10 Famous Debatable Goals

It’s a well-known moniker in football that “goals change games”. But the impact can be cataclysmic when the goal should never have been allowed to stand.

Here are ten goals that will give players and supporters a legitimate reason to bleat “if only!” for decades to come.

1. Diego Maradona, Argentina 2-1 England, World Cup, Quarter Final, 22 June 1986

“The Hand of God”. What more can you say?

2. Thierry Henry, France 2-1 Ireland, World Cup Qualifier, 18 November 2009

With qualification for the 2010 World Cup on the line in this sudden death play-off, nobody expected all-round nice guy Thierry Henry to deliver the killer blow to the Irish with the help of two touches of the forearm. Whether he meant it or not remains debatable but the striker’s intervention secured a place in South Africa for the French at the expense of Ireland and added fuel to the fire to the debate over the use of video replays in football.

3. Enrico Guaita, Italy 1-0 Austria, World Cup, Semi Final, 3 June 1934

At the 1934 World Cup, the last tournament to be held before the conclusion of World War II and played under the darkening cloud of Fascism, Austria were the best and most entertaining team. But when they met the hosts Italy in the semi-final they essentially faced two opponents: Benito Mussolini’s Italy and a clearly biased referee. That the only goal came after goalkeeper Peter Platzer was unquestionably fouled by Giuseppe Meazza was as inevitable as it was heart-breaking for the Austrians.

4. Darren Bent, Sunderland 1-0 Liverpool, English Premier League, 17 October 2009

Arguably the funniest goal ever scored in the Premier League. Darren Bent’s winning goal against Liverpool was only made possible by the help of a huge deflection off a beach ball lying in the 18-yard box. It should have been chalked off on account of “interference with an outside object” but the “beach ball goal” stood, becoming the butt of jokes for the remainder of the 2009/2010 season.

5. Luton Shelton, Sheffield United 2-1 Manchester City, FA Cup, Fourth Round, 27 January, 2008

Back before they were the richest club in the world, Manchester City were prone to their fair share of comedy moments. This one, against Sheffield United in the FA Cup, saw the opening goal scored when a City defender mistook the ball for one of an assortment of celebration balloons strewn across the penalty area.

6. Luis Garcia, Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea, UEFA Champions League, Semi Final, 3 May 2005

In 2005 Liverpool recorded one of the most famous comeback victories of all time against AC Milan, fighting back from 3-0 down at half-time to win on penalties. But they may never have even been there had Luis Garcia’s bundled effort, which was cleared off the line by William Gallas, been correctly ruled out. Sure, Liverpool would probably have won a penalty after Petr Cech made clear contact with Garcia but with Xabi Alonso missing in the final there’s no guarantee that it would have gone in.

7. Michael Ballack, Germany 3-2 Portugal, Euro 2008, Semi Final, 19 June 2008

How the referee let Michael Ballack’s goal stand, to make the score 3-1 over Portugal, is mystifying. Pushes don’t come much more blatant than the one produced here on Paolo Ferreira.

8. Geoff Hurst, England 4-2 Germany (a.e.t.), World Cup Final, 30 July 1966

You’ll struggle to find an Englishman that says this didn’t go in, but the truth of the matter is that Geoff Hurst’s shot, which made the score 3-2 in extra-time and paved the way for a famous World Cup hat-trick and English victory, never crossed the line. The Germans would have their revenge 44 years later in South Africa, when Frank Lampard’s shot that did go in was unbelievably chalked off.

9. Raul, Real Madrid 3-2 Leeds, UEFA Champions League, Second Group Stage, 6 March 2001

A blatant handball goal by Raul to pull Real Madrid level at 1-1 with Leeds United was missed by the referee but unbelievably, not by the UEFA officials. They decided to ban Raul for one match and fine him 8000 pounds for his “deception”, an unprecedented decision that shocked the football world at the time. It didn’t seem to hurt the then 23-year-old’s career too much though.

10. Samuel Eto’o, Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal,UEFA Champions League Final, 17 May 2006

This was hardly the most blatant offside call in the world but the question remains: what could have happened if Barcelona’s first goal in the 2006 Champions League final, scored by Samuel Eto’o after 75 minutes, been correctly ruled out? It’s realistic that Arsenal may have held on to their lead, become European champions and held onto players like Thierry Henry, Alex Hleb, Robert Pires and Mathieu Flamini. Would they, not Barcelona, now be the dominant force in European football?

Editor’s Note: To be fair, the free-kick that resulted in Arsenal’s goal in the 37th minute was also wrongly awarded.

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  1. amf 20 September, 2010
  2. Arjun 2 October, 2010