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Ranked! The 11 most horrific misses in football

Raheem Sterling missing the target for Man City against Burnley was a jaw-dropper, but can he compare to these all-time howlers? Greg Lea watches on aghast

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11. Fernando Torres, Chelsea vs Man United

Torres has his fair share of happy memories from Old Trafford, not least a stonking performance in Liverpool’s 4-1 triumph in March 2009. Yet this agonising moment two-and-a-half years later epitomised his Chelsea struggles more than any other, as the forlorn Spaniard contrived to slice a shot into Row D with the goal gaping.

Torres had done the hard part, rounding David de Gea with a neat stepover and shimmy, but his composure deserted him when he needed it most. At least the Stretford End were sympathetic.

10. Diego Forlan, Man United vs Juventus

Pre-season friendlies may be primarily about building fitness and integrating new signings, but there’s still a certain level of expectation involved. You wouldn’t expect a professional footballer to miss an open goal from six yards just because there aren’t points on the line, for example.  

Yet that’s exactly what Forlan did in this non-competitive clash with Juventus in summer 2003, picking up from where he left off after a debut half-season at Manchester United which yielded a grand total of zero goals in 18 appearances for the Uruguayan.

9. Peter van Vossen, Rangers vs Celtic 

The worst thing about this passage of play should be Celtic’s appalling attempt to play offside, but Van Vossen spared the Bhoys’ blushes by fluffing his own line(s) in extraordinary fashion.

Jorg Albertz did brilliantly to draw out Celtic goalkeeper Stewart Kerr and square the ball for his Dutch team-mate, but Van Vossen never looked comfortable and proceeded to commit the cardinal sin of leaning back. We’re not buying that desperate search for a divot, either.

8. Freddie Ljungberg, Arsenal vs Bolton 

What a goal this would have been. Ljungberg was involved right from the start, shifting the ball wide right to Jose Antonio Reyes, who was fortunate to ricochet it back to the Swede. Patrick Vieira eventually received possession in the centre and dug out a lovely pass to Dennis Bergkamp, who fed Robert Pires on the overlap.

The Frenchman did everything right, beating his marker with ease and picking out the unmarked Ljungberg four yards out. All he had to do was roll it into the empty net, but the winger remarkably skied it over the bar instead.

7. Jakub Blaszczykowski, Borussia Dortmund vs Freiburg

Compared to many of the entries on this list, Blaszczykowski was a fair distance from goal when he pulled the trigger against Freiburg in 2010. In hindsight, his mistake was taking on the shot too early, but that still doesn’t explain how the Pole failed to find the net – or even hit the frame of the goal.

At least Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp saw the funny side. “Instead of running with the ball into goal he sends it over,” the German chuckled afterwards. “This can happen, no problem. But I think we will see this [missed] chance a few more times.”

6. Ronny Rosenthal, Liverpool vs Aston Villa 

Rosenthal got his Liverpool career off to the perfect start with seven goals in his first eight games – including a debut hat-trick against Charlton – but he was never able to maintain such a scoring rate once his loan move was made permanent.

This miss in 1992 is one of the most memorable in Premier League history. After racing on to a long kick from David James, Rosenthal rounded Aston Villa goalkeeper Nigel Spink, took a touch to steady himself and hit a left-footed shot… against the bar.

5. Nwankwo Kanu, West Brom vs Middlesbrough

Had Kanu tried to put the ball where it ended up, he probably wouldn’t have been able to. This was a miss that defied the laws of physics as well as logic.

The Nigeria international, formerly of Ajax, Inter and Arsenal, had the ball put on a plate for him by ex-bricklayer Geoff Horsfield. But all Kanu could do was scoop it onto the roof of the net from a yard out. Horsfield couldn’t believe his eyes.

4. Fahad Khalfan, Qatar vs Uzbekistan 

A well-executed dummy can be both artistic and effective, but attempting one when you’re the goalkeeper and there’s an opponent bearing down on you isn’t usually the wisest idea. Uzbekistan custodian Timur Juraev collapsed – presumably in embarrassment – after letting the ball through his legs in this Asian Games quarter-final in 2010, leaving Fahad Khalfan with a golden chance to break the deadlock after just 45 seconds of extra time.

The Qatari took a touch to bring the ball into the centre of the goal, before somehow toe-poking it against the post. Although he should have gone with his right foot, it was still much harder to miss than score with his left.

3. Chris Iwelumo, Scotland vs Norway

When Iwelumo was called up to the Scotland squad to face Norway in 2008, he probably dreamed of scoring the winner on his international debut. Instead, the striker was forced to live out his worst nightmare, inexplicably directing Gary Naysmith’s low cross wide of the post from three yards out.

"My missus made me delete it from the Sky Plus after four or five days so, yes, I watched it,” Iwelumo admitted afterwards. “It was hard to do but I had to do it." The World Cup qualifier finished 0-0.

2. Arnaldo Vera, Libertad vs Emelec

The humble shin guard is a valuable piece of equipment in the often-violent surroundings of South American club football, but the protective pad did Vera no favours in this 2003 Copa Libertadores tie.

This was by no means a disappointing evening for the centre-back’s Paraguayan employers Libertad, who ran out 5-1 winners against Ecuadorian outfit Emelec, but Vera was responsible for perhaps the worst miss in the history of the competition when he shinned a shot against the bar from a yard. The Emelec defenders were so stunned at Vera’s failure to convert that they took an age to eventually hook the loose ball clear.

1. Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Nigeria vs South Korea 

Yakubu scored 21 goals for his country, a record that’s not to be sniffed at – least of all by the hitherto uncapped FFT. Yet it really should have been 22.

When the ball landed at his feet in this group stage clash at the 2010 World Cup, the then-Portsmouth striker was in the centre of the six-yard box with just three yards between him and the goal-line.

The South Korean defenders, meanwhile, were busy appealing for offside rather than attempting to apply pressure to their opponent. It didn’t matter, though, with Yakubu’s astonishing miscue ultimately proving costly as Nigeria finished bottom of Group B.

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