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Follow all the build-up to the fight of the year
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Dimitar Berbatov joined an elite group of footballers to have scored five goals in a game as he starred in Manchester United's 7-1 victory over Blackburn at the weekend.
Only three men had previously achieved the feat in the Premier League but there are other examples of extraordinary goalscoring exploits from across the world.
A league match in Madagascar produced the record margin of victory, a remarkable 149-0, but that is because own goals were continuously scored deliberately in protest at controversial refereeing decisions.
Our interest lies with individual accomplishments and here we count down ten players to have netted at least five times in a single encounter.
We start with the man of the moment and Berbatov was at his irresistible best in the thrashing of Blackburn at Old Trafford on Saturday. The Bulgarian hit five out of seven as the Red Devils swept aside their shell-shocked opponents to move top of the Premier League table. Renowned more for his silky skills than his predatory finishing, Berbatov's end product was the key on this occasion as he took the glory after a sparkling team display, positioning himself in the right place at the right time with a series of close-range efforts.
We only have to go back 12 months to find the last player to enjoy such a profitable afternoon, with Defoe ruthlessly exposing Wigan's defensive deficiencies in a 9-1 demolition job at White Hart Lane. Incredibly the score was only 1-0 at half-time and Defoe had not yet found the target, but he struck four times in the space of 20 minutes after the break and once more just before the final whistle. The striker linked up to devastating effect with Aaron Lennon as the Latics imploded, although Paul Scharner did manage a consolation.
Shearer enjoyed many wonderful days in a Newcastle shirt but one of his finest hours undoubtedly came against Sheffield Wednesday on 19th September, 1999, with a memorable five-goal salvo. The England international had, unbelievably, been out of favour under Ruud Gullit but was restored to the starting line-up for Bobby Robson's first home game in charge and showed his class with a leading role in the Magpies' 8-0 success.
Cole became the first player to score five goals in a Premier League game when he destroyed Ipswich during a magical 9-0 victory for Manchester United in 1995. Mark Hughes weighed in with a double and midfield enforcers Paul Ince and Roy Keane also found the target as the Red Devils secured the most comprehensive victory ever in the Premier League, while the Tractor Boys were relegated in bottom place at the end of the season
We are putting these two together because by a bizarre coincidence both players scored five goals on the very same day. It did not happen in the same match but Rush managed it for Liverpool in their 6-0 win over Luton on 29th October 1983, while across the country Woodcock was smashing them in to help Arsenal overcome Aston Villa 6-2. The fact that these forwards performed so well simultaneously should not detract from their distinct accomplishments but it is useful to know as a quiz question.
If we broaden our scope to encompass football around the globe there are tales that make those detailed above pale almost into insignificance. It is perhaps not surprising to learn that Pele, an undisputed all-time great, achieved some great feats. The Brazilian legend scored five goals in a game on no fewer than six occasions, but he topped this by netting eight in a club game for Santos against Botafogo. Pele ended his career with 129 hat-tricks, including four goals in a game 31 times.
Following Pele in our list is another Brazilian and, although Middlesbrough fans may wish to argue, they do have something else in common besides their nationality, because Alves did have some impressive statistics to his name prior to joining the Teessiders. The display that brought him instant fame was a seven-goal return in Heerenveen's 9-0 triumph against Heracles Almelo. Alves could not reproduce those heroics in the Premier League and has not even been as prolific with current club Al Rayyan of Qatar as he was in Holland.
Further evidence of the standard of defending in the Dutch game came to light earlier this season when journeyman striker Voskamp struck eight times in a 12-1 victory for Sparta Rotterdam against Almere City in the second division. Voskamp, who had previously spent time with Excelsior, RKC Waalwijk and Helmond Sport, was making his debut for Sparta after joining just days earlier.
Anybody who says there are no easy games in international football should probably tell that to Thompson, who filled his boots with a mammoth 13-goal haul in Australia's record 31-0 win over American Samoa in 2001. The Oceania section of World Cup qualifying has never been the most competitive but this was literally men against boys as American Samoa fielded a youth team.
Plying his trade in the Cypriot third division for Olympos Xylofagou, Pontikos could never have expected to one day become a world-record holder. But that is precisely what happened in 2007 when the striker scored a phenomenal 16 goals in his side's 24-3 victory over Ayios Athanasios. Pontikos was comparatively slow out of the blocks with just four goals in the first half but he found the target 12 times after the interval at a rate of one every three minutes and 45 seconds.
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