The top five worst attempts at defending from a set piece
Poor old Daley Blind. His devastatingly handsome face was at risk of being temporarily disfigured as the ball hurtled towards it. Instinctively, he did what any self-respecting milquetoast would do and ducked out of the way, allowing the ball to gently glance off his visage rather than crash into it at full pelt. Fortunately for him, Manchester United went on to beat Crystal Palace 2-1.
But Blind is certainly not the first to be found guilty of a dereliction of duty when defending his own goal. What should be a very simple task – stand there and head or kick the ball away from the goal – is one that has caused a surprising number of players more than a few problems. It seems only fitting to acknowledge, nay celebrate such scaredycatness:
Samir Nasri (for Manchester City V Manchester United)
Rather than castigate Nasri for this moment of pure cowardice, perhaps he should be congratulated on his daring foresight in seeking to reinforce the wall from behind, rather than extend the width. From his point of view, he sized up the situation and felt that with Robin van Persie about to blast one, the defensive wall required buttressing – hence his decision to creep behind the wall and stick a toe out in the hope that it would provide just as much an obstacle as his whole body. Either this or he was playing a rather daring game of Hide and Seek with the chap in row Z.
Youssouf Mulumbu (for West Bromwich Albion V Arsenal)
At first glance, this doesn’t look so bad. After all, Olivier Giroud has strained his neck muscles and got a fair bit of power behind his header. As for Mulumbu, he has admirably stood his ground and will not be prized from the near post. But herein lies the problem: so desperate is he to carry out his duties and defend the aforementioned post, his brain seems to have been unable to compute the notion that he can actually move – even sticking a leg out might have had the desired effect of providing an obstacle to prevent the ball hurtling into the net. Although Mulumbu does an admirable job of defending the tiny space between his body and the post, Giroud selfishly opts to direct his header towards the big space to Mulumbu’s left, resulting in the West Brom midfielder making a statue seem positively hyperactive.
Kieron Dyer (for Newcastle United V Barcelona)
We all switch off on occasions and daydream wistfully about that time we scored a vital brace from left back in a crucial under11s game that resulted in a nomination for Player of the Year. But to do so while in the Nou Camp is probably not the time to do so. Dyer can only watch helplessly as the ball trundles off his foot and over the line. At this moment, he springs into life to point out that the ball clearly didn’t cross the line – ‘how could it? I was standing right here, I’m the nearest and it was my job to prevent the ball crossing the line.’ If only Kieron Dyer’s little legs had displayed such animation just a few seconds earlier, he might have avoided this troublesome little pickle.
Thomas Ince (for Derby County V Birmingham City)
Another one from drawer marked ‘attacker asked to defend’. Thomas Ince seems so preoccupied with something else (which pie to have for tea? Bourbon biscuit or Custard Cream for afters?) that he seems to have some sort of existential crisis, resulting him being only able to waft a weak and limp thigh in the vague direction of the ball before it meekly creeps past him and nestles into the net, dealing a crushing blow to his team’s chances of escaping the Championship. Those things on the end of your legs, Tom – those feet type things – they might be a decent tool for hoofing the ball away from the goal, rather than those clumsy old thighs.
Nigel Worthington (for Sheffield Wednesday V Manchester United)
It’s a goal most football fans have seen – a crucial one in the modern history of Manchester United. Staring down the barrel of a home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday and into added time, Alex Ferguson’s men score two to claim their first Premier League title – their first in 26 years. But Steve Bruce’s equalizer (he also scores the winner moments later) is entirely avoidable from an Owls perspective. He is at least 14 yards out and the header lacks pace. Sure, it’s looping and arching threateningly towards the top corner but it’s easy to miss that Nigel Worthington is stationed on the post. The replay from behind the goal is enlightening as it shows Worthington taking time to nail his teapot stance, just in case he is required to perform the actions to the ‘I’m a little teapot’ song at a children’s birthday party. Either that or his display of nonchalance is breathtaking as he casually stands there, making faces at his goalkeeper, Chris Woods, as if to say, ‘must I really take time out of my busy day to make an effort to get that? Surely you, as a goalkeeper, will be doing something about this incoming effort – after all, you ARE a goalkeeper, aren’t you? It would be terribly inconvenient if I were required to move. I am a vastly experience Northern Irish international by the way – I really do have better things to be doing, like my coaching badges.’
Just a little bit of effort, Nigel and whole landscape of the Premier League might have looked entirely different from the United hegemony that followed.
Still, if you need a turn for a children’s birthday party, you know who to call.