Alireza Beiranvand is no one-trick pony – his form for Naft Tehran was good enough for him to be named in the team of the season at the end of the 2014-15 Persia Gulf Pro League campaign – but he has one particularly potent weapon: he can throw the ball further than most humans can kick it. Though goalkeeper assists are a rarity, in the middle of the 2014-15 season he set up two winning goals in as many games, one with a giant kick and another with one of his ludicrously long throws. The second, booted downfield, took a hefty bounce, and with the Persepolis goalkeeper tempted towards the edge of his area in anticipation of an easy catch, Amir Arsalan Motahari headed over the stranded Brazilian and into the net. It was a classic of the genre even if the timing, in the last minute of a match heading towards a 1-1 draw, set it apart.
The first was a genuine mouth-agape moment (at 1hr 34m 25s): Tractor Sazi win a corner, which is played short and then looped miserably into the goalkeeper’s hands. Without breaking stride, Beiranvand carries the ball to the edge of the area and then swings his mighty right arm. On the halfway line, the striker Gholamreza Rezaei, the only Tehran player left upfield, starts sprinting goalwards with two panicked defenders in his slipstream; the ball drops over his shoulder, bounces amenably, and from fully 40 yards Rezaei volleys a vicious, dipping shot that bounces past an astonished Hamed Lak and nestles into the corner of the net. Beiranvand received his first international cap the following month, and remains Iran’s first-choice shot-stopper even though, since that creative burst in late 2014, there have been no further assists. SB
Towards the end of 1990 and following a World Cup widely considered to have been rather dull, the big debate raging across the world of football concerned the size of the goals. Fifa president João Havelange was all for making them bigger, an idea supported by such diverse luminaries as Giovanni Trapattoni, Berti Vogts and Pelé. “The proposal must, of course, be studied in depth,” the Brazilian bigwig said, “but the idea seems excellent to me. Nowadays the height of goalkeepers has clearly increased but the size of the goal is the same. I’m sure it is one of the reasons for the diminishing quality of the spectacle on the pitch.” But his argument was savagely undermined by games such as this one, which demonstrated that the best way to increase the number of goalscoring chances is not to increase the size of the goal, but not to bother defending it. If a particularly exciting match can be described as ding-dong, this was a full-on campanologist’s dream: it didn’t just involve a single ding and a solitary dong, but various dangs, clangs and bangs as well.
Chelsea led 3-1 at half-time only for Derby to dramatically drag themselves level within 20 minutes and then take the lead with 15 minutes to play. Their advantage lasted a single minute, the time it took Dennis Wise to equalise. Still the players continued to ding and dong, trading attacks one way and the other, but the stuffing was knocked out of the home side by Chelsea’s fifth, scored with four minutes to play. A deep cross from the right was headed back into the area, where Dave Beasant leapt high to collect it, and the goalkeeper rose from the turf, looked up and instantly bowled the ball out to Gordon “Jukebox” Durie on the left wing. He took it in his stride on the halfway line and hared forwards, toying with a couple of defenders, cut inside and scuffed the ball with deadly accuracy inside the far post. Graeme Le Saux added a sixth in stoppage time. “I don’t think any of the players involved had ever taken part in a game like that and we may never do again,” said Durie. “It makes a mockery of any scheme to make goals wider. If they had been, it could have ended 12-10.” SB
Not technically a goalkeeping assist under the Trade Descriptions Act, but considering the sterling contribution of both keepers to the goal that secured one of Ireland’s most famous moral victories, we’re happy to include it anyway.
Having begun the World Cup with back-to-back draws against England and Egypt, Ireland needed another one against Holland to remain in with a chance of advancing to the second round at the expense of Egypt. The godfather of a primitive form of gegenpressing known as “putting ’em under pressure”, Jack Charlton was in charge of the Boys in Green and while crude and a purist’s nightmare, his long ball methods were proving curiously effective.
Having gone behind to Ruud Gullit’s 11th-minute opener at Palermo’s Stadio La Favorita, the equaliser captured a decade of Charlton-era Ireland in microcosm. Clenching his granite jaw in a grimace that suggested he Meant Business, Ireland goalkeeper Packie Bonner chose the 72nd minute to launch the ball high and long with what seemed like the power of several thousand suns. Arcing through the Italian night sky, it prompted panic among the Dutch defence. As Bonner stood just outside his own penalty area with his hands on hips, surveying his handiwork, his monster kick dropped towards the edge of the area with tireless terrier Ray Houghton in hot, apparently fruitless pursuit flanked by Frank Rijkaard and Adri van Aerle.
