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Football's 13 most dirty tackles

Gobern goes bananas

Geographically speaking, Southampton vs Bournemouth should should be a decent footballing rivalry. However, thanks to the Saints’ bitter history with Portsmouth, it isn’t normally a fiery encounter – not that Oscar Gobern got the memo. With Southampton leading 3-1 in a 2011 League One clash between the two south coast sides, 6ft 3in Gobern channelled his inner Bruce Lee as he launched himself at Cherries defender Shaun Cooper with a wildly unnecessary horizontal two-footed lunge, in such an unusual position (parallel to the ground, sitting up) that it seemed he was being carried in an invisible sedan chair. Luckily Cooper avoided the brunt of it – the attempt was so off-beam, Gobern almost tackled him with his head.

NEXT Feet so high you could wear them as a hat >>

High Stepanenko

Shouts for a high foot are more common in Sunday League than World Cup qualifiers, but this case certainly justified the claim. Ukraine were leading Moldova 2-1 in second-half stoppage time when Taras Stepanenko went for a head-high ball studs-first, much to the dismay of defender Vitalie Bordian’s head. Somehow Stepanenko protested his innocence – or at best, stupidity – but not even O.J. would have gotten away with this one.

NEXT "It's just a flesh wound" >>

“It’s just a flesh wound”

Not a video for the faint-hearted, but not in the usual floppy-legged way. Although Werder Bremen’s Norbert Siegmann did appear to make a genuine attempt for the ball, the injury which resulted from it wouldn’t be out of place in a horror film. Siegmann’s studs managed to leave a 10-inch wound gaping on Ewald Lienen’s thigh, even managing to expose a large proportion of bone.

Instead of just writhing on the floor in excruciating pain, the Arminia Bielefeld player proceeded to get to his feet and hobble Terminator-style towards Bremen boss Otto Rehhagel, insisting that the manager had incited Siegmann into assault. Amazingly Lienen was back in training after 17 days – and 23 stitches.

NEXT Captain Cav-man >>

Captain Cav-man

The archetypal battling non-league full-back, Peter Cavanagh was on Liverpool’s books but joined John Coleman’s Scouse enclave at Accrington. Skippering Stanley up the divisions, “Cav” careered into a few opponents – notably Exeter’s Chris Todd in this January 2006 Conference clash.

Accy were already 1-0 up in the televised game and chasing another when the ball rolled loose in the Exeter area. Grecians centre-back Todd gets to it first but is immediately crumpled by the flying Cavanagh, executing what the Sky commentator calls a “no-nonsense” tackle before replays turn the tone a little more concerned. Todd was substituted and out for a fortnight; Accy went on to a 3-1 win, the Conference title and a decade (and counting) in the Football League; Cavanagh was later banned for eight months for breaching betting rules over a game Accrington lost to Bury.

NEXT Knee or shin? Why not both? >>

Sigmund frayed

Knee or shin? A stamp on either can have disastrous results. Stamping on both at once requires a hefty dose of douchebaggery. New Zealand centre-back Ben Sigmund was evidently upset that his side were losing the final of the 2013 OSN Cup – wouldn’t you be? – but the substitute stopper didn’t need to trampoline off the legs of UAE scorer Ali Mabkhout. Sigmund saw red and immediately apologised... to his own team-mates.

NEXT Liverpool's flying Dutchman seeks permission to land >>

Let’s go fly a Kuyt

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a flying Dutchman. These must have been the thoughts racing through Phil Neville’s head as Kuyt began his descent towards him during a typically tempestuous Mersey derby in 2007. Thankfully, Kuyt was unable to make full contact with his target, which would have certainly broken his leg if he had connected. Despite the fact Phil wasn’t wheeled away, the malice behind the attempt alone has to get it on the list.

NEXT The tackle that changed the law >>

McManaman’s game-changer

No stranger to a leg-breaking tackle – did he ever tell you about that time in the FA Cup final...? – Dave Whelan said of this lunge on Massadio Haidara that “the ball was there and McManaman got the ball as clean as a whistle.” We don’t know what whistles Wigan wally Whelan uses, but the appointed pea-botherer Mark Halsey agreed: McManaman didn’t even see yellow.

Callum’s callous knee-high challenge hospitalised Haidara; somehow, the young Frenchman only suffered severe bruising, but the incident helped to prompt a rule change: by the summer, the FA allowed retrospective action to be taken over incidents unseen by the officials.

