21 May 2009

Smooth is the new smooth

As I sit before my computer wearing my "I WATCHED THE UEFA CUP FINAL!" T-shirt, allow me to point out the first Shakhtar Donetsk goal, scored by "Not The" Adriano:

This was noteworthy to me because the finish resembled one of my favourite goals of recent years: the second goal scored by Hernán Crespo for Milan in the 2005 Champions League final (a goal that made it 3-0 to Milan, a goal that everyone has understandably forgotten, a goal that appears from roughly 2:30 in this clip):

When I saw the Adriano goal in real time, I saw it as an error from Werder Bremen goalkeeper Tim Wiese. I wondered whether he had gone to ground too readily, making it easy for Adriano to chip him. The ball appeared to have passed close enough by Wiese that he ought to have stopped it. But the replay made it apparent that Wiese did little wrong. The chip by Adriano flew just over Wiese's shoulder. When you think about it, it's the perfect shot to beat an onrushing goalkeeper. With so little time for the keeper to react, it's extremely awkward for him to manoeuvre his arm in such a way as to block it. (The comedian Lee Mack once suggested that the cruellest thing you could do to a cat is to stick a piece of cat food under its chin. This is the footballing equivalent.) In addition, it keeps the trajectory of the chip reasonably low, so making it more easily controllable. It's a beautifully efficient way to score.

Do players consciously (or unconsciously) think like this when they execute such a kick? I doubt it, though I'd like to think they do.

(As it happens, the best part of the Crespo goal is not the finish but that pass from Kaká. That belongs in a time capsule.)


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