Toppo’s Top Tens – Headers

Headed goals are always a great sight in football. They conjure up images of wingers crossing a ball into the box where the archetypal big English number 9 powers it home whilst leaping in the air like a salmon. It’s not always about power – sometimes players have to divert the ball into the corner of the goal out of the keeper’s reach or hardly touch it, glancing the ball into the net with the deftest of touches.

Perhaps in the modern game the art of heading has become that bit easier thanks to the development of lighter footballs, engineered by experts to have so-called better sweet spots, deviate in the air, be perfectly round etc. Try telling that to the men who in years gone by had to stick their heads onto balls made from cow’s leather that after a good downpour absorbed water, became heavy and could have concussed many a striker upon contact with the forehead.

Regardless of the balls used, players and fans from eras both bygone and modern will appreciate the skills which have gone into these ten headers.

10. Mart Poom – Derby County v SUNDERLAND, Division One 2003

The big Estonian was more accustomed to stopping goals rather than scoring them, so to see him net this header at Pride Park was really something. Poom was returning to the club whom he served for five years and his Sunderland team were 1-0 down with the match into injury time.

Sunderland had a corner and Poom ran up the other end of the pitch to support the attack. As Sean Thornton’s ball was swung into the box Poom ran in and thumped it home with the sort of header any outfield player would have loved to score. It salvaged a point for the Wearsiders and Poom became an instant fans favourite. Did we mention he had a spell at Watford too?

9. Keith Houchen – COVENTRY CITY v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup Final 1987

A goal that gets replayed every year on cup final day. In 1987 Coventry reached the Wembley showpiece for the first time in their 104 year history and standing in their way were Spurs, back-to-back Cup winners earlier in the decade and huge favourites.

Finding themselves 2-1 down during the second half Coventry’s winger Dave Bennett crossed the ball into the box from the right where it was met with a diving header at full stretch from striker Keith Houchen to level the game. The goal was voted BBC’s Goal of the Season and one of the top ten goals ever scored at Wembley. The game went into extra time where the Sky Blues prevailed 3-2 to win their first ever piece of silverware.

8. Marco Van Basten – Real Madrid v AC MILAN, European Cup 1989

Between 1988 and 1990 AC Milan were arguably the most feared side in Europe boasting a team with the attacking talent of Dutch trio Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit. They won consecutive European Cups in this time and on their way to the first one comes this goal from Van Basten in a tense semi-final against Real Madrid.

Full-back Mauro Tassotti crossed the ball toward the penalty area but with it going just behind Van Basten who was 18 yards from goal it seemed to be harmless. However the Dutchman twisted his body downwards to meet the ball and divert it over the goalkeeper and into the net. Granted it does hit the bar and go in off the keeper’s back……but it was a fantastic effort so we’ll let him off.

7. Uwe Seeler – England v WEST GERMANY, World Cup Quarter Final 1970

For England fans of a certain age, this goal still makes stomachs turn as it sealed a German comeback from 2-0 down against England in the World Cup. (I won’t mention anything about Uruguayan officials….)

The ball was chipped into England’s penalty area with goalkeeper Peter Bonetti hesitating whether to stay on his line or not. German marksman Uwe Seeler pounced on the indecision, managing to flick the ball over the ‘keeper into the net despite facing away from goal. The match went into extra time and Germany ended England’s reign as World Champions with a 3-2 win.

6. HENRIK LARSSON – SWEDEN v Bulgaria, Euro 2004

Sweden won this group game 5-0 and this is by far and away the most spectacular goal of the lot, a fantastic diving header from one of their all-time greats. With one defender for company Larsson may have had the time to volley the ball or bring it down, instead he went flat-out in mid-air to head into the bottom corner to put the Swedes 2-0 up.

Some observers said he was too old to return to international football after initially retiring in 2002, how wrong they were.

5. Luis Garcia – LIVERPOOL v Anderlecht, Champions League 2005

Luis Garcia was one of the few Spanish players brought to Anfield by Rafa Benitez who did rather well. During three years with the club he scored some memorable goals which endeared him to the fans, including this effort in a 3-0 win against Anderlecht.

