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Top ten dubious goals

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  • 5 counts down ten of the most controversial goals ever in the wake of the Nani debacle

The latest round of Premier League action was notable for a bizarre incident in Manchester United's game against Tottenham, with Nani's goal the undoubted talking point of the weekend.

Spurs were furious that his late effort was allowed to stand and manager Harry Redknapp criticised referee Mark Clattenburg for 'making a mess of it all'.

It is not the first time in history that a team have felt hard done by and indeed barely a match goes by these days when there is not a debatable call, with the scrutiny on officials ever more intense.

Nani's effort was nevertheless extraordinary, prompting to count down ten of the most controversial goals of all time.


There is no better place to start than Nani's goal against Tottenham on Saturday, which has divided opinion after the strangest of mix-ups between referee Clattenburg and goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes. It all started with a surging run from Nani which arguably should have resulted in a penalty as he tried to evade a couple of challenges before eventually falling and quite clearly handling the ball. Assuming that a free-kick had been awarded, Gomes tossed the ball forward a few yards and prepared to boot the ball upfield, only for Nani to nip in and slot the ball home. Some will argue that Gomes was wrong not to play to the whistle after advantage had been played, but the alternative point of view is that if common sense had prevailed the goal should have been chalked off.

Dirk Kuyt

The confusion surrounding Nani's goal was similar to that which followed Kuyt's strike against Sunderland earlier this season. Fernando Torres seized on Michael Turner's free-kick before playing in Kuyt, but the Black Cats were adamant that he was just touching the ball back for goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to restart play. Referee Stuart Attwell had turned his back when the kick was taken and Sunderland boss Steve Bruce was astounded by the decision to let the goal stand, but the Professional Game Match Officials body (PGMO) later defended their man by insisting he had made the right call, while Turner vowed to pick the ball up and roll it in future.

Darren Bent

Perhaps the Kuyt goal was the least Liverpool deserved after finding themselves on the wrong end of an even weirder strike in a fixture between the same sides last term. A beach ball was hurled from the crowd as Sunderland broke forward down the right and slowly started to roll forward onto the pitch, with Pepe Reina too preoccupied with the impending danger to retrieve the stray object. Bent's shot cannoned off the beach ball and the real ball flew past a helpless goalkeeper, leaving referee Mike Jones to make a decision unlike any other in his career. Under the rules of the game the goal, which turned out to be the winner, should not have been given but the fact that it was just created another famous moment.

Diego Maradona

Speaking of famous moments, there is probably not a more memorable goal than the one scored by Maradona for Argentina against England in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup. The diminutive genius managed to outjump Peter Shilton to turn the ball home with what he later called 'a little the head of Maradona and a little the hand of God'. With the goal allowed to stand and the offence unpunished, Maradona remained on the pitch to score a sensational second and secure Argentina's passage to the semi-finals.

Geoff Hurst

England were fuming this summer when Frank Lampard was denied a legitimate goal against Germany after his shot crashed down off the crossbar and clearly crossed the line before bouncing out again, but rewind 44 years and the Three Lions were given the benefit of the doubt at a key moment in the World Cup final. With the game in extra-time, England made the score 3-2 thanks to a Russian linesman ruling that Geoff Hurst's effort had gone in. Replays are still inconclusive but in the end all England fans felt they were worth the win after Hurst completed his hat-trick just before the final whistle.

William Gallas

From a World Cup final to a World Cup play-off and the cruellest of defeats for Republic of Ireland against France. The two-legged tie had gone to extra-time with the aggregate score 1-1 when Thierry Henry infamously controlled the ball with his hand before crossing for Gallas to provide the simplest of finishes. The referee and his assistant did not see what happened and had to let the goal count despite desperate appeals, and a sheepish Henry became public enemy No.1. Fifa ruled out a replay and Les Bleus took their place in South Africa where they completely unravelled in an embarrassing show of disharmony to bring a smile back to Irish faces.


While Hurst's goal may or may not have crossed the line it was at least a close call, unlike the one awarded to Reading in a Championship clash against Watford in 2008. The ball flew yards wide following a challenge between John Eustace and Royals striker Noel Hunt to result in what should have been a corner, but linesman Nigel Bannister farcically flagged for a goal despite not a single appeal. Attwell was again the referee and allowed Reading to take a 1-0 lead, with Watford understandably left in a state of complete shock. As the decision was so obviously wrong there were questions asked about whether Reading should have let their opponents score an equaliser, but they chose not to and Watford had to earn their 2-2 draw the hard way.

Luis Garcia

Another 'ghost' goal, at least according to then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho after his side had lost to Liverpool in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 2005. Luis Garcia scrambled the ball towards the line but there were serious doubts about whether it crossed before William Gallas came in with the clearance. Garcia's effort turned out to be decisive as the aggregate score ended up 1-0 to the Reds, who went on to beat AC Milan on penalties in the final after a thrilling 3-3 draw.

Peter Enckelman

All players make mistakes and an error from a goalkeeper will always get highlighted, so it is difficult not to feel sorry for Enckelman after he chose an eagerly-anticipated Midlands derby as the moment to produce the biggest clanger of his career. As Aston Villa's Finnish goalkeeper tried to receive a throw-in from Olof Mellberg against Birmingham in 2002 he failed to control the ball and turned in horror to see it roll into his own net. Enckelman later claimed that he had not touched the ball, meaning the goal should not have stood. But replays suggested otherwise and referee David Elleray awarded it.

Marc Overmars

Arsenal edged out Sheffield United 2-1 in an FA Cup tie in 1999 but the winning goal was so controversial that Arsene Wenger offered counterpart Steve Bruce a chance to replay the game. The ball had been kicked into touch by a Blades player so one of his team-mates could receive treatment for an injury, but when Kanu received possession from the resulting throw, he broke away down the right and squared for Overmars to score. The Blades were outraged and pointed the finger at Kanu but the Nigerian had simply misunderstood the situation. The Football Association agreed to a rematch and the Gunners prevailed by the same scoreline.

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