Making an instant impact is what every player hopes to do when they set foot on the field, but now and again players can take that to the extreme. Scoring with your first touch of a game is a skill that not only takes instant composure and a sure finish, but it also often requires the bit of luck to turn up in the right place at the right time.
To do it in any match is an achievement, but should it be a particularly pivotal goal, it has an even greater shine to it. Possibly the most memorable of all is Lars Ricken’s stunning lob in the 1997 UEFA Champions League final. The goal handed Borussia Dortmund the title, killing off Juventus’ revival in a 3-1 victory and starting his career in blockbuster style.
Having just entered the field, Andreas Moller played in the 20-year-old who sprinted through in search of the killer goal. With just 16 seconds on the clock since gracing the stage, a delightful waft of his right foot saw him chip the ball over the advancing Angelo Peruzzi and into Champions League folklore. Looking back on the moment Ricken said: "It was without any doubts my most important goal in my career and I will always be connected with it."
German teams seem to have a habit of grabbing goals of this fashion in the tournament, with a couple more important strikes having been converted with players’ maiden touches in the last few years. First, Bayern Munich’s Roy Makaay netted in a record-breakingly quick time of 10.12 seconds against Real Madrid in their 2007 quarter-final, capitalising after Hasan Salihamidzic dispossessed Roberto Carlos and crossed for the Dutch international. Then, back in November of this season, Erin Derdiyok struck the first goal of Bayer Leverkusen’s 2-1 turnaround against Chelsea. Needing a win to guarantee qualification, Derdiyok came off the bench and, having let the ball run under his foot for what would have been his first touch, he peeled away to meet the subsequent cross and send them on the way to victory.
Possibly the only thing that tops bringing joy to a club’s fans is bringing it to an entire country. Amr Zaki managed to do so with his premier connection with the ball on a huge continental stage. With all eyes on a row between Egypt coach Hassan Shehata and the substituted Mido, he rose to break the deadlock against Senegal with his first touch and send them into the 2006 CAF Africa Cup of Nations final. Thanks to him they got their shot at the title against Côte d'Ivoire, winning the showpiece on penalties.
International football’s biggest stage has seen its fair share of first-touch finishes too, of all shapes and sizes. The 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ was graced with not one, but two goals of this ilk in a single game, with both at either end of stopwatch spectrum. Lukas Podolski struck a fizzing strike against Australia to open Germany’s account for the tournament, after a whopping eight minutes without touching the ball. His compatriot Cacau rounded off the 4-0 victory in slightly more timely fashion, side-footing in after just 110 seconds on the field.
At the 1978 edition, France striker Bernard Lacombe opened his account, and the tournament as a whole, by getting Les Bleus off to a cracking start against eventual semi-finalists Italy just 30 seconds into proceedings. The Lyon legend arrived to head into the far bottom corner after Jean Marc Guillou’s lung-busting run and inch-perfect cross, however it couldn’t prevent them falling to a 2-1 defeat.
Four years later they saw the other side of an almost identical goal, conceding in eerily comparable circumstances. In their opening game of Spain 82 they faced England in a similarly high-profile encounter, but this time out Three Lions captain Bryan Robson managed to upstage Lacombe – who was watching from the bench - by striking three seconds faster than the Frenchman did. Having gotten an early throw-in on the right wing, Steve Coppell hurled the ball into the box and, following a flick-on, Robson ghosted in at the back post to convert an impressive, acrobatic volley.
Those with a little less experience have managed similar feats, and some in huge games as well. It’s hard to beat AC Milan striker Alberto Paloschi’s effort however. When the fresh-faced 17-year-old made his debut against Siena at the San Siro, he was expected to just provide some youthful exuberance. However, 18 seconds into his debut, the Italian latches on to a hooked through-ball by Clarence Seedorf and rifles in a sublime half-volley from the edge of the box with his first touch in professional football to win the game.
Nicklas Bendtner struck his first league goal for Arsenal in memorable style, just 1.8 seconds into his North London derby debut, a Premier League record for a substitute. Getting clear of his marker, he headed home Cesc Fabregas’s freekick to instantly warm himself to the home faithful by giving The Gunners a 2-1 win over fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur. "It was fantastic," he said. "First touch, first Premier League goal.” Everton striker Apostolos Vellios managed a similar effort this season against Chelsea. The Greek striker saw just eight seconds of play before he stretched to prod past Petr Cech.
Bendtner’s not the only striker to get a first Premier League goal with his first touch in the heat of a local derby. Newcastle’s Michael Chopra, who would also play for Sunderland, struck his first goal in the Tyne-Wear derby of 2006 having been on the field for just ten seconds, a record at the time. A long ball from Titus Bramble was allowed to bounce in the area and, bundling into Black Cats keeper Kelvin Davis, Chopra managed to get enough on the ball to equalise and spark a 4-1 turnaround.
The Greek Super League showed stars in the twilight of their career can carry a similar instant impact when Icelandic veteran Eidur Gudjohnsen managed the same achievement. Just 15 seconds after entering the field in his second league appearance for AEK Athens, the former Barcelona striker tapped in to register his first goal for the side from a capital in a 4-3 win over Xanthi. However, another former Premier League striker managed to do the same, and go one better, two years previous. With less than an hour of league football for Olympiakos to his name, Matt Derbyshire entered the field against Iraklis to grab his first goal for the club having been on for less than a minute. He followed that up with this second, and Olympiakos’ fifth, five minutes later.
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