Andrey Arshavin: the Catalunya slayer

Ben Darvill

In modern football, there are no shortages of incredible goals: Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s bicycle kick against England and Lionel Messi’s stunning solo effort against Atletico Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final all rank incredibly highly when it comes to finishes.

However, when it comes to goals you just can’t explain why you love, it gets a bit more difficult. Andres Iniesta’s stunning strike against the Blues in the Champions League semi-final in 2009 ranks incredibly highly:

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The strike itself was outstanding and it was a final moment winner for Barcelona on aggregate as they knocked Carlo Ancelotti’s side out of the tournament. The goal was heartbreaking for Chelsea and their fans, but the hit was so clean that it warrants it’s place as one of the great goals.

However, that is not number one. In fact, it is a London neighbour that wins this one.

Arsenal were trailing by one goal to nil following David Villa’s strike in their Champions League last-16 first leg tie. It seemed as though the Catalans would take a precious lead back to the Nou Camp for the second-leg, but Arsenal staged a stunning comeback to leave their opponents reeling.

Robin van Persie, before he became the most maligned footballing figure ever to come out of London, found the back of the net with a shot that squeezed past Victor Valdes, before Arsenal’s Russian winger sent the fans into ecstasy.

Andrey Arshavin picked the ball up on the edge of the box following a lighting fast counter-attack that culminated in the forward sending a curling effort past Valdes:

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The goal itself was like watching Barcelona getting a taste of their own medicine. The counter-attack was crisp with accurate passes finding their mark perfectly each time. Perhaps what made it even better was the fact that Samir Nasri, the usurper to van Persie’s most hated crown, played such a large role in this one.

For a man that rarely threatened to make all his potential a realty, this was a moment to savour. Of course, Arshavin displayed his worth with his four goals against Liverpool in 2009, but this finish was something different.

The commentary itself is a thing of beauty too. Martin Tyler is one of the best things about watching football from home, apart form the fact you don’t have to put up with some angry bloke shouting at you as if you are making the team play poorly.

His commentary over Sergio Aguero’s goal in 2012 and Arjen Robben’s Champions League winning goal against Borussia Dortmund were enough to send shivers down the spine, and this was no different. Perhaps the other commentators should take a leaf out of Tyler’s book then.

Ultimately, the goal didn’t mean much; Arsenal succumbed to a 3-1 defeat in Spain and were knocked out 4-3 on aggregate. It was classic Arsenal in the end as they let their good work early on go to waste.

Arshavin would never recreate a moment of the same class, and it means that this strike became even more memorable.



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