Willian goal continues tradition of cross-shots confounding keepers

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/26 23:53:39

It was a fluke. He never meant it. These thoughts are among the most dismissive in soccer, the crutch of players and fans that feel wronged by having conceded and are desperate for any other explanation for the goal, someone or something to blame, anything but having to credit the goal scorer.

And there's nothing more likely to be dismissed as a fluke than the cross-shot or the cross-cum-shot to give it its official newspaper style guide name, at least in the era before browser history. By the same token, there's maybe no more satisfying goal to score - especially as they tend to find the top corner and/or go in off the woodwork.

Willian's equalizer for Chelsea against Liverpool on Saturday was the latest in glorious cross-shots to spark the inevitable did-he-mean-it debate. The Brazilian substitute's first meaningful contribution was to loop the ball over a backpedaling Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal. Well, did he mean it or was he aiming at striker Alvaro Morata?

Willian was quick with his take. "It was a shot. It was beautiful," he said ­after the game.

"Some people ask, 'You want to cross or you want to shoot?' I said, 'Shoot, of course,'" explained the Brazilian. "Too much quality."

Yet for all his confidence, there are those that doubt Willian's explanation. BBC Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer said he didn't believe the Brazilian, before admitting that he would have claimed the goal as deliberate had he scored it in his own playing days. Does it really matter if Willian meant it, though?

Of course not. Harry Kane's 100th Spurs goal was a cross that ended up in the back of the Everton net and brought an end to the goal drought that plagued his August. Kane admitted that it was a fluke, but the goal is his. "I think everyone could tell my first goal was a cross but you need that luck sometimes," he explained after the game.

When Ronaldinho scored a long-range free kick to knock England out of the 2002 World Cup, the debate raged and in some corners of England it probably still does. If the jury was out at the time, then surely the Brazilian's career of manipulating a ball to his all-smiling will should decide the matter once and for all.

Even those that are still on the fence can still admit that David Seaman collapsed in the netting is one of the great images of that World Cup. Just as one of the enduring images of the 1994 World Cup is Colombia goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba forlornly stumbling into his goal after Romanian Gheorge Hagi's cross-shot had sailed right over him.

Because that is the finest thing about the cross-turned-shot-turned-wonder strike: the complete and utter embarrassment of its victim in the goal. And it happens to the best of them. Juventus keeper Gigi Buffon was made to look the buffoon by Andriy Shevchenko, then at AC Milan. The fact that the Ukrainian had no teammate to cross to and had glanced at the goal several times should not detract from the view of many that it was a cross-shot.

We'll never know, of course, whatever the scorer says. But if these goals continue to leave goalkeepers with the air of a man who has just seen a seagull fly off with his fish supper - like Christian Chivu's did to Nigel Martyn at Euro 2002 - then the cross-shot's scorer deserves all the credit he desires. Ask Willian.

The author is a Shanghai-based freelance writer. jmawhite@gmail.com

Posted in: SOCCER,EXTRA TIME

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