The coronavirus pandemic poured cold water on sporting events all around the globe with soccer one of the most impacted. While basketball fans still wait on the odds for the NBA to take off again, soccer fans in Europe have seen their sport return (under heavy precautions).
As restrictions have eased the world’s most watched game has returned to give fans a huge lift – even if they do have to watch from home. Here we look at five of the best moments since soccer got up and running again.
Number 5. Oscar Rodriguez slams home a stunning free kick
There have been a few great goals since soccer came back on our screens. Few, if any, though have been as cleanly struck as the sublime 35-yard free kick that Oscar Rodriguez dispatched on Friday evening. Rodriguez is on loan at La Liga strugglers Leganes from Real Madrid and it was looking bleak when fellow bottom three side Mallorca were heading for three valuable points.
With three minutes left on the clock, Leganes were awarded a free kick. Rodriguez stood over it and, with his instep, struck the ball beyond the wall, past Manolo Reina and in off the bar. Ecstasy. What a goal!
Number 4. Brighton stuns Arsenal
As Arsenal were comfortably swatted aside by Manchester City in the second game of the Premier League return nobody raised an eyebrow. It was expected.
Fast forward a few days though and a trip to face relegation threatened Brighton at an empty Amex stadium should have delivered an easy three points for Mikel Arteta and co. Bernd Leno had already left the field injured, angry at Seagulls striker Neil Maupay, before £72m summer signing Nicolas Pepe produced a delicious whipped finish to give the Gunners a second half lead.
From there on out, it should have been plain sailing. Lewis Dunk, however, scrambled in an equaliser seven minutes later and in the 95th minute Maupay ran in behind to coolly finish for 2-1. The result gives Brighton a real chance of staying up.
Number 3. Celta hit six
When Celta Vigo welcomed Alaves to Balaidos they had played 29 games and had the most toothless attack in La Liga table. They also hadn’t scored in four games – two of which have been played after the Covid-19 relaunch. Imagine how gutted they were then that there were no fans to celebrate with as they hit six – yes six – without return.
Jeison Murillo and an Iago Aspas penalty put Celta in control early on. Martin Aguirregabiria then saw red for Alaves before Rafinha bent in the goal of the game from 18 yards. 60 seconds later the Barca loanee bagged his second – Celta’s fourth. This was all before half time. Nolito and Santi Mina completed the rout after the break. If they were in the mire before kick-off, their odds of survival have now improved somehow.
Number 2. Craig Dawson channels Cristiano Ronaldo
If Brighton’s win over Arsenal could prove crucial in the fight to avoid relegation, then so could Dawson’s goal for Watford. In a fairly evenly contested affair, neither side looked like winning the game despite a significant difference in league position between the Hornets and Leicester, who look set for Champions League soccer next year. Then on 90, Ben Chilwell arrived to rocket a ferocious left footed strike across Ben Foster and into the back of the net.
It would have been a damaging blow to Nigel Pearson’s side but then centre half Dawson – who hadn’t scored for the club – instinctively threw himself into an overhead kick. Kasper Schmeichel couldn’t believe it. The fans, had they have been allowed in, wouldn’t have believed it. Craig Dawson didn’t believe it. It was, however, 1-1 and Watford edge closer to another year in the top tier.
Number 1. Koln’s comeback
Rewind a few weeks and you’ll see that when Koln entertained Düsseldorf in the second game week after the Bundesliga restart it looked bleak for the hosts. It was a relegation six pointer. After an hour the home side found themselves two goals down. That was still the case with just two minutes of normal time remaining.
Anthony Modeste then put a towering header past Florian Kastenmeier to halve the deficit and with no time at all left on the clock the comeback was complete. Dominick Drexler, who had assisted Modeste, crossed from the right flank and Jhon Córdoba timed his run to perfection to thunder a header home. There were no fans present. Had there been, the roof would have come off the Rhein Energie stadium.
There you have it, five moments from just a few weeks that prove why it is called the beautiful game. Strangely, they all involve clubs at the wrong end of their respective tables too. Who says being at the bottom isn’t fun?