NEXT It's Leeds time >>

Bowyer’s biggest mis-step

Lee Bowyer was never football’s most cuddly character, and his time at Leeds wasn’t exactly exemplary. Even disregarding off-field controversy, this was perhaps his worst foul in a Whites shirt. After a goalless UEFA Cup draw in Malaga, Terry Venables’ side went a goal behind at Elland Road – and a minute later Bowyer sprung into action.

His leg-up of opponent Gerardo might have been worth worse than the yellow it received, but Bowyer got worse as he chased the ball, clearly standing on the fallen foe’s head. Leeds lost for the ninth time in 10 games, Michael Bridges ruptured an Achilles, Gary Kelly and Jason Wilcox squared up to each other and a fan was arrested trying to confront Venables. Can’t think what Leeds had done to incur such bad karma.

NEXT What do you mean, "It's a friendly"? >>

Friendly fire

Everyone agrees that friendlies are undercooked kickarounds all about match fitness and team cohesion – well, everyone apart from Boca Juniors’ Leandro Marin, one of two Boca boys sent off during this most competitive non-competition game against Racing Club.

Marin saw a straight red for a flying hack on Ricardo Centurion. Having received the ball with his back to goal, 30 yards out and close to the touchline, the Racing No.10 was probably in as much astonishment as agony when the right-back hurtled studs-up through his standing leg. In classic South American fashion a melée broke out, involving pretty much every player, mostly being very unfriendly indeed.

NEXT Two-footed studs-up lunge ahoy >>

Schwab! Nurse! NURSE!!!

Jumping into a tackle? Tick. Going in two-footed with studs showing? Tick and tick again. This challenge by Stefan Schwab is the very definition of a horror tackle. Looking more missile than man, the Rapid Vienna man flew into this tackle with young Ajax player Jairo Riedewald.

While Riedewald looked more like pulling out of the 50-50 challenge, pulling his feet away, Schwab, undeterred, flew into the tackle which somehow didn’t spilt poor Jairo in half. Shame on you Stefan, you didn’t even make contact with the ball.

NEXT Vietnam's art of darkness >>

Art of darkness

Warning: we’re entering a dark place. And not like Colonel Kurtz, although like Apocalypse Now the first of our potentially distressing films takes place in Vietnam. This two-footed attack led to offender Tran Dinh Dong becoming a record holder - for the subsequent ban he got slapped with.

The 26-year-old defender, who plays for Song Lam Nghe An, went over the top with a challenge on Nguyen Anh Hung, leaving the Hung Vuong An Giang midfielder with a broken leg. Dinh Dong was shown a red card, of course, but his subsequent punishment from the Vietnam Football Federation gained plenty of attention on social media. He was banned for 28 matches, fined 20m dong (£567) and ordered to pay Nguyen’s medical bills. Somehow his club found it in themselves to appeal.

NEXT Ex-Barça player creates an ex-player >>

Ruben ruins Rafi

“Former Barcelona player” Ruben Rayos spent a year in the Blaugrana B team before wandering the Spanish lower leagues, Greece and Israel, landing in France with Sochaux this summer. But he’s still struggling to live down this spring 2014 assault on Bnei Yehuda’s Rafi Dahan.

Rayos’ Maccabi were pushing for a late equaliser when Rayos pushed the boundaries of aggression too far. His savage challenge left Dahan with a broken leg wobbling sickeningly in the air, but it was the severe injury to his anterior cruciate ligament which ended his career.

After 12 months of surgery (including one operation for which he postponed his wedding) and attempted rehabilitation the midfielder was forced to retire at the age of 25. Rayos immediately regretted the tackle, taking to his club’s website to proclaim: "I want to apologise to Rafi Dahan, a player from the match who has been affected in the worst possible way, and my apologies to the fans of Yehuda, to my team-mates and the fans of M. Haifa." For those who think “sorry” is the hardest word, try “unemployed”.

NEXT Ending an ex-colleague's career >> 

None the Wieser

This November 2014 clash between Aarau and Zurich brought together two teams at opposite ends of the table as well as the alphabet. Title-chasing Zurich took the lead within 15 minutes and were controlling the game. Aarau were battling their way back into the match when their midfielder Sandro Wieser left his mark on poor Gilles Yapi Yapo with a brutal studs-up lunge. Wieser was sent off, suspended for six matches, and fined around £7,000 by state prosecutors for negligence and assault. Not that any of that is much consolation to Yapi Yapo – a former Basel team-mate of Wieser. The Ivorian hasn’t played since his former colleague gave him serious cartilage damage, torn anterior and cruciate ligaments, a torn kneecap tendon and a torn meniscus. 

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