• First XIs

Cornering the market

Jon Carter
November 24, 2011
Yakubu caused controversy at the weekend © PA Photos

Creatively speaking there is little that you can do with a corner, barring the old 'put it in the mix' or the patented Steve Bould near-post flick on. Indeed the corner has declined in recent years as an attacking weapon, with New York-based journalist Clemente Lisi maintaining: "It took teams competing in the Champions League, the world's best club competition, an average of 54 corner kick attempts to score during the 2009-10 season for a total of just 23 out of 320 goals. That translates to roughly 7% of all goals."

That said there is the odd creative spark that slips through and, as shown by Yakubu's trick against Wigan at the weekend, the corner can be used as an attacking weapon - by fair means or foul. Here, First XI looks at some of the most memorable goals from corners in history.

Cesareo Onzari (Argentina v Uruguay, 1924)
The Olympic Football Tournament final of 1924 between Switzerland and Uruguay saw an event that would change the rulebook forever. In those days, shooting straight from a corner-kick was outlawed and therefore when the Uruguayans managed to score from this unlikely source, it was disallowed. Despite running away 3-0 winners, the Uruguay players argued with the logic of the rule after the game and, within a month, it was changed by FIFA.

Uruguay's next match, a friendly against Argentina, offered them another chance to try and Cesareo Onzari wrote himself into the record books with a curling effort that would prove to be the first legal goal from a corner. In honour of his achievement, football's lexicon was updated to include the term 'Olympico' (a reference to the month's Games) for any goal scored direct from a corner. The first recorded effort in Britain also came in a friendly international as Scotland's Alex Cheyne netted against England in 1929. Cheyne became known as an early master of the art and was credited with creating the famous 'Hampden Roar' as his ten-men beat the English 1-0 in the final minute on a windy day in Glasgow. The winning 'Olmpico' goal, though, may have had an element of luck to it as the Guardian wrote: "Perhaps the wind, having done so much to spoil the game, applied the deciding twist.'' But later that season, Cheyne proved it was no fluke as he netted two from a corner in one Scottish Cup game for Aberdeen.

Marcos Coll (Colombia v Russia, 1962)
The only player to have ever scored direct from a corner in a World Cup game is Colombian Marcos Coll, although he owes much to the defending of Russian Givi Chokheli who let the ball past him at the near post in a group stage match in 1962.

Not the most beautiful of goals, Coll's low effort was sheepishly celebrated as it bounced before deceiving Chokheli and Russian goalkeeping legend, Lev Yashin, on the line.

Still, with Russia going into an 11th minute 3-0 lead that was pegged back to 4-1 by the time Coll took his place by the corner flag, the goal played its part in starting the biggest comeback in World Cup history. As Chokheli held his head in his hands, Colombia responded with three goals in ten minutes to tie the game 4-4; although it did not stop them finishing bottom of their group, and Russia top.

George Best (Manchester United v Ipswich, 1971)
The genius that was George Best took pride in taking innovation on the football pitch to the next level. Unsurprisingly, Best used the corner like a free-kick and would often attempt to score. He spent hours practising his art, maintaining that he could ''stick them in the net direct from the corner spot nine times out of 10'' on the training pitch.

Best netted direct from a corner against Ipswich in 1971, but when opposing manager Bobby Robson called it a 'fluke', he wanted to prove him wrong. In his own words: ''There was one Saturday when we played Ipswich in the league and I scored direct from a corner. Bobby Robson was interviewed and said it was a complete fluke. He reckoned I couldn't do it again if I tried a thousand times. Anyway, we met them in the cup the following week . When we won our first corner, I gave Bobby a wave as if to say, "Watch out for this one." I swung it in and it went smack against the post. In a way it was more magical that it didn't go in. I quite liked the fact that it was almost perfect.''

George Best's genius lit up the game © Getty Images

The United winger had first completed the feat for his country, Northern Ireland, in 1965 when he scored against Albania in a World Cup qualifier, while he also hit the bar in trying the same trick against Bulgaria in 1972 before he was sent off for kicking an opponent.

Terry Curran (Sheffield Wednesday v Sheffield United, 1980)
Not all goals scored as a result of corners went in direct of course. A slightly less successful, although arguably more impressive, tactic was the short-corner which could be dribbled back into play.

After Terry Curran took a chance to drop down two divisions and join Wednesday in 1979, few expected him to set the world alight. But the journeyman winger's impact was immediate and he helped the Owls to promotion in his debut season, while also conjuring up a wonderful goal against local rivals Sheffield United. Having gone to receive the short-corner, Curran took the outside route past three onrushing defenders to make himself some space on the touchline and was forced to speed past another before cutting inside to curl a glorious shot past the goalkeeper.

The stunning goal sealed a 1-1 draw which kept Wednesday's promotion hopes alive, although Curran was unable to repeat his first-season heroics and ended up joining the Blades two years later.

George Weah (AC Milan v Verona, 1996)
Very few corner kicks result in goals at the other end of the pitch. However, AC Milan striker George Weah took the art of turning defence into attack to a whole new level in 1996 when he collected the ball in his own area, ran the length of the pitch and scored against Verona.

The first day of the 1996-97 season saw Milan defending a 2-1 lead as the game entered its final five minutes. Given a corner, Verona committed five players into the box to press for an equaliser but faced every member of the Milan side who had been withdrawn to protect their lead. In the midst of a crowded area, the overhit cross found Weah who controlled just outside his own six-yard box and set off into the space ahead of him.

