TYPICAL. The most eventful day in Premier League history brings a record 41 goals and results in one managerial casualty (Roberto di Matteo). And amid all that, there’s only one own goal.
It’s surprising, really, in the modern era, when own goals are 10 a penny. Thanks to the Dubious Goals Panel (I’m assuming it’s the goals that are dubious rather than the panel), any flukey deflection seems to be recorded as an own goal in the Premier League these days.
Ball hits bar and goes in off keeper’s back? Own goal. Shot takes slight touch off defender’s bootlaces? Own goal. OK, it stops greedy strikers claiming goals when they plainly got nowhere near the ball, but it cheapens the currency of the OG.
At the risk of sounding like one of those old farts who insists that everything in the world was better when they were 14, I do remember when it required a bit of effort for a defender to be debited with an own goal. They weren’t given out freely.
Good grief, I can recall Ryan Giggs being credited with the winner in his first Manchester derby, back in May 1991, when the television pictures clearly showed it was a Colin Hendry own goal, and the commentator rightly described it as such.
For years afterwards, biographies of Giggs would include sentences along the lines of: “The young Welsh wonder was so brilliant that he scored the winner in his first Manchester derby against City, aged just 17.” It was as if Giggs had dribbled past five defenders and wellied a shot into the top corner, rather than waft a left foot vaguely in the direction of Brian McClair’s deflected cross before seeing the ball go in off Hendry’s, um, upper thigh.
(A few years ago, Giggs himself acknowledged that there was no way he would have been credited with the goal today. “If I did get a touch, it was hardly a touch, and I don’t know if it was going towards the goal,” he said.)
In an era when Hendry wasn’t debited even when TV evidence showed he should have been, football fans knew that any OG would have to be something special. A proper own goal; Ronnie Whelan half-volleying over Bruce Grobbelaar from 25 yards at Old Trafford, Lee Dixon turning and chipping over David Seaman from even further out against Coventry.
We’ve all got our favourites, but if I had to choose one own goal to be buried with me (a proper own goal, not a slight deflection or an unlucky ricochet), it would be Iain Dowie’s, in a League Cup replay between Stockport and West Ham at Edgeley Park in December 1996.
Stockport, at the time, were in the middle of a crazy season that would see them reach the League Cup semi-finals and win promotion from what is now League One. They had managed to get a draw at Upton Park, but were getting an absolute battering in the replay.
West Ham were deservedly 1-0 up in a downpour, when Mike Flynn hurled a long throw into the area. The ball was flicked around for a few seconds, before falling towards Dowie, eight yards from his own goal. Without hesitating, and seemingly without thinking, he saw the whites of the goalposts and placed a perfect header in the bottom corner of his own net.
His reaction was priceless. It appeared to take a couple of seconds before he realised what he’d done, and then he put his hands to his head. He may even have muttered: “D’oh!”
West Ham, completely thrown by this remarkable act of charity towards the opposition, allowed Brett Angell to head Stockport in front a few minutes later. The Hammers then returned to completely dominating the game, but still lost 2-1. There is no way Stockport would have won that game but for Dowie’s own goal. It was both comical and crucial.
However many more own goals Fulham defender John Pantsil scores this season, he won’t manage an own goal as proper as that.
MOTD’s final match: Aston Villa 2 Fulham 2
Commentator: Alistair Mann
Pantsil is the Premier League’s top own goal scorer this season, having managed to find the wrong net against Blackpool, Liverpool and now Aston Villa.
They’ve all been proper own goals, too. At Bloomfield Road in August, his momentum chasing back caused him to slice Luke Varney’s right-wing cross into his own net.
His best effort was undoubtedly at Anfield last month, though – particularly as it was the only goal of the game. Seven minutes into the second half, Fernando Torres’ shot was deflected against the post, and in the ensuing melee, Pantsil juggled the ball out his own keeper’s hands before slicing it into the net, completing the comic effect by falling on his backside in the process.
Having scored at Blackpool with his right foot and at Liverpool with his left, Pantsil completed the hat-trick at Villa Park yesterday by finding his own net with a header.
When Stewart Downing crossed from the right flank with the outside of his left foot 13 minutes in, Pantsil got in between Villa’s Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor to direct a header in to the bottom corner. Pantsil, incidentally, has never scored for Fulham.
“He looks to the heavens as if to say: ‘Why me?’” remarked commentator Alistair Mann. I don’t know. Faulty internal sat nav?
There were three other goals in what looked a very entertaining match – one that was a little unlucky to be last on Match of the Day. But in three or four years’ time, those goals will have been forgotten, in favour of Pantsil’s proper own goal.
1. Fulham: 9 (2L: 5, 3L: 1)
2. Wigan: 7 (2L: 3, 3L: 2)
3. Stoke: 5 (2L: 6, 3L: 4)
4. West Brom: 4 (2L: 6, 3L: 1)
5. Bolton: 4 (2L: 2, 3L: 4)
6. Birmingham: 4 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
7. Everton: 3 (2L: 4, 3L: 4)
8. Blackburn: 3 (2L: 3, 3L: 7)
9. West Ham: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
10. Wolves: 3 (2L: 1, 3L: 3)
11. Sunderland: 2 (2L: 5, 3L: 1)
12. Newcastle: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
13. Blackpool: 1 (2L: 3, 3L: 3)
14. Tottenham: 1 (2L: 3, 3L: 3)
15. Aston Villa: 1 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
16. Chelsea: 0 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
17. Manchester City: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
18=. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
18=. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
19. Liverpool: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
2L=On second last (Manchester City 3 West Brom 0)
3L=On third last (Tottenham 2 Bolton 1)
(Teams are awarded one point every time they appear last on Match of the Day. Teams level on points are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. Teams still level at the end of the season will be separated by the drawing of lots at a glittering ceremony in Malawi, hosted by Sepp Blatter, Madonna, Tony Gubba and a whoopee cushion, with music from Le Petomane.)