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    Saturday, 29 July 2017

    Geoffrey Kondogbia's 40-yard own goal: Top 10 own goals of all-time

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    Geoffrey Kondogbia's 40-yard own goal for Inter Milan against Chelsea was something special. Here are 10 others from history that compare.

    10) Gershom Cox, Aston Villa vs. Wolves, 1888
    As ever, we should start at the beginning. The first ever recorded own goal in English football history came in 1888, and perhaps as a portent of how magnificently silly this sport was to become, it was for a long time believed to be the first ever goal in the newly formed Football League. Cox, a full-back for Villa, put through his own goal after half an hour of their fixture against local rivals Wolves, only for Tom Green to equalise, and the game finished 1-1. Cox's slightly dubious claim to fame was debunked in 2013, when a researcher helping mark the Football League's 125th anniversary established that Cox scored his goal at around 4 p.m. on Sept. 8, meaning that because of staggered kickoffs Kenny Davenport, a Bolton inside-forward, had in fact recorded the nascent league's first strike, some 13 minutes earlier against Derby County. Still, Cox still holds the "honour" of being the first to cause his teammates to slump in half-disgust, half-sympathy so ... that's something.
    The line between comedy and tragedy, so the old saying goes, is incredibly fine. There are few things more tragic on a football pitch than scoring an own goal, and at the same time there are few things funnier than a player being hit full in the face with the ball, aside from perhaps the referee being hit full in the face with the ball. This incident combined the two, with Gareth Bale proving that even the best and priciest footballers in the world are powerless against the force of slapstick, with Aaron Lennon clearing a Steven Gerrard header off the line and straight into his teammate's confused coupon, from which it careened into the net. Bale would, much like Alan Partridge, have the last laugh, though, as he scored a free kick and set up his partner in base comedy Lennon for another, meaning Tottenham won the game 2-1. But the rest of us will still have this moment.
    That comedy/tragedy line was danced with even more vigour by Wayne Hatswell, playing for Forest Green against Morecambe in the 2000-01 FA Cup. As the ball fell to him, he had time, space and most importantly options, with about 99 percent of the pitch and surrounding areas in which to deposit the ball that would not result in a goal against his side, so Hatswell, naturally, wound up, put his head down and hoofed the thing not just into his own net, but right into the top corner. It's a piece of true visual tragedy simply because of the effort he put into the finish, quickly followed by the slumped shoulders of the broken man. This Buster Keaton-esque line in physical comedy was also trod by Bury defender Chris Brass, and while you might not know the name, you'll definitely know his most famous moment, Brass being notable for booting the ball into his own face, from where it travelled into the net, in a game against Darlington in 2006. "I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," Brass said afterwards. "I think I was closer to crying." There was some good news, though -- Bury won 3-2, and side-stepped relegation that season.
    When polls designed to discover the "best ever" of anything are conducted in modern times, there is a natural and perhaps inevitable bias towards the recent. That is perhaps why, in last year's updated version of the "Players That Shook The Kop" survey to find Liverpool's greatest ever player, Steven Gerrard finished above Kenny Dalglish, Fernando Torres came higher than Graeme Souness, and Jamie Carragher was above Alan Hansen. Still, even with this in mind, it's impossible not to rank Vergini up there with the greats, given the pure quality of his strike. People joke when they say "great finish" with own goals like this, but if you showed someone unfamiliar with the two teams just the goal, they would genuinely have no problems believing it was a striker guiding a shot into the corner, rather than a defender temporarily taking leave of his senses. It was a magnificent effort, although Vergini might have thought that the other seven goals his team conceded would cover up his embarrassment. Sorry, Santiago, no such luck.

    Tommy Hutchison scored for each side in the 1981 FA Cup final on May 9.

    There have been a fair few own goals in FA Cup finals down the years. The first came way back in 1877, when Lord Arthur Kinnaird, one of the early doyens of the game and veteran of nine finals, scored against his own team while playing in goal for Wanderers against Oxford University, catching a cross but stepping back over his line. This didn't prevent his side winning 2-1 but Kinnaird, obviously embarrassed by his error, sought to rectify matters by having a word with his pals at the FA and telling them that he didn't in fact take the ball into the goal. Obviously, with a gentleman's word being his bond and all that, the top brass chalked the goal off, officially recording the score as 2-0, but some 50 years later, the goal was reinstated, and quite right too. Other fine examples of this noble art include Blackburn's Mick McGrath putting through his own goal against Wolves in 1960, Des Walker deciding the 1991 final with a header to make it Tottenham 2-1 Nottingham Forest and Gary Mabbutt providing the name for a Coventry fanzine by skewing the ball into his own net with his left knee in 1987.
    However, it's to another Tottenham final we turn for the definitive cup final own goal, when Manchester City's Tommy Hutchison scored at both ends of the 1981 showpiece. Hutchison opened the scoring with a fine flying header from a Ray Ranson cross, but with 10 minutes remaining Glenn Hoddle lined up a free kick for Spurs, which Hutchison attempted to anticipate the path of (a task which, in fairness, he succeeded in), but only managed to achieve directing the errant shot past his colleague Joe Corrigan. As it happens, Hutchison is one of three players to "achieve" this feat, one being Mabbutt, the other Charlton's Bert Turner, against Derby in 1946, but history has decreed that he is the most famous to split his favours at Wembley.
    Flamboyance, in football as in most walks of life, is always a welcome sight. We all need something to cut through the drudgery, to make light of the darker moments in humanity, of which there are of course plenty. So it is with own goals, which are often simple, honest and straightforward mistakes, but very occasionally provide a moment of the high-kickin', horn-tootin', flag-wavin' spectacular. Tony Popovic is often regarded as the high priest of this sub-genre, and his scorpion kick while playing for Crystal Palace against Portsmouth in 2004 was pretty spectacular, but a slightly more obscure effort by Festus Baise for Sun Hei against Citizen AA in the Hong Kong Premier League tops it in that respect. Sure, Popovic had the necessary elements of style, athleticism and "What on earth is he trying to do?" but Baise had all that and more, including more distance, more loop and an acrobatic flourish, almost doing a full front-flip while directing the ball into his own net.
    Right now, a generation of Manchester City fans is growing up not knowing about the City that used to be, about how they would always find new and interesting ways to make a mess of things, how they were "typical City." Of course, on plenty of occasions they weren't just heartbreakers, they were just plain incompetent, and the City of today with Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure bear very little resemblance to the City of the late 1990s, with Lee Bradbury, Tony Vaughan and Jamie Pollock. In the penultimate game of the 1997-98 season, City needed to beat QPR, also in danger of the drop, to keep their chances of survival in the old Division One (now the Championship) in their own hands.
    It started well after Georgi Kinkladze gave them the lead, but that's where the good news ended, as Martyn Margetson picked up a backpass and gave Mike Sheron the equaliser, before Pollock stepped up to provide the most "City" moment possible. Pollock collected a QPR forward pass, lobbed it over his own defence as if he were paying tribute to Pele's goal in the 1958 World Cup final, before looping a precision header into the net. The QPR players stood half-delighted, half-baffled, and while Bradbury equalised to make the final score 2-2, the result effectively relegated City, a demotion confirmed on the final day of the season when Portsmouth beat Bradford.
    QPR were, of course, rather grateful, and later that year some fans voted Pollock the most influential man of the last 2,000 years. "Jesus came second, apparently," Pollock said. "It was cruel of QPR fans to vote for me because that own goal was the lowest point of my career, but I certainly had a laugh when I heard about the poll."

