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Greatest Champions League Goal Ever?

6 Apr

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.

Eto’o masters the art of the headbutt

21 Nov

Taking a page right out of Zinedine Zidane’s manual on how to be the biggest bonehead, Samuel Eto’o has sent Inter Milan’s season from bad to worse. In the process, however, he has one upped the Frenchman with one of the classiest headbutts you’ll ever see. The headbutt Zidane famously delivered to Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final was not exactly subtle. And standing over his victim with a grim reaper-like stare did not help his cause either.

Sammy watched that video over and over, which is why the shot he delivered to the sternum of Chievo’s Bostjan Cesar was a masterpiece.  For starters, the two tussled over the ball and it appeared that Cesar landed a left jab to the left shoulder of Eto’o, who dropped to the ground like a sack of bricks ten minutes after the feather-like contact (he’s ripping off Cristiano Ronaldo as well!!). When he got up, the striker casually jogged after his opponent to deliver the headbutt. You cannot deny the graceful application of head to chest as Eto’o, in one superfluous motion, struck his opponent and pirouetted ever so cleverly towards the ball. And just like batman, he evaded capture and any booking whatsoever. Utter perfection.

In all seriousness though, Inter is in big trouble. On a day where Rafael Benitez’s tenure at the club seemed to reach its breaking point after another dismal loss, sending the Nerazzurri tumbling into 6th and nine points behind their crosstown league leaders, the Cameroon international delivered an extra needless black eye. Luckily, Serie A has already shown that retroactive decisions can be made, and Eto’o will surely receive a lengthy ban. Seeing as how, he has scored eight of the team’s thirteen goals this season, this smells like trouble.

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