The 12 days of football: Five Golden Goals!
On the fifth day of holiday fixtures/UEFA gave to me
Five Golden Goals!
Welcome to the fifth article in It's Round & It's White's 12 Days of Football series. Goals are what ten of every eleven players on the pitch seek, and, truth be told, every keeper secretly desires to score a late game-saver himself. Goals are so embedded in footballing culture, it's almost impossible to enjoy a match without one.
In 2017, the Champions League and the Premier League gave us some golden goals. Here are five.
Casemiro vs Napoli
Almost every time Casemiro scores a goal for Real Madrid, it’s a stunner. This is largely due to his defensive midfield role which prevents him from venturing too far forward. He scored one laser-guided long-range missile against Napoli in 2017's Champions League round of 16.
The defending Champions were already in the box seat, leading 2-1 when the Brazilian hammered home from 30 yards to secure a 3-1 win. Napoli can find consolation in the fact that they conceded such a goal to the eventual champion.
Eden Hazard vs Arsenal
Football fans are kids and goals are the big windmill lollipops in our candy shoppe. One taste and we can lose all sense of decorum and dignity. Ask any manager from Antonio Conte to Alan Pardew. Except maybe Jose Mourinho, who has taken on a Scrooge-like mentality that forsakes all joy. Whatever the Portuguese may believe, football is no fun without goals. Maybe that explains the rift that developed between him and Eden Hazard at Chelsea.
Hazard has time and again proved he’s one of the best dribblers in the Premier League. The dazzling Belgian has contributed numerous baffling efforts which leave both defenders and supporters stunned. With Mourinho no longer darkening his mood, he produced this goal against Arsenal in the 2016-17 Premier League season's second round of fixtures. It tops the lot. The 26-year-old himself rated that goal as “one of the best”.
With Chelsea leading the game 1-0 against their fierce London rivals, Hazard picked the ball in his half, cut through the opposition like a knife through Christmas cake, then dipped his finger in the icing by making a mockery of Petr Cech in goal. No Chelsea fan at Stamford Bridge could remain seated as Hazard wheeled away in celebration.
That goal earned him the Premier League goal of the month for February 2017.
Olivier Giroud vs Crystal Palace
Breathtaking strikes can change your mind about a player. In an instant, you can go from condemning his uselessness to booming in ecstacy over his magnificence. Olivier Giroud is often criticized by Arsenal faithful who have been spoiled by the technical brilliance of Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Mesut Ozil, and Alexis Sanchez. The French striker is more a traditional target man, but he can provide a sumptuous effort on his day. One such day produced this incredible goal against Crystal Palace.
In the New Year's clash against the Eagles, Giroud profited from a quick counter by the Gunners, who started deep in their own half. When Alexis Sanchez finally whipped in the cross, it was a bit low and a little behind the onrushing Giroud. The forward improvised by flicking the ball with his heel, beating a dazed Wayne Hennessey in the Palace goal.
Giroud's was the second scorpion kick of the 2016-17 holiday fixtures. On Boxing Day, Manchester United's Henrikh Mkhitaryan had pulled one off against Sunderland. The main difference between the two, although each counted, was that Giroud had stayed onside for his.
The effort won him the FIFA Puskas award for 2017. Palace would learn the hard way that Giroud can sting like a scorpion.
Mario Mandžukić vs Real Madrid
Goals are a gift to both fans and the player who worked his socks off in training. Whether a goalscorer or not, every Juventus player is expected to be sockless in training. The Bianconeri thus had a remarkable run to the 2016-17 Champions League final, conceding just three goals prior in the run-up.Consequently, many expected a low-scoring finale. Instead, it rained goals on that windy night in Cardiff.
Things looked bleak for the Old Lady when Cristiano Ronaldo put Real Madrid one goal up. The pre-match consensus had been that Juve would have to contain Madrid, frustrate them, force Zinedine Zidane's squad to overextend itself in search of the goal that would bring them La Duodecima, their 12th Champions League crown. Allow them to score early, as Juve did, and the Merengues would close up shop, not allowing Max Allegri's side to play to its strength in counterattack.
However, in the 27th minute, Mario Mandzukic did the unbelievable. Juve spread the Madrid defense across the pitch. A diagonal ball cut back against the grain. Alex Sandro then crossed for Gonzalo Higuain, who chested it towards Mandzukic's head. With his back to goal, the Croatian performed an acrobatic effort that flew in unhindered. A goal for the purists.
The striker was, perhaps, too surprised to put up a proper show of celebration.
Emre Can vs Watford
Liverpool boast a plethora of attacking sensations. Philippe Coutinho. Roberto Firmino. Sadio Mane. And now, Mohamed Salah. Last May, however, Emre Can scored a goal that will remain astonishing for ages. The fact his effort was the only goal of the game made it even more special for the Liverpool faithful.
In their away fixture against Watford, the Reds were fighting hard for a top-four finish. They came up against a resilient team that threatened to keep precious points from them. But Emre showed he Can produce the incredible as ably, if not readily, as the players whose freedom he is primarily expected to protect.
The bicycle kick is simultaneously the rarest, most difficult, and exciting goal to pull off. Pele immortalised it in the cheesy WWII flick Victory. In real life it's been pulled off by stars like Marco van Basten and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, not to mention pretty much every Brazilian star you've heard of. The move also seems to be attracted to the North West Derby between Liverpool and Manchester United. Christian Benteke and Dimitar Berbatov have both pulled it off in that fixture. People sometimes think Wayne Rooney has as well, but his came against Man City. Now Can has added another to the collection at large.
His goal handed Liverpool all three points and won the German the Carling Goal of the season. A bicycle kick like no other. Can’s goal dropped jaws at Vicarage Road.
Tell us your golden goal of 2017.
Happy New Year!