With the Premier League reaching the 20th anniversary since its formation, FIFA.com recalls one of the greatest games of the past two decades and selects five of the best goals the division has seen.
Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle United, 3 April 1996, Anfield
Fowler 2’, 55’; Collymore 68’, 90+2’ – Ferdinand 10’; Ginola 14’; Asprilla 57’
Regularly voted as the best match in Premier League history and described by David Ginola as “something special”, this encounter had all the ingredients required for an astonishing game of football. Both sides were fighting for the league title with Manchester United as the season approached its climax, and it was the visitors who most needed a victory at Anfield to keep up the pressure. Magpies manager Kevin Keegan was staying faithful to his policy of attacking football, while the Reds had one of the finest strike partnerships in the division in Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore.
The duo combined to give Liverpool the lead within two minutes of kick-off, Collymore evading his marker on the left edge of the box to whip in a cross which Fowler, who bagged 28 league goals that season, headed home. The advantage was ruthlessly wiped out in the space of 12 minutes, however, as first Les Ferdinand blasted a shot past David James, and then Ginola struck on the counter attack to turn the match on its head. Both sides continued to press forward but the score remained the same as they returned to the dressing rooms for half-time.
Parity was restored ten minutes into the second half, though, when Fowler claimed his second of the match with a neat finish after being set up by best friend Steve McManaman. Back came Newcastle and they were in front again just two minutes later as Faustino Asprilla, bought two months earlier to boost the Magpies’ title challenge, raced through the static home defence to score. More goals were always likely and the hosts took advantage of Newcastle’s positive approach to equalise for a second time through Collymore.
Finally, and with some relief, the players took a breather and it seemed as though each team would settle for a 3-3 draw and a point apiece. Collymore had other ideas, however, ghosting in from the left wing after a series of one-twos between Ian Rush and John Barnes to send a piercing drive into the near post. As Anfield erupted, former Liverpool favourite Keegan hung his head in sheer despair in the dugout. Improbably, the same fixture a year later ended with a repeat scoreline, the Reds again running out 4-3 victors.
For all he has achieved subsequently, including league titles in England, Spain and USA, the defining moment of David Beckham’s career came as early as 1996, when he announced his arrival in the Premier League with a goal of breathtaking skill and ambition. As Manchester United played out the final moments of a comfortable opening day victory over Wimbledon, the ball ran to Beckham, who was just short of the halfway line. Without even taking a touch, the midfielder spotted that the opposition goalkeeper, Neil Sullivan, had strayed too far from his goal, and sent a precision shot floating over his head and into the back of the net.
Wimbledon were again on the receiving end four years later, as the enigmatic Paolo Di Canio produced an extraordinary volley which has never been matched. Just eight minutes into their encounter, the West Ham United frontman positioned himself at the far edge of the box to meet a drilled cross from Trevor Sinclair. Refusing the simpler option of heading the ball, the Italian rose with both feet off the ground to smash a scissor kick perfectly into the opposite corner.
Alan Shearer remains the greatest ever Premier League goalscorer, having struck 260 times during spells with Blackburn Rovers, where he won a championship, and his hometown club Newcastle United. A master from the penalty spot and lethal with his head, the Englishman could also strike a ball with ferocious power, and never more so than the 25-yard volley he converted against Everton in 2002. With the Magpies trailing at home as the match entered its final minutes, Shearer met a knockdown header with a first-time volley which sailed over the goalkeeper and into the net in the blink of an eye.
Many players have been described as being a great goalscorer or a scorer of great goals, but Arsenal forward Dennis Bergkamp undoubtedly combined the two. Seemingly incapable of scoring an orthodox goal, in 2002 the Dutchman invented a piece of skill which has rarely been replicated and is still argued about to this day. Standing centrally at the edge of the Newcastle box, Bergkamp flicked the ball past Nikos Dabizas with his left foot, rolled his body around the other side of the Greek defender and planted a side-footed finish into the net. The whole action took mere seconds but has fuelled debate for years about whether Bergkamp meant it.
Some goals are remembered for the skill involved, others for the circumstances and context of the strike. Wayne Rooney’s overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011 was a special mixture of the two. With the season into February and the title race getting tighter, United welcomed their neighbours to Old Trafford for a vital meeting. As the match drifted to its conclusion, a 1-1 stalemate was on the cards, before Rooney engineered a crucial winning goal. A Nani cross from the right appeared to be too far behind Rooney, but he contorted his body to smash an overhead kick straight past a stranded goalkeeper and send United on their way to a record 19th league title, earning himself a nomination for the 2011 FIFA Puskas Award in the process.
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