10 brilliant goals wasted in meaningless games
1. Radamel Falcao vs America De Cali
Falcao might not have impressed Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge (no thanks to his physio fetish), but El Tigre has proved in the past that he's capable of stonking net-busters like this, casually tossed off in a May 2012 friendly for Atletico Madrid in Colombia.
Did the Colombian have a right to attempt an effort on goal after eyeing up Diego's drifted corner? No, no he did not. But, with his back to goal 16 yards out, the striker launched legs over head to rifle an obscene overhead kick into the top corner. Jose Mourinho had better fire up YouTube.
2. Hugo Almeida vs Inter
OK, so we're bending the rules already – this one wasn't exactly a meaningless game. But there was no one there to see it at the San Siro, after Inter were forced to play four European games behind closed doors in 2005/06 following trouble in the Milan derby.
Porto striker Hugo Almeida was hardly prolific during his spell at the Estádio do Dragão (nor anywhere else, in truth), which is somewhat baffling for a man who can bash a football like this. You know it's a good hit when a goalkeeper stands no chance of saving it from 45 yards out, which is just what Almeida managed with a free-kick that defied logic.
It proved his only European goal for Porto, and it ultimately mattered little – they lost this game after conceding twice in the last 10 minutes, and finished bottom of the group.
3. Michael Owen vs Hangzhou Greentown
Let’s start at the end and work back: Michael Owen’s finish is a brilliant one, controlled and accurate, giving the Greentown goalkeeper no chance. His first touch is similarly immaculate, as Manchester United went all Harlem Globetrotters on the Chinese side in July 2009.
The beauty of the goal, however, is in its conception. This is a bona fide instance of Berbarotica, an authentic crystallisation of all that The Toff stands for.
Setting aside his snuff box and cane for an instant, our 18th Century man of leisure dollies the ball up for himself, attracting towards him no fewer than six Greentown players like bees to a particularly beautiful flower. Then the Bulgarian flicks a visionary pass over the defence to help set up his onrushing strike partner. Seven minutes later, The Toff scored himself (with a somewhat unneccessarily sideways volley); United ended up 8-2 winners before our elegant hero settled down in front of a warm fire at his stately home, content with his evening’s work.
4. Yossi Benayoun vs Wycombe Wanderers
How do you even describe this goal? A series of juggled backheels followed by a lob? Three consecutive scorpion kicks? Benayoun’s glorious individual strike in Chelsea's opening pre-season friendly of 2011 truly defies description by the written word.
It also suggests that, when not at training or playing in matches, Yossi is a committed proponent of the hacky sack as a tool to improve one’s touch. Students everywhere rejoice.