    Richard Dunne scored his 11th career own goal in Sunday's thrilling 3-2 loss against Liverpool.

    3) Richard Dunne, various, 2004-14
    It was as if Richard Dunne, upon watching Vergini's spectacular effort on Saturday, thought that he simply couldn't let this lie, that own goals were his thing, and could not in all good conscience allow a weekend featuring such a great of the genre pass without making his own contribution. Dunne's own goal against Liverpool on Sunday was the 11th of his career, and the 10th in the Premier League, putting him well clear of the next "best," Jamie Carragher (who retired on seven), and one up from the number of league goals Andriy Shevchenko scored at the right end for Chelsea.
    In fairness, given that Dunne has been a top-flight defender for the majority of his 17 years in the game, and often playing for struggling teams, it's not the biggest surprise that he "tops" this chart, but the big man does seem adept at getting himself into some pretty hapless situations. Dunne opened his account in 2004, helping West Brom somehow secure a 1-1 draw at Manchester City while not having a shot on target, and put through his own net again a couple of months later in the Manchester derby, a game in which he could quite easily have been credited with two own goals. In all, Dunne's own goals have cost assorted teams nine points over the years (including a last-minute "winner" while playing for Aston Villa against QPR in 2011), but he has been a fine defender for much of that time, so he's at least even. Probably.
    Goalkeepers, they say, like to get an early touch on the ball. To have a feel of the thing, making them part of the game and so it's not a shock to the system when they have to field a shot or cross. This may all be true, but on a sunny September day in 1991, Lee Dixon took this idea to something of an extreme. When a player passes back to his goalie it's usually good form and fairly sensible to perhaps warn the man what you're going to do first, but Dixon clearly felt such niceties were not required. He picked the ball up from a Coventry goal kick gone awry, around 30 yards from his own goal, turned and delicately chipped David Seaman in the Arsenal goal, joining the illustrious ranks of Nayim and Ronaldinho as players who have caught ol' Safe Hands unawares. When George Graham drilled the famous old back four of Dixon, Steve Bould, Tony Adams and Nigel Winterburn, he probably didn't bother to warn them not to do this sort of thing because, well, why would you need to? Dixon contemplated existence, Arsenal lost the game 2-1.

    Leeds goalkeeper Gary Sprake, photographed in action against Arsenal in 1972, had a reputation for making mistakes.

    A respected keeper who won the league title with Leeds and 37 caps for Wales, Gary Sprake is nonetheless largely remembered for a series of calamitous handling errors, including one thanks to a Wembley pitch disturbed by the Horse of the Year show in the 1970 FA Cup final, when a bobbling Peter Houseman shot evaded his grasp. Another came three years earlier, in a league match against Liverpool at Anfield, when Sprake collected a back pass from Jack Charlton and began to throw the ball out, only to change his mind halfway through the effort. Over to Eric Stanger of the Yorkshire Post to explain what happened next: "When he carried on with his throw the ball, instead of leaving his gloved palm near the top of the arc, stayed there for one split second and, on being released, it sailed over his left shoulder into the net." Depending on who you believe, either the Kop started singing, or the half-time DJ played over the Tannoy, Des O'Connor's "Careless Hands" in the sort of jape for which football fans are famous. Although that wasn't all bad news for Sprake: he used the song as the title of his autobiography.
    "Obviously I wish I hadn't made any mistakes but it is an inevitable part of being a goalkeeper," said Sprake later, of the errors that dogged him. "Once I started the game I would be fine and, although I would be angry at myself and disappointed if I made an error, I can honestly say it never affected my confidence. If I made a mistake, I would put it behind me and get on with the game. I think the games where I made mistakes prove that, such as at Anfield. Even though I scored the own goal, during the second half I played really well."

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