Toppo’s Top Tens – Counter-attack goals

Counter-attacking does exactly what it says on the tin. Allow your opponents to come forward with the ball attacking your goal, then win possession, breakaway up field with speed and precision before scoring a goal yourselves. They demonstrate how games of football can change within seconds and when counter-attacks are done well, they are fantastic to witness.

Rather than just a long Wimbledon-esque punt up field, they usually require the ball to stay on ‘terra firma’ and players to move it quickly towards the opposition’s goal, perfect examples of free-flowing, passing football. Toppo’s Top Tens this week looks at some great counter-attack goals. Blink and you’ll miss them, rather like the conceding teams did.

10: Emmanuel Adebayor – Liverpool v ARSENAL, Champions League Quarter-Final second leg 2008

In a pulsating Champions League quarter-final second leg at Anfield, Liverpool were leading 2-1 with 83 minutes gone. Attacking Arsenal’s goal, Steven Gerrard miscued a shot on goal and the ball fell to Theo Walcott deep within his own half.

The goal is all about Walcott’s pace and it begins with him skipping past two defenders as he sets off on a blistering 70 yard run which leaves half the Liverpool side in his wake. When he enters the penalty area he squares the ball for Emmanuel Adebayor who sidefoots it past goalkeeper Pepe Reina, to send the Arsenal fans into raptures and the rest of Anfield into stunned silence. The Gunners looked to be on their way to an away-goals victory until Liverpool fought back through a dubious Steven Gerrard penalty and a goal from Ryan Babel.

9: Marc Albrighton – ASTON VILLA v Manchester United, Premier League 2010

A great goal from last weekend scored by Aston Villa’s young winger Marc Albrighton. Now under the stewardship of Gerard Houllier, Villa demonstrated how dangerous a side they can be on the breakaway. A goal up through Ashley Young’s penalty they found themselves on the backfoot as United went forward searching for an equaliser. Ten seconds later they were 2-0 up.

Youngster Barry Bannan won the ball just outside his own penalty area and found Ashley Young wide on the left. His pace took him upfield in no time and he fed the ball out to Stewart Downing whose perfect low cross was tapped in from four yards by Albrighton. A lightning quick goal that shows how effective good counter-attack football can be.

8: Siphiwe Tshabalala – SOUTH AFRICA v Mexico, World Cup Group Stages 2010

As Peter Drury exclaims ‘Goal for South Africa, goal for all Africa!’ It’s also a goal for anyone who appreciates counter-attacking play as Bafana Bafana kicked off their World Cup in style. Early in the second half of the game Mexico were on the attack but Rafael Marquez’s ball was intercepted and South Africa regained possession.

As they came forward, quick play between Katlego Mphela and Teko Modise in the middle of the park released winger Siphiwe Tshabalala who was through on goal but out wide on the left. The finish is stunning as he rifles the ball into the top corner of the net from a tight angle to put South Africa 1-0 up and send their fans into joyous celebration.

7: Garry Parker – NOTTINGHAM FOREST v Everton, Simod Cup Final 1989

The competition may not be one of the most prestigious in English football history, but the 1989 final was a thriller which saw Forest beat Everton 4-3 at Wembley. The Reds’ second goal was an example of great counter-attack football, which Forest used to devastating effect at times under the management of Brian Clough, famed for liking his teams to play the ball along the floor.

Everton had a corner which was flicked into the six-yard box and just cleared by Forest centre-back Des Walker. He played the ball out to Nigel Clough, he with one touch found Garry Parker who burst away from the chasing Everton players, running 40 yards before drilling a shot beyond Neville Southall from inside the penalty area.

6: Marco Tardelli – ITALY v West Germany, World Cup Final 1982

It’s the goal which gave us one of the most famous celebrations in World Cup history, but what went before is sometimes forgotten, as Italy’s final goal in their 3-1 triumph was the result of a counter-attack.

The breakaway was something that Italian teams of the era used effectively, and it was a key part of the 1982 World Champions’ triumph in Spain. After dispossessing their opponents, the Azzuri went upfield on the attack themselves and following some neat passing and build up play, the ball came to Tardelli on the edge of the penalty box who fired beyond West German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher. The passion etched onto Tardelli’s face afterwards shows how much the goal meant to him and his country.

5: Andrei Kanchelskis – Norwich City v MANCHESTER UNITED, Premier League 1993

During Sir Alex Ferguson’s 24-year tenure at Old Trafford, his three truly great title-winning teams have all been able to produce effective counter-attacking football (as shown here by Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney et al. but it’s from the first of those teams that this effort comes.

In 1993 United travelled to Carrow Road in a title decider against Norwich City, needing a win to firmly establish their credentials as potential champions. Ferguson’s attack minded policy paid off as United won 3-1. Their second goal came when Norwich went forward trying to get back into the match and paid the price as United produced quick, incisive football on the breakaway. Gary Pallister cleared the ball from his six yard line to Andrei Kanchelskis. The Russian knocked it to Paul Ince, he found Ryan Giggs who played it first time to Brian McClair. His first-time ball released Kanchelskis who ran through on goal, rounded Norwich goalie Bryan Gunn and rolled the ball into the net for a 2-0 lead.

