Schalke’s 5-2 destruction of Inter last night was both shocking and riveting. It also, rather unfortunately, overshadowed one of the greatest goals ever scored in the competition. Some might label it indescribable, but dissecting Dejan Stankovic’s volley only adds to its greatness.
For starters, the ball from Cambiasso to Milito is inch perfect and had Manuel Neuer not left his goal to clear the ball, Inter would have had a breakaway and probable goal. So don’t blame the Schalke keeper. Like Zidane in 2002 (now the second best goal in Champions League history), Stankovic had about five hours to set his feet and wait for the ball to come down, measuring it’s trajectory and drop point. Don’t underestimate how difficult this is – a ball coming at pace over a long distance, setting yourself flat footed unaware of defenders around you, and volleying through the ball on the fly with perfect contact and precision.
Even more staggering is the violent power Stankovic put behind his shot to cover the 50 or so yards to the goal. Flat footed!! Zidane walked into his shot and he only needed to cover a third of the distance.
Finally, it is important to look at the trajectory of the shot itself. The perfect shot takes an angle that prevents a well positioned, fully stretched goalkeeper from making any contact (see Di Maria’s strike from yesterday). Another way to judge perfection is where the ball hits the net. In Di Maria’s case, the ball struck the side netting – always moving away from the keeper to the only open area.
Clearly, Neuer was out of position and the goal was gaping for Stankovic. But that ball could have bounced at the eighteen and rolled in. It could have bounced at the byline and rolled in. Yet it didn’t. The ball landed in the exact position where the net meets the ground, bouncing up off the bar.
There is always room for debate, but I can see little to argue why this goal should not top the list.