Hat-trick Heaven

September 10 2007

A few months ago I wrote about the greatest hat-trick of all-time, and came to the conclusion that few could better the stunning trio of goals that Rivaldo scored for Barcelona against Valencia in the final game of the 2001-2002 season.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a new contender. Step forward River Plate captain Fernando Belluschi, who scored three absolute screamers in an Argentine league game against Velez Sarsfield yesterday.

For his first, he nutmegged an opponent and then unleashed a left-footed 25-yard belter that cannoned off the crossbar and went in.

His second saw him hang, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style in the air before despatching a cool left-footed volley into the top left-hand corner (which eventually found the back of the net via the keeper’s hand, the crossbar and then the keeper’s backside).

He saved his best till last, exchanging passes with a team-mate from a short corner and then curling a delicious lob into the far corner with his right foot.

Mind you, anything Belluschi can do, Rivaldo can do better…

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Hansen scores from 45 yards

September 8 2007

Pierluigi Casiraghi’s Italy Under-21s had a lucky escape when they only just managed to scrape past the Faroe Islands with a 2-1 home victory in an Under-21 European Championship qualifier in Trento last night.

The senior side may currently lie bottom of European Championship Qualifying Group B, but they’re not the wretched whipping boys they once were. The gap between the top teams and the weaker teams in Europe is certainly closing.

The highlights of the Under-21 game are worth watching if only for the Faroe Islands’ equalising goal, when defender Einar Hansen ambled into the Italian half and, spotting Italy keeper Andrea Consigli absent-mindedly straying from his line, swept the ball home from fully 45 yards.

The Primera Liga kicked off at the weekend, and there were a fair few surprise results. Barca were held 0-0 away at Racing Santander, Real Zaragoza went down 2-1 at Real Murcia, and newly promoted Almeria stunned Deportivo La Coruna with a 0-3 win at Estadio Riazor.

But one of the biggest shocks of the weekend occurred at the home of title hopefuls Valencia, who suffered a 0-3 defeat at the hands of Villarreal.

Former Newcastle misfit Jon Dahl Tomasson rounded Santiago Canizares to put Villarreal ahead after 16 minutes. Valencia were reduced to ten men when star striker David Villa was bravely and correctly dismissed for diving, and new signing Giuseppe Rossi made it two from the penalty spot in the second half.

Things went from bad to worse for the home side when Joaquin received a straight red for swearing at the officials after being denied a penalty. Santiago Cozorla sealed the win with a low left-footed strike in the 73rd minute.

Neutral observers may wonder how a team that boasts Pascal Cygan at centre half could have so ruthlessly dispatched one of Europe’s most potent attacking sides, but Cygan’s leaden-footed calamitousness is more than compensated for by young talents like the Chilean attacking midfielder Matias Fernandez.

Signed from Chile’s Colo Colo in October last year, Fernandez struggled to find his feet in his first season, but his introduction from the substitutes bench against Valencia saw him win the penalty that gave Villarreal their second goal and supply the assist for the killer third.

A fleet-footed attacker who has been likened to Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero and Barca’s Lionel Messi, he scored an absolutely astonishing goal in his first full season for Colo Colo in 2004:

One suspects we might be seeing quite a lot of Matias Fernandez in years to come…

Early Doors

August 17 2007

How do you stamp your authority on a game? A full-bodied Vinnie Jones-style tackle on your opposite number, to ‘let him you’re there’? A flurry of Cristiano Ronaldo-esque step-overs so the full-back knows what he’s in for? A few finessed passes to demonstrate your command of the pitch?

Or how about a 40-yard volley, 17 seconds into the match?

That’s exactly how CSKA Sofia’s Brazilian striker Claudinei announced his arrival in a UEFA Cup qualifying match against Omonia Nicosia on Thursday night. Mind you, Kaiafas’s equaliser wasn’t bad either…

Goal of the Season?

August 8 2007

Most of the major European leagues might not yet be underway, but I’d be surprised if we see many goals better than this opportunistic free-kick by Levadia Tallinn’s Konstantin Nahk:

Nahk’s goal gave Tallinn a 2-1 win over Red Star Belgrade in their Champions League qualifier, but they were eliminated on the away goals rule with the aggregate score 2-2.

I get the impression he’ll get over it pretty quickly.

No real reason for this, but then it’s not every day you came across footage of an obscure Japanese midfielder scoring a goal from sixty yards.

His name is Mitsuo Ogasawara, he’s 5 foot 8 and he plays for Kashima Antlers. The goal was scored in a friendly against Finland in February last year.

In the ranks of halfway-line lobs, I’d put him above Xabi Alonso and on a par with David Beckham and Rivaldo. None of them, however, come close to this breath-taking OG from Frank Queudrue.

It’s been a great year for long-range volleys, particularly those of a left-footed variety, but not such a great year for individual goals (with two obvious exceptions).

With an apology for an inevitable English football bias, I proudly present my goals of the season…

1. Matthew Taylor (for Portsmouth v Everton)
à Premiership

2. David Nugent (for Preston North End v Crystal Palace)
à FA Cup

3. Robin van Persie (for Arsenal v Charlton Athletic)
à Premiership

4. Paul Scholes (for Manchester United v Aston Villa)
à Premiership

5. Wayne Rooney (for Manchester United v Portsmouth)
à FA Cup

6. Francesco Totti (for Roma v Sampdoria)
à
Serie A

7. Lionel Messi (for Barcelona v Getafe)
à Copa del Rey

8. Diego (for Werder Bremen v Alemannia Aachen)
à Bundesliga

9. Christian Vieri (for Atalanta v Siena)
à Serie A

10. Thomas Hitzlsperger (for Stuttgart v Energie Cottbus)
à Bundesliga

Seething at an omission? Aghast at an inclusion? Let me know.