5 lesser known players who have scored the most important goals

Brian Moore described this moment with his phrase “It’s up for grabs now”
Devansh Singhania

Scoring goals is one of the key attributes for any professional footballer to stamp his authority on the game. We have seen players scoring in the dying minutes to snatch the match from the opposition’s hands. On the other hand, we have also seen heartbreak for the team who has conceded.

In the modern game, a team usually relies on their star attacking players to score the goals when they are needed the most. In tough competitive matches – in the finals or knockout phases of major competitions, all eyes are on the star players to deliver. But over the years we have seen some lesser known players who have turned up to score some of the most important goals for their clubs or countries.

Here are some of those lesser known players who have scored at a crucial time for their team:

#1 Michael Thomas (Arsenal) vs Liverpool – 1988–89 Football League First Division decider

On 26th May, 1989, Arsenal were playing Liverpool at Anfield in the last match of the season for the First Division title. The Gunners came into the game needing a victory by two or more goals to win the Championship title. On the other hand, Liverpool could become the champions even if they lost by one goal. But it was not meant to be for the Reds as Arsenal took the lead through their striker Alan Smith in the 52nd minute.

However, into the stoppage time of the game in the 92nd minute, it was Liverpool who were in an attacking position, threatening Arsenal. Most importantly they were keeping the ball as the match was in its last minute.

But Arsenal did not lose hope and it finally paid off when right-back Lee Dixon played a long ball towards Alan Smith who teed off his attacking midfielder Michael Thomas to make a run towards the Liverpool goal. And that is exactly what the midfielder did, chipping the ball over the Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar into the back of the net.

It gave Arsenal a 2-0 lead with the game almost over and hence won them the league title. It is considered as one of the most iconic finishes to a league season as it was the last kick of the last game of the season which decided the title. The game is also best remembered for how the commentator Brian Moore used the phrase “It's up for grabs now” to describe the on-rushing Thomas.

Michael Thomas had made his Arsenal debut in 1984 as a defender but was slowly moved into midfield. He was a relatively lesser known player until he had scored that hugely significant goal.

#2 Eder (Portugal) vs France – 2016 UEFA Euro Final

It was Eder’s this strike that won Portugal their maiden major title

In the recently concluded UEFA Euro 2016, hosts France were up against a resilient Portugal side in the final of the tournament. Going into the final, France were considered as the favorites to land the trophy as they had their star attacking players Dimitri Payet and Antoine Greizmann in form. But Portugal also had some of the big names in their ranks – mainly Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Nani.

The game started off with the 3-time Ballon d’Or winner having to go off the field with a knee injury after he was tackled by Payet. It took away Portugal’s main attacking threat and gave France an advantage in such a big game. But as fate would have it, the hosts could not break down Portugal’s solid defence inside the 90 minutes and the game went into extra-time with scores levelled 0-0.

Portugal’s coach Fernando Santos had brought on striker Eder in the 79th minute of regulation time. The striker had never scored an international goal for his country in a competitive fixture before. But in the 109th minute of the game, when it looked like both teams were settling for a penalty shoot-out, the striker scored the winner to cause the biggest upset in Euro history, giving Portugal its first major international title.

#3 Ben Watson (Wigan Athletic) vs Manchester City – 2013 FA Cup Final

Midfielder Ben Watson won the FA Cup for Wigan with his header

Manchester City, who finished the 2012/13 Premier League season as runners-up, were the favorites to win the FA Cup that season over a Wigan Athletic side who were lying at the 18th spot in the table, about to be relegated from the League with only two games left to play.

The final was of great importance to both the teams as it would mean either club could finish the season with silverware. Due to the importance of the game, both teams defended superbly throughout the game but missed several golden opportunities to score.

It seemed that the match would go into extra-time as the score was tied at 0-0 in stoppage time. But Wigan Athletic’s Ben Watson had other plans.

In the 91st minute (90’+0:09), the midfielder rose at Joe Hart’s (City’s goalkeeper) near post to a Shaun Maloney’s corner kick and thumped his header into the far corner of the goal. It was a stoppage time winner from one of the less talked-about midfielders who had spent most of that season on the sidelines as he suffered from a broken leg six months prior to that game.

It was one of the most memorable winners scored in the history of the FA Cup. The midfielder was never considered a great player, but his goal helped his club in finishing the season as FA Cup winners, their first ever FA Cup victory. But unfortunately, it was also the first time that the FA Cup winning side was relegated from the Premier League as well.

#4 Nayim (Real Zaragoza) vs Arsenal – 1995 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final

Nayim scored from a 40-yard lob over Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman

In the 1995 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final, it was the cup holders Arsenal who played Spanish side Real Zaragoza at the Parc de Princes in Paris. The Arsenal side consisted of some of the biggest players of their generation in David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, and Ray Parlour. Striker Ian Wright had been the top scorer of the tournament with 9 goals and was expected to give Arsenal the trophy.

But a competitive Zaragoza side had beaten Chelsea in the semi-finals whilst not boasting of any big name players in their squad. However, when the Spanish side took the lead in the 2nd half through Juan Esnaider, it spurred the English side on. Striker John Hartson equalised for them and the game went into extra time. With the quality Arsenal had in their side, they were considered as the favorites to win.

But it was ex-Tottenham Hotspur player, Nayim, who scored an extraordinary 40-yard lob over Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman in the dying seconds of extra time to win the game for Zaragoza. Nayim was nowhere near being a star player but his goal won his club the final and denied the Gunners a chance to retain their crown.

#5 Dejan Lovren (Liverpool) vs Borussia Dortmund – 2015-16 UEFA Europa League Quarter Final

Dejan Lovren rose high into the night sky to thump his header past Roman Weidenfeller

Former Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp had a daunting task ahead of him as hosted his former side at the Anfield in the quarterfinal of the 2015-16 UEFA Europa League.

Liverpool had scored an away goal to Dortmund in the first leg, keeping the scoreline at 1-1. But in the 2nd leg, Dortmund started the game on the front foot by scoring two goals inside the first 10 minutes, leading the Reds 3-1 on aggregate.

Divock Origi pulled one goal back for Liverpool but Marco Reus’ brilliant finish brought the score to 4-2 on aggregate.

Philippe Coutinho and Mamadou Sakho scored for Liverpool to bring them on level terms with the German outfit after 78 minutes of the second leg – 4-4 on aggregate and 3-3 on the night. At this stage, it looked like Dortmund would hold on to their advantage of away goals and advance to the next round.

But it was Liverpool’s central defender Dejan Lovren who scored the winner from a corner and helped his side advance to the semifinal. Lovren was playing in only his second season at Liverpool and had scored only 11 professional goals during his 11 years as a player. Out of the 22 players on the pitch, Lovren would arguably not be a name that would come in anybody’s name when it came to scoring. But he did score and helped his team advance to the final where they lost to Sevilla.

Edited by Staff Editor


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