At the end of match-week 8 the Premier League table’s starting to take shape and we’ve been treated to some stunning goals. What have my favourites been? Di Maria’s chip? Oscar’s free kick? Or that rocket that Enner Valencia launched into the back of McGregor’s net?
All spectacular – but I just love own goals. There’s nothing like the anguish on the culprits face as he stalks past his keeper to pick the ball out of the net, lonely and isolated as his team-mates turn away. It’s been a fantastic season for them so far: we’ve witnessed 11 compared to 4 at this point last season. City’s Pablo Zabaleta was the first to deliver a blow to his own team – thankfully for him it gave Liverpool little consolation as the sky blues marched to a comfortable victory.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of Steven Caulker; once more it was Liverpool benefiting from a defender’s misfortune, and this time it made the difference. QPR were ahead with minutes left on the clock when a flurry of goals snatched victory from their grasp. It would have been historic and immensely beneficial to their season, but it was not to be. Deep in extra time – with the score level at 2-2 – a fierce, low cross found only Caulker’s boot and he failed to turn it wide. The final whistle went seconds later: no historic victory.
The game, however, did result in something for the record books that was a little more to my taste. QPR’s ‘veteran’ centre-half Richard Dunne set the tone for Caulker’s travesty with an OG of his own. Unspectacular and fairly unfortunate, it nevertheless took his personal tally of Premier League own goals to 10 – a league record. The crowning achievement of a career no doubt, especially considering he hasn’t played in this league for a lot of it. Outstanding.
The contributions of both QPR defenders lost them a vitally important game that they should have won. However, both Caulker and Dunne can cling to the fact that they were, largely, unlucky. The same cannot be said for a few of this seasons own goal wizards. Santiago Vergini, Sunderland’s loaned ‘defensive powerhouse’, chimed in a couple of weeks ago with an impressive finish at his own end. The goal was astounding in a number of ways. Firstly, you have to admire the precision of his placed shot – curled from the edge of the area it easily eluded Vito Mannone and nestled in the top corner. Next, you’re forced to ask yourself – what on earth was he trying to do? Sure, he’s under a lot of pressure, and maybe it’s his wrong foot, but how has he not blasted it high into the stands?! He managed to put it into the only part of the goal that Mannone wasn’t covering!
Finally, and perhaps worst of all, was how it affected the result. The Argentinian opened the scoring, leaving Sunderland facing an uphill struggle; clawing that deficit back wasn’t an impossible task but still, it wasn’t easy. It’s not clear whether that start made their heads drop or whether the team from the North-East were always in for a drubbing, but, by God did they get one. Sure, Southampton are on fire (second behind only Chelsea at the time of writing) and yes plenty of other players had their own mishaps – Mannone was woeful and Bridcutt, too, netted at the wrong end; but you’ve got to feel for the man who started it all off… It was awesome though.
If you’ve seen Vergini’s goal you might imagine that, for an own goal addict like me, that’s as good as it gets for the season. That’s where you’re wrong. Whatever marvellous deity dreams up the excitement and woes of each weekend’s entertainment in the Premier League was able to go one better. You might disagree with me, for whatever reason (and I do concede that Vergini’s is a close second). For me though, Eliaquim Mangala’s shocker was the best we’ve had so far.
Probably what I like most about him is that I can’t make up my mind about him. Manuel Pelligrini was willing to splash £32m on the centre-back, describing him as ‘already a fine player [who] has all of the mental, physical, technical and tactical attributes to become one of Europe’s very best defenders.’ At times you can’t help but agree with him – the man’s colossal, hard-working and a demon in the tackle. However, Mangala’s game is littered with errors: he gets caught out of position, he gives the ball away and he’s constantly fouling worryingly close to the box. All that was painfully evident in City’s 4-2 clash with Hull. If it weren’t for the ruthlessness of their strike-force City could have easily come off worse – mostly thanks to the big Frenchman.
Mangala tossed away the early two-goal lead that Aguero and Dzeko built. He gave away a completely unnecessary penalty, but first, he scored an absolute worldie. Pulled out of position, the centre-half was sprinting back towards his goal when the cross came in. Hull had two strikers in the box and City would be in big trouble if it fell to one of them. Mangala had to do something and it was coming in at a rate of knots. So he jumped; like a sky-blue Alaskan salmon, he leapt. His intentions, I imagine, were to launch it high over Caballero’s cross-bar, or to nod it back towards the corner-flag. What happened was far more extraordinary. Perhaps he got the connection wrong, perhaps he misjudged the speed of the ball or his distance from the goal, maybe, even, he wanted to head it to Caballero’s grateful arms. Instead he diverted it, still travelling faster than Arsenal fans turn on their manager, past the keeper and in. It was remarkable; reminiscent of Alan Shearer or Drogba in his heyday. It’s my favourite OG of the season so far, and I’m looking forward to plenty more.