Judging by the inevitable expressions of anguish on the faces of the guilty parties, putting the ball in the wrong net is one of the cruellest fates that can befall a professional footballer. Often spectacular, sometimes heavy in consequence and usually amusing, own goals are nonetheless an integral part of the game and have coloured its history since the very beginning.
The first goal scored in an official fixture was struck by a player from the wrong team, in fact, when Aston Villa defender Gershom Cox gifted Wolverhampton Wanderers the lead on 8 September 1888. Since that day, thousands of unfortunate souls have followed in his footsteps, and FIFA.com now brings some of the more memorable examples.
Cox’s effort must have set the tone for Aston Villa because the Birmingham outfit have been plagued by own goals ever since. Chris Nicoll was one of the more spectacular culprits for this own goal-laden side, having a very mixed day against Leicester City on 20 March 1976. Incredibly, he managed to score twice - at both ends! He ended the game with the unfortunate honour of hitting all four goals in a 2-2 draw.
However, Nicholl wasn't the first to experience this sort of topsy-turvey day, as Oldham Athletic's Samuel Wynne claims the crown as the first man to hit a brace at both ends of the field against Manchester United in 1923. Scoring twice from dead balls for Oldham, he cancelled out his good work in favour of United, but he was undoubtedly forgiven by his team-mates as they finished 3-2 winners.
Richard Dunne has never scored two in one match but the Irish defender set a record all of his own on 23 October this year when his contribution condemned Villa to a 1-0 loss away against Sunderland. That took him on to a total of eight career own goals, more than any other player has managed in the English game. "Forget it," was the advice of his manager Gerard Houllier. "These things happen in football."
Peter Enckelman no doubt spun himself a similar line after entering legend with his role in a fiercely contested derby match against Birmingham City in 2002. What set his own goal apart from most was that it came from a throw-in. The Villa goalkeeper somehow failed to gather the ball from Olof Mellberg and could only watch as it rolled into his net.
Doubles and a hat-trick
Second behind Dunne in the standings, Jamie Carragher can also lay claim to one of the oddest own goals ever buried. During a game against city neighbours Everton, the Liverpool centre-back turned the clock back to his childhood days as a Toffees fan by finding the net for the blue half of Merseyside – from the penalty spot. In his defence, the match was the former England international’s testimonial.
Indeed, plenty more was at stake when Carragher’s inopportune double handed Liverpool’s other great rivals Manchester United the points during a 3-2 league reverse in 1999. He and Nicoll are not alone in having experienced this agony twice in 90 minutes either, with Mainz defender Nikolce Noveski needing just three to score his pair during a 2-2 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on 19 November 2005. As for Tunisian international Karim Haggui, he struck two of an incredible three own goals managed by Hannover when they succumbed to Borussia Monchengladbach last season.
The 2009/10 campaign also contained a lowlight for Eskisehirspor midfielder Emre Toraman, whose double sealed a 2-1 victory for eventual champions Bursaspor. Georgia captain Kakha Kaladze equalled that in a 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifier against Italy, helping the nation where he spent nine years secure a 2-0 success. But no one can match the hat-trick exploit of Stan Van Den Buijs, who consigned Germinal Ekeren to a 3-2 defeat against Anderlecht in 1995/96.
Blunders and beauties
Quality can appeal as much as quantity, of course, and there was certainly something special about Jose Marin’s effort on 23 May 1976. Images of the Cruz Azul goalkeeper scooping the ball into his own net with his hand as he attempted to find a team-mate were seen around the world and have long since entered football folklore. That fate could lie in store for Chris Brass too after he put his astonishing stamp on a match between Bury and Darlington on 22 April 2006. Intending to clear the ball, Brass succeeded only in kicking it against his face and sending it goalwards. Not only did he put through his own net, the hapless defender also ended the game with a broken nose.
Other players have perfected the art of the beautiful own goal, with Helmut Winklhofer becoming the first to pick up Goal of the Month honours for his take on the phenomenon. His long-range strike into the top corner when Uerdingen took on Bayern Munich in 1987 was truly a worthy winner, and perhaps inspired Franck Queudrue to find the net from 35 metres out when his Lens side tackled Bastia in 2001.
Facundo Quiroga weighed in with an equally stunning own goal during a 3-3 draw between Argentinian outfits Racing Club and River Plate in 2008, the River defender beating his own goalkeeper courtesy of an acrobatic overhead kick. In a similar vein, Vitor Hugo put his name on the scoresheet by registering via his backside in an encounter between Brazilian sides Santo Andre and Portuguesa, while Jamie Pollock’s sumptuous flick and lobbed header from 25 April 1998 need to be seen to be believed. To make things worse, the Manchester City defender’s exquisite effort relegated his team to the third division and saved opponents Queens Park Rangers from the drop.
As Pollock found, no matter how unfortunate an own goal may be, it can sometimes prove extremely costly. John Arne Riise would no doubt attest to that too after his last-minute error for Liverpool in a UEFA Champions League semi-final against Chelsea. Paul Robinson’s failure to connect with a Gary Neville back pass as it bobbled over a divot also came laden with repercussions, helping Croatia down England 2-0 before pipping the Three Lions to a place at UEFA EURO 2008.
The own goal has provided many twists and turns on football’s grandest stage as well, with Mexico's Manuel Rosas the first player to conjure one in FIFA World Cup play when his team faced Chile at Uruguay 1930. His most recent successor is Felipe Melo, who became the first Brazilian to deceive his own keeper in 97 FIFA World Cup outings when he helped the Netherlands to victory at South Africa 2010 – although that goal was later awarded to Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder. Infinitely more tragically, Colombia’s Andres Escobar was killed after returning home from USA 1994, where he had found the net for the hosts.
Lastly, a special mention has to go to the 1994 Caribbean Cup encounter between Grenada and Barbados. As the two sides geared up for what was their final group game, Barbados knew that they needed to win by at least two clear goals to top the section and advance. Crucially, they also knew that, under tournament regulations, a drawn match would continue into extra time under the golden-goal rule, with that goal counting double.
Three minutes from the end, Barbados held a 2-1 lead and decided to boost their chances by registering a deliberate own goal. That hardly suited their opponents, however, who could afford to lose by only one goal if they wanted to seal first place. Grenada spent the next two minutes desperate to register at either end but proved incapable, and it was Barbados who fired the crucial golden goal in extra time. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the organisers promptly changed the rules.