feet. England would lose 3-1 to a classy Brazilian side, but Le Saux’s goal lives long in the memory.

3. Michael Owen vs. Argentina, World Cup Second Round, 1998 (Final score 2-2)
“Is there nothing beyond this eighteen-year-old?” asked Jon Champion, having just watched the fledgling talent of Michael Owen decimate the Argentinian defence. After England had exchanged early penalties with the Argentinians, the young lad from Chester stepped forward into the limelight. He picked up the ball in the centre circle and proceeded to beat both Ayala and Chamot before out-pacing his team-mate Paul Scholes to stroke the ball through the warm Saint-Etienne air, beyond the onrushing Carlos Roa and into the corner of the net to put his country 2-1 up. England would ultimately finish on level terms following a brilliantly worked Argentina free-kick, David Beckham’s unceremonious dismissal and Sol Campbell’s disallowed ‘winner’, before being dumped out on penalties. Again.

4. Steven Gerrard vs. West Ham, FA Cup Final, 2006 (Final score 3-3)
The goal that broke my heart. With 90 minutes played and West Ham 3-2 up through a Carragher own-goal, a Dean Ashton bundled effort and, having been pegged back to 2-2, a Paul Konchesky wonder-strike (that’s what it was and I’m having it), all West Ham had to do was keep the ball. Instead, Lionel Scaloni decided to punt it up the field and it was duly returned by John Arne Riise. Gabbidon headed it clear and Steven Gerrard, down on the floor moments earlier with cramp, stepped forward to unleash a flukey shinner (yes okay, it was an absolute beauty) into the bottom corner of Shaka Hislop’s net from almost 40 yards. West Ham battered Liverpool in extra time with no luck, and the Scousers won on penalties.

5. Fabio Quagliarella vs. Slovakia, World Cup Group Stage, 2010 (Final score 2-3)
Defending champions Italy found themselves in something of a pickle going into their final game of the 2010 World Cup groups. Paraguay and New Zealand were deadlocked in the other game and, having only managed draws against those sides, the Italians knew that only a win over lowly Slovakia would be good enough to put them through, while their opponents were also chasing the win they needed to qualify at Italy’s expense. Two goals from Vittek had put the Slovaks into dreamland but Antonio Di Natale gave the Italians hope. Their dreams were dashed completely however when substitute Fabio Quagliarella had a goal chalked off for a very, very close offside, only for Slovakia to go up the other end and score through Kamil Kopunek. The Italians knew the game was up, and so when Quagliarella received the ball 25 yards outside the Slovakian goal and caressed the most delicate and accurate chip imaginable beyond Jan Mucha and into the net, he realised that it was all for nothing. The Italians crashed out, and Slovakia were duly despatched by eventual runners-up The Netherlands.

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