Unless you have deliberately avoided social media over the weekend, you cannot have failed to see John McGinn’s goal for Aston Villa against Sheffield Wednesday.
The Scottish midfielder drilled home a sublime volley, left-footed, from the edge of the penalty area off the underside of the crossbar past the despairing dive of Cameron Dawson.
And it got us thinking – what are the best volleys we have seen live, in the flesh?
Paul Scholes’s rocket against Aston Villa and Wayne Rooney’s howitzer at Newcastle are two that spring to mind in the Premier League era – but we have delved into our memories to find a couple of more obscure ones.
Here’s our selection…
James Whaling – John McGinn (ASTON VILLA vs Sheffield Wednesday)
I was lucky enough to be at Villa Park on Saturday to watch what is unquestionably the best goal I have seen live.
I was in the away end in a supporting capacity rather than a working one, and the reaction of the Sheffield Wednesday fans around me told you all you need to know about how good this goal was.
Having taken the lead only four minutes earlier, it was a strike which would ordinarily knock the stuffing out of travelling fans, but the sold-out away end instead looked at each other in a daze of bewilderment.
“Fair play,” was the overriding message.
As a Wednesday fan, I’m not happy with either attempt at a clearing header, but once the ball goes out to McGinn, I’m thinking: “Go on, hit it. Have a go.”
Ninety-nine times out of 100 that ball flies into the Holte End, but it was as sweet a strike as you could wish to see. The fact it cannoned off the underside of the crossbar and into the roof of the net made it all the more pleasing on the eye.
I think what separates this goal from other volleys I have witnessed, I’m thinking back to a couple of Chris Brunt efforts down the years, is the swazz, as the kids say.
The ball started so far outside Cameron Dawson’s left post, it had no right to curl back in to that degree and end up in the back, or roof, of the net.
Thankfully, Wednesday re-took the lead and hung on for the three points – making the goal even better from my point of view!
Matt Lawless – Paolo Di Canio (WEST HAM vs Wimbledon)
Take a bow, John McGinn. Take a bow. His volley was so, so good I will show it to my 10-year-old son on loop. If ever there is a lesson to be learned about mastering technique, that’s it right there.
But the finest volley I have seen in the flesh? There’s only one winner: Paolo Di Canio. You know the one.
Trevor Sinclair flights it diagonally across the field before West Ham ’s maverick Italian connects with a chop to direct it past Wimbledon’s Neil Sullivan. Poetry in motion.
Jake Polden – Zoltan Gera (FULHAM vs Manchester United)
It’s not very often you beat Manchester United – not back in 2009 anyway – and it’s very rare you do so after scoring a goal as stylish as the one Zoltan Gera netted in Fulham’s 2-0 win at Craven Cottage some nine years ago.
Fulham were helped on the day by Paul Scholes being sent off early into the match after handling the ball on the line, and Danny Murphy netted the subsequent penalty.
But the Champions League winners from the year before were still very much in the fixture before Gera chested the ball down, charged through the middle of the park and played it out wide to Andy Johnson.
Continuing his run, the Hungarian entered the box where he received a bobbling return ball, and with his back to goal flicked it into the air before performing a spinning round-the-house kick to smash it past Edwin van der Sar.
Ibrahim Mustapha – Aaron Ramsey (ARSENAL vs CSKA Moscow)
Arsenal’s run to the Europa League semi-final in 2018 ultimately ended in disappointment as they came unstuck against eventual winners Atletico Madrid.
However, on their route to the last four they faced CSKA Moscow in the quarter final. A 6-3 aggregate win saw the Gunners progress thanks mainly to a comprehensive 4-1 home win in the first leg.
The highlight of the game was Aaron Ramsey’s sensational goal to put them 3-1 up after just 25 minutes.
Mesut Ozil spotted his teammate making a late run, beating the Russians’ half-hearted offside trap by scooping a perfectly weighted ball into the penalty area.
The unmarked Welshman leaped high into the air and ingenuously flicked his right boot behind himself to direct the over the head of the despairing Akinfeev.
Mark Jones – Emre Can (Watford vs LIVERPOOL)
We all know that any true volley can’t be allowed to hit the ground even once before the ball is struck. If anyone tries to tell you anything else they are an outright liar, let’s be honest.
That’s why McGinn’s was so good after all, and so in that spirit I’ve had to rule out a few Steven Gerrard strikes as he loved to let the let the ball bounce up before he smashed it in. Robbie Fowler in the League Cup final of 2001 did similar, but that’s just not allowed.
Dietmar Hamann’s 2003/04 goal of the season against Portsmouth was a strong contender in the true volleys category, but for the sheer “what the hell has he just done there” factor it’s going to be Emre Can at Vicarage Road in May 2017.
The whole ground took an audible intake of breath when it went in, and while the Liverpool supporters’ celebrations were tinged with a kind of wide-eyed wonder, Watford’s fans could do nothing but stand and applaud.
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