Thanks to Mike Aldridge for the mention of another great United breakaway goal in this match which put them 3-0 up within 20 minutes. With Norwich players upfield chasing the game Paul Ince intercepted a pass in his own half, ran over 50 yards with the ball and squared it for Eric Cantona to put into an empty net. A goal well worthy of a mention, you can see that one in this clip too.

4: Gheorghe Hagi – ROMANIA v Argentina, World Cup Second Round 1994

The Romanian side which travelled to the USA for the 1994 World Cup included some names familiar to English football fans, with the likes of Gheorghe Popescu, Dan Petrescu and Gheorghe Hagi amongst others. Throughout the tournament they made the most of catching out the opposition via counter-attacks, using their opponents set-pieces to their own advantage.

One of the best examples came in their surprise 3-2 second round victory over Argentina. The winning goal was a product of speed and the picking of the right pass. An Argentine corner breaks down and the ball is picked up by Ilie Dumitrescu, who charges down the field with players in support. Rather than take the easy option of laying the ball off to the man on his left, Dumitrescu waits for Gheorghe Hagi to catch up with play, feeding the ball into his path perfectly where he drills the ball home first time with his right foot. An impressive goal which sealed Romania’s progress to the quarter-finals.

3: Terry McDermott – LIVERPOOL v Tottenham Hotspur, Division One 1978

A vintage goal from the great Liverpool team of the late 1970’s, which shows they were capable of tearing teams apart on the breakaway. The goal is their final one in a 7-0 demolition of Spurs at Anfield and probably the best.

Having defended a Tottenham corner, Liverpool’s Kenny Dalglish played the ball out to the right where David Johnson picked it up and produced a great cross-field pass into space down the left. Winger Steve Heighway ran onto the ball and delivered a perfect first-time cross to the far post where Terry McDermott met it with a bullet header which flew beyond the goalkeeper. Manager Bob Paisley said it was ‘probably the best goal Anfield has ever seen.’

2: Landon Donovan – USA v Brazil, Confederations Cup Final 2009

The final of the 2009 Confederations Cup was a cracker, with USA coming close to winning the trophy before losing 3-2 to Brazil despite being 2-0 up. The goal which put the US into a two goal lead was a brillant counter-attack goal scored by Landon Donovan.

After a Brazilian attack broke down, the ball was released quickly to Donovan. The striker passed it first time out wide to Charlie Davies who returned the complement with a first-time ball back inside where Donovan had continued running. Collecting it 20 yards from goal, the LA Galaxy man knocked it onto his left foot, wrongfooting Ramires before powering a composed shot into the bottom corner of the net.

1: Wesley Sneijder – NETHERLANDS v Italy, European Championships Group Stage 2008

Throughout the group stages at Euro 2008, the Dutch looked like strong contenders for the title with swashbuckling performances against France and World Champions Italy. During their 3-0 win against the Azzuri, influential Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder scored a goal which comprised of quick breakaway football, teamwork and skill.

Defending an Italian corner, Giovanni van Bronckhorst cleared a header off the line. He began running upfield as Rafael van der Vaart had the ball in the middle of the park. The midfielder passed the ball to the left where van Bronckhorst’s run had taken him. He continuted to come forward and chipped a long ball to the far side of the penalty box where Dirk Kuyt nodded it down first-time to Wesley Sneijder, who knocked it past Gianluigi Buffon from eight yards to give the Dutch a 2-0 lead. A fine counter-attacking goal which swept the entire length of the pitch.

And finally…..

Geoff Hurst – ENGLAND v West Germany, World Cup Final 1966

Just in case you didn’t know, England won the World Cup in 1966. The match at Wembley was full of drama with a hat-trick scored, a last minute equaliser, a Russian linesman and the final goal of the game which was scored on the breakaway.

In the final minute of extra-time England were leading 3-2 due to a Geoff Hurst strike (which was miles over the line) and West Germany piled forward in search of an equaliser. The ball was collected by England captain Bobby Moore who instead of going for Row Z, calmy brought the ball out of danger and chipped it forward toward West Ham and England teammate Hurst.

The striker ran forward with a German defender giving chase and as he reached the penalty area, smashed home a ferocious shot with his left foot, making him the only man to score a World Cup Final hat-trick. A great English sporting moment accompanied by an unforgettable piece of commentary from Kenneth Wolstenhome. 

Let us know your favourite counter-attack goals on Twitter – or

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One Response to Toppo’s Top Tens – Counter-attack goals

  1. Mike Aldridge says:

    Great choices, completely forgot about that second goal by Kanchelskis, even better counter attacking goal, still Cantona’s goal would have to be my favourite from that game, all because of Paul Ince, what a man!!! Cheers for the full game highlights Toppo!!!


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