Stay Beautiful

Christian Eriksen goal v Sheff Utd

Goals are the big commodity in football. A regular goal-scorer has governing bodies turning a blind-eye to 50% of their vicious stamps, once ethical clubs embrace biters and racists while others try to employ rapists still serving their sentence. The value of goals can turn the beautiful game ugly. But occasionally, as Christian Eriksen proved again last night, some goals can be so wonderful they take the game to a higher level.

It’s not uncommon to hear the cliché from a football pundit that all goals are worth the same – a lucky deflection from a goal-mouth scramble is just as valuable as a flowing team move with great skill; true in the same game, but in a sport that is thankfully not just all about cold facts, the people’s game allows us to subjective discuss and judge great goals, reviving memories of a kind only sport can bring while breathing life into post-match pub conversations or long away trips back home.

The broader understanding of the game takes in much more than numbers. In fact, most stats tweeted about football on a daily basis are meaningless and have little significant context, not accounting for things better assessed with an appreciation on everything happening on a pitch at the time; limited touches on a ball don’t value the positional play off the ball while a percentage of successful final balls don’t appreciate the skill of playing balls into dangerous areas for attacking players who may not always be good enough to being in the right place at the right time.

Another stat that doesn’t always tell the full story is an individual player’s goal tally. A player may begin as a wide player before flourishing centrally under a great manager in England, boosting their scoring charts as a flat-track bully, in between less spectacular spells on the continent, only to later cash in with the MSL and then from a very generous TV broadcaster. Meanwhile, other wide players may have a track record of affecting big games with decisive moments late in matches, yet end up languishing in the reserves due to the dubious judgement of the next man coming through the managerial door.

There is no formula to weighting goals when evaluating their value. But there should be no doubt Christian Eriksen’s second goal for Tottenham Hotspur last night in the dying minutes of the League Cup Semi-Final second leg at Sheffield United was truly great.

He set a high standard with a wonderful right-foot free-kick in the first half, similar to his set-piece at home to Everton last season, beating the keeper on his own side, but so perfect it dipped to crash in off the inside of the post and put Spurs in front on the night. And his habit of continually scoring goals off posts is a testament to his excellent finishing ability.

The importance of his second goal was clear. Yet again, Eriksen scored a late goal (88th minute or later) for Spurs that won a tie or match, in addition to his winners against Sunderland, Swansea and Leicester City in the last few weeks. But also it was a beautiful goal.

His movement of the ball initially created space and then rather than taking a touch and bearing down on goal centrally, which would have given the keeper a chance, he let the pace of Harry Kane’s through ball do the work, letting it run across him diagonally while closing in on goal so he could finish first time with a beautiful left-footed pass inside of the opposite post which couldn’t be saved. It was combination of great intelligence, brilliant technique and supreme calmness under pressure.

It takes Spurs to another cup final at Wembley and was befitting of the Glory, Glory Halleluiahs of the 5,500 fans who travelled in the wind, snow and hail. And it was a moment that transcended the lack of morals in the game from clubs that do anything to hang on to their less classy players; transcending the idiotic dull chants about kicking others in the head; and transcending the few who run around town centres so insecure in their casual clad skin they feel the need to run around town centres with something to prove in the name of football.

Spurs are on their to Wembley to face Chelsea, who were tactically out played over two legs by Brendon Rodgers and Liverpool but got through in extra-time at home due to the excellence of their first-choice keeper over both legs. However with their haranguing of officials and the sly, nasty off-the-ball fouls in the tie, the post-match interviews from their disingenuous, ranting manager and their petulant scrapping of this weekend’s Premier League news conference, they continue to cast a shadow on the game. But Eriksen can help football stay beautiful.

MG

Mel Gomes is the author of the e-book Glory Nights from Wankdorf to Wembley which documents Tottenham’s return to the European Cup. It is available to preview for free and download in full from Amazon and Smashwords. More details, including photos and links to reviews, here.

Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley

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