The second goal of the game was something special, as Garcia latched onto Steve Finnan’s cross from the right. Leaning back as the ball came into the box, he somehow managed to guide it into the far corner from fifteen yards out beyond the dive of the goalkeeper, a great header.

4. Yordan Letchkov – BULGARIA v Germany, World Cup 1994

In the 1994 World Cup Quarter Final Bulgaria met Germany, reigning World Champions and among the favourites to retain their crown. No one gave the minnows much hope of winning, but they hadn’t read the script.

After falling a goal down to Lothar Matthaeus’ penalty their task got harder, until star man Hristo Stoichkov equalised with a well taken free kick with fifteen minutes left. Three minutes later Bulgaria were ahead.

A cross from the right was met by Yordan Letchkov and the balding midfielder put the ball past Bodo Illgner in the German goal with a diving header Jurgen Klinsmann himself would have been proud of, the winning goal as it proved to be. 

It was a great moment in World Cup Finals history, with fans all over the globe revelling in the sight of the World Champions humbled. ‘Schadenfreude’ is a word which comes to mind…..

3. Jared Borgetti – MEXICO v Italy, World Cup 2002

A great piece of skill now from Mexico’s all time leading goalscorer. Of the 46 goals he scored for his country, few matched this one. During a match against Italy, Cuauhtémoc Blanco clipped a ball into the Italian penalty area which seemed harmless enough as Borgetti chased it with his back to goal and a defender for company.

Out of nowhere the striker displayed fantastic vision and technique as he managed to flick the ball back over his head into the far corner of the goal past goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who didn’t expect what was coming, no one did to be fair. You may remember Borgetti for his largely forgettable time playing for Big Sam’s Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League.

2. Javier Hernandez – Stoke City v MANCHESTER UNITED, Premier League 2010

What is it about Mexicans and spectacular headers? This one is from last weekend and comes from the country’s newest goalscoring predator. Hernandez, or ‘Chicharito’ as he is known scored a brace to seal a 2-1 win for United but his first goal will live long in the memory.

In the Stoke City penalty box surrounded by players a cross was flicked towards the striker however the ball was going just behind him. Rather than turn to control or get a shot away, he put the ball into the net with the back of his head using great strength from his neck muscles. A brilliant piece of improvisation from one of Man United’s brightest young prospects.

1. Martin Palermo – BOCA JUNIORS v Velez Sarsfield 2009

He’s the striker remembered for once missing three penalties in a Copa America match for Argentina in 1999. Nevertheless Palermo does know where the goal is and he was the saviour of his country’s indifferent qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup. Now plying his trade in his homeland with Boca Juniors, this goal from last year is something unique – a 40 yard header.

In the final minute of a match against Velez Sarsfield Palermo managed to convert a poor clearance from the goalkeeper with his head. The time he had to react and the control he got on the ball makes it impressive, as is the fact he got it in the net from the distance he did. To top it off, this was his 200th goal for Boca, pretty special all round.

And finally…..

Tomas Brolin – Sheffield Wednesday v LEEDS UNITED, Premier League 1995

Before joining Leeds United in 1995, Tomas Brolin was regarded as one of the finest footballers in Europe, following success in Italy with Parma and with the Swedish national team. However during his time in England he became a laughing-stock as his form dropped and waistline expanded. After commanding a £4.5 million pound transfer fee from Parma, Brolin made just 19 Premier League appearances for Leeds, scoring 4 goals and is widely regarded as one of the club’s worst ever players.

One of those 4 goals came in a match at Sheffield Wednesday and only added to the farcial nature of Brolin’s time in West Yorkshire. Having gone in for a challenge with Wednesday’s goalkeeper Kevin Pressman he was flat-out on the turf three yards from goal with the ball loose. An Owls defender, in an attempt to clear the ball, booted it at Brolin’s head and it went in the net. Comedy gold.

Are there any other great headers that have been missed? Tweet them at www.twitter.com/steven_toplis or www.twitter.com/optajokepodcast.

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