Running at pace, with no team-mate ahead of him for support, Weah reached the halfway line before he found three opponents who quickly surrounded him. Riding one sliding tackle, the Milan striker then turned, knocked the ball past his pursuers (and the last advancing defender) before finding himself through to coolly slot past the goalkeeper. "It was an incredible run," said team-mate Zvonimir Boban after the game. "We were thinking, 'When's he going to stop? When's he going to stop? He's not going to stop! He's never going to stop!'"

Paul Scholes has scored some memorable goals in his career © Getty Images

Roberto Mancini (Parma v Lazio, 1999)
Chelsea fans will pinpoint the finest exponent of the 'backheeled corner' as Gianfranco Zola after his effort against Norwich in 2002. However another Italian, Roberto Mancini, may lay claim to the accolade after his instinctive genius brought about a fabulous goal for Lazio against Parma three years earlier.

With a low, whipped corner arriving from the left-boot of Sinisa Mihajlovic, Mancini appeared not to be interested on the edge of the six-yard box. But, having turned his back, the striker flicked out a heel and directed it into the net with casual elegance. It was all the more audacious when you consider that the scores were tied at 1-1 and the match was progressing into its final third. A late Christian Vieri goal saw Lazio come out 3-1 winners and Mancini's moment of genius was lauded for its brilliance.

Paul Scholes (Manchester United v Bradford, 2000)
While Manchester United fans will surely remember Barcelona in 1999 as their team's two greatest goals from corners, the personal accolade must go to Paul Scholes who made a habit of hammering them in from outside the box.

While Lothar Matthaus, Hamit Altintop, Arjen Robben and Gaizka Mendieta also found success in this area, England's finest exponents of the routine were the pairing of David Beckham (corner-taker) and Scholes (corner-scorer) and, after sealing the Treble a year previous, United continued their corner masterclass against Bradford at Valley Parade. With Scholes lurking outside the box, the Bantams' defenders paid no heed to him and Beckham's perfectly weighted ball found his right boot.

Catching it on the full, Scholes smashed the ball over the head of the ducking Dwight Yorke and into the bottom of the net. It gained a standing ovation from the Bradford fans and Scholes would later describe the goal as ''probably the best I've scored''. It would not be the last of its type though as, almost a decade later, he did the same against Fulham (with some thanks to Mark Schwarzer for his fumbling effort to save it).

Mark Pulling - Corinthian Casuals v Worthing (2004)
It's hard enough to score one goal from a corner, let alone three, but that's exactly what Worthing midfielder Mark Pulling did in the Ryman League (South) in 2004. All three 'Olympico' efforts came during an incredible 24-minute spell in the first half and proved enough to seal a 3-1 win, despite a consolation (not from a corner) just before the interval.

Despite setting a new league record for his hat-trick of corners, assistant manager Danny Bloor took a little of the spotlight off Pulling when he said after the game: "It was an incredible achievement made even better because it gave us three points as well."

Vanina Correa (Argentina v Germany, 2007)
It's not every day that Germany beat Argentina 11-0 in a World Cup. Unfortunately for FIFA, it happened in the very first game of the 2007 Women's World Cup and drew some unwanted publicity from the fact that Argentina goalkeeper Vanina Correa managed to fumble the ball into her own net twice from corners.

"I don't want to comment a great deal about tactics," Argentina coach Jose Carlos Borrello told the FIFA website after the game. "It was a nightmare for our team. Our goalkeeper had a very unfortunate day and gave away two own goals."

However, the PR-conscious organisation ultimately saw fit to award both goals to the corner-takers, Melanie Behringer and Renate Lingor, instead of to the embarrassed stopper as they did not want the general public to think badly of the women's game. Correa was dropped for the remaining two matches of the competition - a 1-0 defeat to Japan and a 6-1 hammering by England - in favour of Romina Ferro but claimed her place back in time for the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

Dario Tudor (Bolivia Under-20s v Paraguay Under-20s, 2009)
The South American Under-20 Youth Championships are supposed to showcase the best young talent on the continent and prove that they are learning the game the right way. Sportsmanship can go out of the window when you are 2-0 down though, as Paraguay goalkeeper Joel Silva found to his cost when he kindly fetched the ball for a corner for opponents Bolivia in a group stage match.

Silva's act of generosity saw him caught miles out of position as Alcides Pena Jimenez lined up the dead-ball and swung a cross into an unguarded penalty area for team-mate Dario Tudor to slot home. The goalkeeper's efforts were certainly unnecessary as the tournament had enough ball-boys employed to retrieve the ball and ensure play could continue quickly, but justice may have been done in the end as Paraguay won 5-1 and ultimately finished second.

Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St Petersburg v Young Boys, 2011)
A rare corner trick to be allowed comes from last year's Europa League. While plenty of teams have tried it without success in recent years - Basel against Grasshoppers in 2007; Roma v Milan in 2008; Manchester United against Chelsea in 2009 - the officials saw fit to let Lombaerts' effort stand, despite the ball seeming not to roll a circumference (as the rules dictate).

With the scores at 0-0, Zenit's corner was merely touched into play without the Young Boys' defence realising and picked up by Danko Lazovic. As Swiss goalkeeper Marco Wolfli twigged what was happening and began yelling at his players to rush out, Lazovic was allowed to dribble towards the penalty area before playing a perfect cross for Lombaerts to head home. Incensed, Young Boys came back to win 2-1, but lost the away leg 3-1 and crashed out of the competition.

The routine has yet to be used legally, although with more attention being paid to corner antics, officials may find increasingly creative solutions to police in the future.

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