FourFourTwo's 5 best European Cup and Champions League headers
The men who used their noggins to scale new heights...
If you think we've missed one, it might be here. Or in here...
5. Dennis Bergkamp, ARSENAL vs Dynamo Kiev, 1998/99
Arsenal’s ice-cold hitman picked up the unfortunate moniker of the ‘Non-Flying Dutchman’ for his fear of air travel, but his mid-air belly flop against Dynamo Kiev in the 1998 group stage looked to have secured the Gunners a Wembley victory. That was until future Spurs struggler Sergei Rebrov equalised in the 92nd minute, securing the eventual group winners a point.
Arsenal went on to lose their next two matches against Dynamo Kiev and Lens, meaning their final-game 3-1 victory over Panathinaikos wasn’t enough for more than a third-place finish for the Gunners. Still, enjoy watching daring Den hold off his man before unleashing the flying header below.
4. Tommy Smith, LIVERPOOL vs Borussia Monchengladbach, 1976/77
Liverpool and Gladbach would become friends down the years after trading blows in the late ‘70s, but you’d have expected the Germans would be fed up of their English opponents after consecutive seasons of European Cup beatings in the final and semi-finals (not to mention their 1973 UEFA Cup Final loss).
In this game, Terry McDermott’s strike separated the two sides at half-time before Allan Simonsen capitalised on a stray Jimmy Case pass to level the scores after the break with a beauty. Phil Neal sealed victory with an 82nd-minute penalty, but only after Smith and his bullet bonce had restored Liverpool’s advantage – although the verve with which Steve Heighway thumps in the corner for the trophy-sealing goal is almost as impressive as the header itself. This, on Smith’s 600th appearance for the Anfield side no less.
Skip to 9:25 for Tommy's tonker
3. Sinan Bolat, STANDARD LIEGE vs AZ Alkmaar, 2009/10
Everyone loves a goalscoring goalkeeper, not least because – unless you’re Jose Luis Chilavert – their headline moments generally provide the late drama we adore. Few were holding their breath when Standard Liege custodian Bolat trotted forward in a seemingly futile attempt to help salvage a Europa League place for the Belgian side in their final group game. Going into the 95th minute it was Alkmaar who held third spot thanks to Jeremain Lens’ first-half effort. But Bolat didn’t let the Dutchmen have it their way, rising highest, back arched, to plant a superb header past Sergio Romero and seal Standard’s place in the Europa at their opponents’ expense. They made it to the quarter-finals, where they lost to Hamburg, who in turn lost to... yes, Fulham of course. Sit back and be educated on how to celebrate like a loon.
2. Steven Gerrard, Milan vs LIVERPOOL, 2004/05
It’s often baffling to remember the Milan defence that capitulated in Istanbul consisted of Cafu, Jaap Stam, Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini – not least when you consider that Liverpool’s had Djimi Traore in it. But collapse it did, beginning with this glanced header from Gerrard, the Reds’ Captain Marvel finding space between Cafu and Stam to nod John Arne Riise’s cross past Dida in the Italians’ goal. That was in the 54th minute. What followed was a Vladimir Smicer effort inside two minutes to reduce the arrears further, and a Xabi Alonso leveller four minutes later which took the game to extra-time and penalties. You know the rest.
1. Didier Drogba, Bayern Munich vs CHELSEA, 2011/12
With two-and-a-half minutes remaining of a Champions League final Bayern Munich had dominated from start to finish, Fernando Torres launched an assault down the right wing, was tackled by Diego Contento and the ball trickled out for a corner that Jerome Boateng’s slide couldn't prevent.
Thomas Muller had given Bayern a late lead five minutes earlier, and it looked like the German side would hang on for a huff-and-puff win as they collected themselves to defend the late set-piece. But there’s a reason Didier Drogba is so revered at Stamford Bridge, not least for the moment that would prove to be his last touch of a glorious eight-year stint with the Blues before his return to London in 2014.
As Juan Mata’s corner flew into the box, Drogba was moving away from goal having comfortably evaded his marker. And, amid a clutch of four bodies, the Ivorian craned his neck to deliver a brutal header past Manuel Neuer to take the game to extra-time, where Arjen Robben missed a penalty and Chelsea made their former player pay in the shootout. And who would net the decisive spot-kick? Step forward again, Didier...
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Joe was the Deputy Editor at FourFourTwo until 2022, having risen through the FFT academy and been on the brand since 2013 in various capacities.
By weekend and frustrating midweek night he is a Leicester City fan, and in 2020 co-wrote the autobiography of former Foxes winger Matt Piper – subsequently listed for both the Telegraph and William Hill Sports Book of the Year awards.