Running at full speed and facing his own goal, the unfortunate Van Aerle decided, for reasons that remain unclear, that the best course of action was for him to volley a bullet of a back-pass towards his own goalkeeper, Hans van Breukelen, who perhaps unnerved by this demonstration of faith in his abilities, was unable to hold onto the ball. The subsequent spillage was mopped up by Niall Quinn who, following up in search of scraps, promptly devoured them. “I have chased in, optimistic as ever, so I stick out a long leg and deflect it home,” he later recalled in his autobiography, scarcely doing his fine effort justice. “A World Cup goal! Against the European champions! I can barely describe the feeling.” With two goalkeeping assists for the price of one helping ensure that his team advanced to the knockout stages, an audience with the Pope and ultimately a quarter-final against the hosts in Rome, one suspects the overriding feeling was one of extreme gratitude. BG
4) Joel Robles (Leicester City0-2 Everton, December 2016)
Distracted by the sight of the suspended Jamie Vardy wearing a mask of his own face – Leicester City’s owners had left one on each seat of the King Power Stadium as a Christmas present for supporters –, not many of the 31,985 other Vardys present will have realised that Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles made his own little bit of Premier League history during Everton’s 2-0 Boxing Day win. With Maarten Stekelenburg injured, the Spanish stopper was making only his second start of the season, while Leicester were approaching crisis mode with just one win in their previous eight league games – and in the 51st minute, the reasons why became comically apparent.
Standing with the ball at his feet just inside his own penalty area, Robles spotted Kevin Mirallas loitering with intent in a few yards of space between Wes Morgan and Marcin Wasilewski, who were keeping the Belgian onside just inside their own half. Robles sent a long airborne punt sailing over the centre-circle for his team-mate to chase and perhaps with their minds on the Christmas dinner they’d finally get to eat later, neither defender reacted quickly enough to head the ball back towards Robles, instead letting it bounce between them as the winger pounced. With both in hot pursuit, at least until the slapstick moment when they narrowly avoided tripping over each other on the edge of their own penalty area, Mirallas took the ball a mite to his right, all the better to create an angle from which to slot it beyond the despairing dives from both Wasilewski and Kasper Schmeichel. He took the plaudits of the visiting fans, while Robles had to settle for the pleasure of becoming the 50th different Premier League goalkeeper to provide at least one assist. The one with the most, seeing as you’re asking, is Burnley’s Paul Robinson with five. BG
5) Jorg Schmadtke (Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Freiberg, May 1996)
There is always a chance of things taking a turn for the weird on the final day of the season, particularly in games that are essentially meaningless. This, though, was pretty out there: a goal down to Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund and with a little over 15 minutes on the clock, the Freiburg manager Volker Finke prepared a double substitution. Of the two players limbering up on the touchline one, the Greek forward Paschalis Seretis, was a natural attacker; more puzzlingly the other, Stefan Beneking, was a goalkeeper. This seemed an unusual time to swap glovemen but Finke had a surprise up his sleeve: when the board went up, Beneking – not related to the singer of Stand By Me fame – was replacing the centre-back Maximilian Heidenreich, and as he came on Freiburg’s first-choice keeper, Jorg Schmadtke, took off his green jersey and pulled on an outfield shirt. His top had clearly previously borne a two-digit squad number beginning with one, but the second digit and the intended player’s name had been covered up to make it Schmadtke-ready. Five minutes later Borussia scored again, and the teams traded further goals to make the score 3-1 when, in the 87th minute, a criminally under-marked Schmadtke was released on the left side of the penalty area, poked the ball across goal and Seretis, who revealed what he thought about the whole business with a celebration that consisted mainly of laughter, tapped in. SB
6) Rafael (Hellas Verona 2-0 Ternana, September 2009)
With his team 1-0 up in the fifth minute of injury-time in an Italian third-tier match, Hellas Verona goalkeeper Rafael could have been forgiven for slowing the play down and wasting a few seconds after dashing off his line to pluck a cross from the sky. Not a bit of it. Aware that his opposite number was wandering in no-man’s land and his team-mate Diego Farias was in a good position, Rafael sprinted to the edge of his box, threw the ball ahead of himself, rode a challenge as he – with the help of the chap who tackled him – played the ball forward to Farias, who hit the back of the untended net from about 40 yards. BG