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Top Improvised Goals

There’s huge satisfaction for a manager when a tactic that his team has worked on the training ground all week comes off in a game. But there’s nothing like a moment of magic from a special player to capture the fans’ imagination. Like a solo from a virtuoso jazz musician, an unplanned and never to be repeated example of genius that could only have existed in that moment, in that game, is what keeps us football fans coming back for more time after time. So here’s our list of the best improvised goals of all time.

Gianfranco Zola for Chelsea v Norwich 2002

A goal so good it’s even got its own facebook page. Chelsea faced Norwich on 16th January, 2002 in an FA cup tie. They’d go on to win 4-0. But it was the third goal, scored by the little master Zola, that really made the match memorable. Zola’s sprint across a crowded box and backheel through his own legs somehow turned a relatively poor corner from Graeme Le Saux into a goal. A young Robert Green could do nothing as the ball flew into the top right-hand corner.

Matty Burrows for Glentoran v Portadown 2010

The semi-pro Northern Irish NIFL league doesn’t usually produce players who reasonably draw comparisons with Messi or Ronaldo. But in injury time of a league game in 2010 part-timer Burrows scored a goal worthy of the giants of the game. Positioning himself deep in the opponent’s box, a deep cross towards the 18 yard line forced Burrows to run back away from goal. Rather than trying to control the ball, turn and shoot, the striker instinctively leapt into the Belfast night, contorting his body to produce a mid-air backheel that flew past the keeper from 16 yards. The strike immediately became a youtube sensation and was broadcast all around the world. The goal went on to be nominated for the FIFA Puskas award – given to the scorer of ‘the most beautiful goal of the year’. Burrows didn’t win, but placed 3rd, beating goals from the likes of Lionel Messi & Arjen Robben.

Dennis Bergkamp for Arsenal v Newcastle 2002

Nikos Dabizas is not a name that lives in the pantheon of footballing greats. But his place in footballing history is assured by being the unfortunate soul chosen to mark Dennis Bergkamp in an FA Cup Quarter Final in 2002. Dabizas was understandably bamboozled by a flick, spin and finish from the Dutch Master who was spearheading a rampant Arsenal side on their way to a Premier League and FA Cup double. A routine pass to feet from Robert Pires was met by Bergkamp with his back to goal. The text-book move in this situation is to hold the ball up before offloading to a runner on the wing or in the box. But using the ball almost as a dance partner Bergkamp audaciously flicked the ball one side of Dabizas whilst simultaneously spinning round the other side of the defender, before reuniting himself with the ball with only the keeper to beat. The coolest-of cool finishes and understated celebration followed to make this one of the greatest goals ever scored in English football.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Sweden v England 2012

Zlatan has always been a special player. After all he’s the only player to have scored for six different clubs in the Champions’ League. But his poor record against English clubs and the national team had left a certain cynicism amongst English fans and journalists as to whether Ibra was the real deal. The Swedish striker emphatically answered his critics in November 2012 when he scored all four of his country’s goals in a 4-2 victory against England. The performance was capped by an inspired 40 yard bicycle kick that looped over a hapless Joe Hart into an unguarded net to complete the Swede’s hattrick. The goal was subsequently awarded the FIFA Puskas Award for goal of the year.

Falcao (not that one) for Atletico Minero vs Estrelas 1999

For fans of quick passing and sublime skill the game of Futsal will be familiar. Long credited with giving the Brazilian national team their flair, Futsal is an increasingly popular 5-a-side variant of football played indoors with a heavier and smaller ball. Brazil has a professional Futsal league and Alessandro Rosa Vieira, aka Falcao, is widely considered its best ever player. Faced with an indirect free-kick, the standard practice is to roll the ball to the team-mate with the hardest shot, who proceeds to smash the ball towards goal. But in this moment of magic Falco commits the keeper by faking the expected sledgehammer, only to pull a 360 turn and flick the ball over the keeper’s head into the net.


Got any other suggestions for the best improvised goals? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.

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