Five Times Freak Goals Flew Past The Goalkeeper

By Tim Ellis

News • Mar 19, 2024

Five Times Freak Goals Flew Past The Goalkeeper

If the FA Cup quarter-final weekend proved anything, it was that goalkeepers can often be wrong-footed by the wheel of fortune. 

Shots that are covered get a deflection, last-minute mishits find the corner and back passes can turn the air blue. Freak goals are rarely the 'keeper’s fault as these bizarre moments show.

1) Pepe Reina and Liverpool defeated and deflated by beach ball

Having been pipped to the title by Manchester United in the 2008/2009 season, hopes were high that Liverpool were ready for another title charge. That ambition was popped by four defeats in the first nine games of the subsequent campaign, including an extraordinary 1-0 loss at the Stadium of Light.

It was unwittingly instigated by one of the Reds’ own supporters who had thrown a beach ball onto the pitch. Initially cleared by the stewards as a potential hazard, the offending item blew back onto the playing surface. Before anyone could say “what are the chances of that happening”, Darren Bent struck a shot that diverted off the inflatable and into the net. 

Pepe Reina appeared to try and save the seaside object rather than the match ball. Under the laws of the game, the Liverpool-branded holiday accessory should have been considered an outside agent and the goal disallowed. It wasn’t. The Reds finished seventh and Reina still appears haunted by the whole incident

The most famous beach ball in sport ended up in the National Football Museum.

2) Paul Robinson’s reputation almost bobbles into oblivion

In October 2006, England’s 2-0 Euro qualifier loss to Croatia had many culpable performers, but it was easier to pick on goalkeeper Paul Robinson who swung a boot at Gary Neville’s back pass and missed. The rest is history. 

The BBC was particularly harsh: “Robinson Clouseau was one of the kinder things they called the hapless England goalkeeper though that might have been unfair on the bumbling French detective who generally put his foot into something.”

The incident, a freak goal that hit a divot and lifted over the Tottenham number one’s kicking foot, affected him for some time. Robinson was a teenage wonder and had only leaked five goals in his first 17 England appearances. Yet now he was called “rubbish” and a “chump” as the papers laid into England’s golden generation. 

The morning after the night before, Robinson mused: “I'm very disappointed with the way it's been reported. I was not expecting to wake up to the barrage of abuse I received.” It was a sign of unmoderated times and the social media mania to come. 

3) 2010 World Cup ball gives 'keepers the Jabulani jitters

At the 2010 South African World Cup, the New York Times summarised the goalkeeping reaction to the official World Cup ball: “Basically, the ball is being criticised for being too light and too curvy…".

Suffice it to say, the world’s best were adamant that something was wrong with the movement of the Jabulani. Julio Cesar claimed: “The football is horrible. It is like one of those you buy in the supermarket.” Iker Casillas said it was “like a beach ball.” We all know what happens with those.

When the unloved ball rolled through Rob Green’s legs in England’s opening 1-1 draw with the United States, the West Ham stopper gave an insight into what the wider keeping community was thinking: 'The ball may well have moved. I don't often miss the ball by that much. 

"It may have moved quite a bit but I'm not looking to make an excuse for what happened and I hold my hand up and take responsibility.”

4) Shay Given becomes the only Irishman not to know where Dublin was

Given was one of the best the Premier League ever saw between the sticks. The man who gave over a decade's service to Newcastle United was reputed for his agility, bravery, and reflexes, and denied many a striker during his time in goal for the Magpies. 

Given wasn't one to give up a goal easily, but then-Coventry striker Dion Dublin managed to get the better of him with a witty piece of play in November 1997. 

The Newcastle goalkeeper had gathered a Gary McAllister cross well, and subsequently rolled the ball onto the grass to distribute. Little did Given know that slyly stalking him from behind like a fox was frontman Dublin, who had briefly left the field of play (not officially) before recrossing the white line as a freak opportunity presented itself. 

Before Given knew it, Dublin had nipped in front of the Irishman and swung a boot at the unguarded football. A bewildered Given couldn't compute the situation quickly; by the time the goalkeeper knew what had happened, Dublin's quick-thinking strike had nestled into an empty net. 

It may have been pantomime season, but cries of ‘he’s behind you!' from the onlooking on-field audience in black and white were nowhere to be heard. 

5) Emiliano Martinez heads Arsenal back into the title race

There was a sense of déjà vu for Emiliano Martinez in October’s match against Luton when teammate Ezri Konsa tried to cushion a header back to him and the ball flew back off the bar and in via Martinez’s head. Never mind. Villa won 3-1. Part one of the Argentine’s crossbar own goal challenge was far more costly for the Midlands club.

Arsenal flew out of the blocks in the 2022/23 campaign, but by the time they reached Villa Park mid-season, it was one point from the last nine.  As the clock ticked into the 93rd minute with the game at 2-2, Jorginho hit an effort that smashed against the woodwork and rebounded in off the back of the head of the stricken goalkeeper.

In an effort to rescue the situation, the number one went up for a corner without the consent of his manager and Gabriel Martinelli raced the length of the field to make it 4-2 in an empty net. Unai Emery wasn’t best pleased. “I am embarrassed about the last goal. I have never told my 'keeper to go forward. It's not the spirit.” 


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