As we all know, context matters in football. Without context, everything is essentially meaningless. So while some goals might be brilliant, they don’t mean a thing unless they helped win the game. Or perhaps not: perhaps it’s the goal itself that matters, not the context.
Ah hell, enough of this: here are a few of the greatest consolation goals in the history of football.
Christian Benteke: Manchester United 3-1 Liverpool
You could argue that this was a consolation goal for Christian Benteke’s entire Liverpool career. It was certainly the most memorable moment of it, an overhead kick that pulled one goal back in the dying days of Brendan Rodgers’s tenure and also almost took Ander Herrera’s head clean off. The BBC report from that game showed that single moments (as well as smug hindsight) can make fools of us all: ‘Christian Benteke showed his quality at £32.5m but Roberto Firmino, a £29m capture from Hoffenheim, has yet to come anywhere near the pace of the Premier League.’
Elano: Middlesbrough 8-1 Manchester City
A weird game, this. Firstly, Afonso Alves scored a hat-trick, representing 33% of his league goals in England. It was also played out in the knowledge that City manager Sven Goran Eriksson was about to be sacked, made to play out the final games of the season (and a post-season tour to Thailand, from which the ‘Life, Kaiser – we are celebrating life’ anecdote comes), and then there was Elano’s brilliant goal. A situation where the muted celebration is entirely appropriate.
Matty Phillips: Crystal Palace 3-1 QPR
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 16, 2019
“There wasn’t anything else on,” was Matty Phillips’s explanation as to why he even tried this absurd effort in QPR’s ultimately doomed attempt to stay in the Premier League. There’s so much to enjoy with this one: the audacity to shoot from that range; the dip and swerve of the ball in about three different directions; as Charlie Jones, producer of the Totally Football Show points out, the fact that he has to run about 40 yards to urgently fish the ball out of the net and race back to the halfway line, which was unusually closer to where he shot from than the goal.
Daniele de Rossi: Manchester United 7-1 Roma
As discussed in the recent edition of Golazzo dedicated to De Rossi, this was a banger at a truly low moment in Roma’s recent history, with the possibility of a Champions League semi-final against Milan in their sights and a realistic prospect of exorcising the ghosts of 1984. Roma took a 2-1 lead into the second leg of this quarter-final against Manchester United, but were torn a new one by United who were 6-0 up by the time De Rossi no-look-volleyed this one into the corner.
Fabio Quagliarella: Slovakia 3-2 Italy
It’s become a tradition for World Cup holders to slump out ignominiously in the early stages of the following tournament, and Italy kept that up in 2010 when they were binned in the group stage after a 3-2 defeat over Slovakia. But at least they went out with a bang. Or rather a chip, Fabio Quagliarella measuring this absolutely perfect effort as the clock ticked over beyond 90 minutes. But, of course, it was for nought.
Steven Davies: Reading 5-1 Blackpool
The very essence of the consolation goal. Blackpool were 3-0 down at the time, and in a ‘beleaguered’ state to begin with: they hadn’t won a game in three months, manager Paul Ince had left the week before and their star player, Tom Ince, was on his way out and would leave on loan to Crystal Palace a few days later. This Steve Davies thriker gave them a sniff of hope, which was stamped out like a gangster in a 1930s film stamping out a cigarette, with two Reading goals to make the final score 5-1. Blackpool avoided relegation by two points.
Rafael Leao: Milan 1-3 Fiorentina
It feels like the last decade or so at Milan has consisted of a background of disappointment with the occasional high thrown in. And that’s very much the case with this goal earlier this season, as Rafael Leao took “too little, too late” to new heights by surgically slaloming through the Fiorentina defence to score a brilliant goal for Milan. It’s just a shame they were 3-0 down at the time.
Mark Hughes: Manchester City 5-1 Manchester United
If there’s one thing we remember from Mark Hughes’s playing days, it was that he loved a spectacular goal. And a love like that isn’t dimmed just because you’re 3-0 down to your local rivals. You can tell from the look on his face Hughes wanted to celebrate this one a little more than he ultimately decided was dignified. Shame.
Wayne Rooney: Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United
See also Wayne Rooney, 24 years later.
Zoltan Sebescen: Arsenal 4-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Benito Carbone: Blackburn Rovers 7-2 Sheffield Wednesday
Benito Carbone was, to say the least, good value during his spell in England, and no more so than in this game when his side was on the thick end of an almighty tanning, but he lashed in this astonishing goal from way downtown, right in off the bar. And, to add even more value, he was sent off shortly afterwards.
John McGinn: Aston Villa 1-2 Sheffield Wednesday
This might be stretching the definition of ‘consolation goal’ a little because it was an equaliser, but Aston Villa did lose this game to a Sheffield Wednesday team who weren’t any good. The question this raises is: does that matter? Those present will remember this goal for much longer than they will a 2-1 home defeat to a side that went nowhere that season, and from a fans’ point of view that is the sort of thing that matters. People think that fans care about wins, which is sort of true: they do care about wins, but what they care about more is moments. This was, most definitely, ‘a moment.’
Hristo Stoichkov: France 3-1 Bulgaria
You didn’t get on Hristo Stoichov’s bad side if you could help it. Even if you were his teammate. Particularly if you were his teammate. The Bulgarian genius seemed particularly pissed off at his colleagues for allowing France to take a 2-0 lead in this Euro 96 group game, a sort of revenge mission for the World Cup qualifier three years earlier that means David Ginola and Gerard Houllier will probably never share a friendly cognac, so he reacted in the only way he knew how. Well, one of the ways he knew how.