When he looks back on his unhappy contribution to his team’s midweek defeat, Arsenal’s
tarnished golden boy, Mesut Özil, can take one fleeting consolation.
Sure, his hapless penalty against Bayern Munich probably cost his side the
chance to progress in the Champions League.
Sure it will have led to Twitter vitriol posted by overexcited 14-year-olds.
And yes, there will already be internet mockery of his very un-Germanic way
with a spot kick.
But at least his was not the most ridiculous miss perpetrated this week by a
pricey foreign import plying their trade in north London.
At least when Özil stepped forward there was a very sizeable obstacle between
him and the goal-line in the shape of Manuel Neuer, the Bayern keeper.
Roberto Soldado has no such excuse.
When the Spaniard ballooned an effort over the bar during Tottenham
Hotspur ’s Europa League tie in Ukraine on Thursday night, such was
the scale of the vast open space confronting him you can only assume he was
afflicted by a sudden attack of agoraphobia.
Roberto Soldado’s open goal miss v Dnipro
Ouch, it was a dire miss. After Paulinho had served the ball up to him,
unmarked and unnoticed but a yard from a completely unprotected goal,
Soldado made the kind of hash of it that will have reassured Danny Baker
that there is plenty of material for his next DVD compilation of football
At least his coach, Tim Sherwood, was outwardly sympathetic, blaming the pitch
rather than the player. Which was a more generous reading than might have
been given were Harry Redknapp still managing the club.
We can imagine ‘Arry leaning through the window of his Ranger Rover making a
caustic comment about how his wife could have scored that, even had she been
wearing stiletto heels.
Acknowledging his gaffe, Soldado immediately did what every modern-day
footballer is obliged to do in times of personal crisis: he took to social
media to apologise.
“I am sure if I had scored my chance we would have won the game,” he posted on
Instagram. “I know people expect a lot of me and they still haven’t seen it
He is right there. After averaging a goal in every two appearances for
Valencia, he has scored but five in 21 outings for Spurs. And to think,
there were suggestions in the summer that Manchester City had bought the
wrong Spanish centre forward in Álvaro Negredo.
Now lingering well behind Emmanuel Adebayor in his new coach’s esteem,
Soldado’s problem is that Thursday was one of what looks like an
increasingly rare list of opportunities to demonstrate that he was worth the
£26 million he cost Spurs.
Instead of seizing it, that miss will have solidified his reputation as a
Because this is what misses do: they come to define misfiring strikers.
Goalkeepers may claim they are unfairly targeted for their errors, midfielders
may whine that much of their hard work goes unnoticed, but nobody in
football is as exposed as a forward who fails to convert a sitter.
In these days of comprehensive television coverage, every howler becomes
immediately immortalised (in fact, look up Soldado’s Thursday blunder on
YouTube and the index would suggest it is not the only one he has committed;
which, if nothing else, makes you wonder if anyone at Spurs uses the video
site when researching transfers).
All too soon a forward becomes known solely for his error.
Ronnie Rosenthal is now almost exclusively remembered for crashing the ball
against the bar when confronted by an open goal against Aston Villa, as is
Kanu for his clanger for West Bromwich Albion at Middlesbrough, and Yakubu
for scratching a chance for Nigeria against South Korea in the last World
Cup that Geoff Boycott’s mum would have converted.
While poor Chris Iwelumo has been so haunted by his horror miss against Norway
on his Scotland debut that, in a newspaper interview to mark his signing for
St Johnstone in January, he was still saying he hoped to prove there was
more to his game than that miss nearly six years on.
Chris Iwelumo’s Scotland career died with this effort
Still, if Soldado wanted evidence that there is someone worse off than him
right now, he should look up footage of a striker called Rocky Baptiste.
Playing for Harrow Borough against Waltham Abbey, Baptiste can be seen deftly
rounding the goalkeeper and sprinting with the ball until he is within an
inch of the line, right in the middle of a totally unmanned goal.
He then smashes the ball as hard as he can, in the expectation of seeing the
net bulging. Instead it hits a post and cannons out of play.
All you can hear is the person holding the camera repeating an astonished:
“what’s he done?”. Because, as Soldado this week so deftly demonstrated,
when strikers miss like that, you really cannot work out how they did it.
Other missed chances from the annals
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