When Steven Pienaar scored for Everton in the 85th minute to make the score 4-4, he broke the hearts of many Manchester United fans around the world including those back in his own country South Africa. I love the way he plays the game being from South Africa and I am happy to see him getting game time at Everton but I was left stunned. It was not a great goal. Well no way close to the two scored by his fellow South Africans, Shaun Bartlett (Charlton Athletic) and Mbulelo Mabizela (Tottenham Hotspur) in the English league. It will not even make it to any Top 10 or even Top 100 goals. But the significance could be massive.
He might have scored the most important goal in his football career against Manchester United on Sunday. It could even be the most important goal ever scored by a South African player in English football. When we look back at the 2011-2012 season, depending on which Manchester club is crowned league champions, that goal by Pienaar could be looked at as the turning point in the title race.
In a 38 game season one would argue that one goal cannot possibly be that crucial. Well in this situation it is. Let’s have a look at what that one goal has done. Firstly it has cut down the lead for Manchester United from 5 points to 3 points. Secondly it has given Manchester City players, technical staff and fans belief that they can still win this championship. That belief was not there 2 weeks ago when Arteta scored the winner for Arsenal. Thirdly it has made the Manchester derby on Monday 30th April “the most important derby yet” as said by Sir Alex Ferguson.
If Steven Pienaar had not scored to make it 4-4 and the game had ended 4-3 with United claiming all 3 points, things would look so different right now for both Manchester clubs. United would have arrived at the Etihad Stadium knowing that even if they lose their destiny would still be in their own hands. City would have been just trying to delay the inevitable and defend their pride. Now I expect fireworks.