This Sunday, football fans around the world were treated to a unique spectacle. Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata was substituted off at extra-time during their Community Shield clash with Leicester City. Red Devils manager Jose Mourinho came out with a justification saying that “he was the shortest player on the pitch, and more high balls were coming into the box”.
Mata’s replacement Henrikh Mkhitaryan was 7 centimetres taller and did not participate in any aerial duel for the remainder of the game which United won 2-1. Nonetheless, Mata joins a short but unique list of players who have entered a professional football match as substitutes and found themselves substituted off before full time.
#5 Aaron Lennon (England and Tottenham Hotspur)
Match: England vs Portugal
Tournament: FIFA World Cup 2006 Quarterfinal
Substitution Order: David Beckham → Aaron Lennon → Jamie Carragher
51 minutes into their World cup quarterfinal clash against the Portuguese, David Beckham limped off with an ankle injury. It paved the way for the introduction of the then 19-year-old winger, Aaron Lennon. The Spurs wonder kid played his heart out, frustrating the Portuguese defenders on many an occasion.
11 minutes later, Wayne Rooney got sent off after the controversial fracas involving fellow Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. England saw out the game to penalties and Lennon was subbed off to bring in the experienced Jamie Carragher for the penalty shootout.
Carragher had to retake his penalty as he took the kick before the whistle was blown. The retaken penalty kick was saved by Ricardo as Portugal won.
#4 Mario Balotelli (Italy and Manchester City FC)
Match: Manchester City vs Liverpool
Tournament: 2011/12 Barclays Premier League
Substitution Order: Carlos Tevez → Mario Balotelli → Nigel De Jong
Seeing his side go down to Andy Carroll’s first ever Liverpool goal, the night just couldn’t get any better for then City boss Roberto Mancini. 3 minutes later his main man upfront, Carlos Tevez, limped up with an injured hamstring. Mancini turned to fellow Italian Mario Balotelli to save the day.
Sadly as it has often been, SuperMario delivered another listless performance in a City shirt. Surprisingly it took Mancini 67 minutes and 2 more Liverpool goals to realize that. Mario was taken off for Nigel De Jong at the 83rd minute and the match ended 3-0 to the Reds.
#3 Marco Medel – (Chile and Santiago Wanderers)
Match: Santiago Wanderers vs Universidad de Concepcion
Tournament: Primiera Divsion De Chile 2014/15
Substitution Order: Paolo Tamburrini → Marco Medel → Jimmy Cisterna
With the game heading to a goalless stalemate, Santiago Wanderers coach Emiliano Astorga decided to shake things up in the middle of the park. So he brought on his first choice substitute Marco Medel on for Paolo Tamburrini. 10 seconds later, he would be left wide eyed as he saw Medel lie down on the ground grimacing in pain.
While walking onto the pitch, Medel had pulled his Achilles tendon and injured himself. This forced Astorga’s hand and he had to use another substitute Jimmy Cisterna to replace the injured Medel. The game ended 0-0 and Santiago Wanderers went on to lose the title that season to arch-rivals Universidad De Chile by a solitary point.
#2 Nemanja Matic (Serbia & Montenegro and Chelsea FC)
Match: Chelsea vs Southampton
Tournament: Barclays Premier League 2015/16)
Substitution Order : Ramires → Nemanja Matic → Loic Remy
At this stage of the season, the once-mighty defending champions were in free fall to the bottom half of the Premier League table. The then Blues manager Jose Mourinho’s tactical moves every move were being severely questioned and scrutinized by the voracious English media. One such move was subbing a booked Ramires off at half-time when Chelsea were drawing 1-1 to Southampton at Stamford Bridge
His replacement Nemanja Matic was a shadow of himself from the previous season’s title-winning team. After Matic’s introduction, Southampton went 1-3 ahead, with goals from Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle. With Chelsea desperately in need of something from the game, Mourinho took off his worst player on the pitch and replaced him with Loic Remy. The game still finished 1-3 to the Saints.
#1 Theo Walcott (England and Arsenal FC)
Match: Sheffield Wednesday vs Arsenal FC
Tournament: Capital One Cup 2015/16
Substitution Order: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain → Theo Walcott → Ismael Bennacer
Just when the Arsenal team seemed in balance and ready to win the Premier League title, a cruel twist of fate. Two key men injured on a cold night at Hillsborough. First to go was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who developed a tight hamstring after just 5 minutes. He was replaced by fellow England international Theo Walcott.
Walcott for his part lasted only 14 more minutes and lay on the ground with a pulled calf muscle. He had to be subbed off and Ismael Bennacer took his place. The Owls went on to score 3 goals in a memorable outing for them in the Capital One Cup. A forgettable outing for Wenger’s men and key injuries that would result in Arsenal coming up short on silverware once again.