Ranking Leighton Baines Top 5 Free-Kicks for Everton
Leighton Baines' expert proficiency at dead-ball situations has once again drawn the attention of Premier League audiences, thanks to a deadly brace against West Ham.
Everton fans are extremely well versed at their left-back's particular aptitude in this department, having seen him compile a catalogue of sumptuous strikes over the past six years.
In all, the diminutive left-back has hit the net 24 times, going into his seventh season at Everton. Thirteen via the penalty spot, four during open play, and seven generally high-class free-kicks.
Here's a look at the best of those free-kicks scored while playing for the Toffees.
5. vs. Swansea 2011/12
For much of the early part of his Everton career, Baines played second fiddle to Mikel Arteta at dead-ball situations.
It was only when the Spaniard left for Arsenal in 2011 that Baines became the Toffees' premier option, hence almost all of his strikes have come in the past two years.
This list starts with a typically precise effort away at Swansea. Michel Vorm is prepared for a shot to his left, standing in the middle of his goal, but still fails to get close enough due to Baines' blend of pace and deadly accuracy.
4. vs. West Ham 2013/14 (first strike)
Next up is the first of Baines' recent strikes against West Ham.
Jussi Jaaskelainen is well positioned to cover an effort to his right, but naturally anticipates a shot coming over the wall and into the top corner—as most free-kicks tend to do.
Baines, however, completely bluffs the goalkeeper, aiming for his right and adding extra power to exploit Jaaskelainen's brief and decisive moment of hesitancy.
3. vs Chelsea 2010/11
On sheer drama alone, this would top the list. Everton were 1-0 down to Chelsea in the FA Cup, having battled for over 200 minutes home and away.
With additional time in extra time expiring, Baines stepped up with the final kick of the game to stun Petr Cech and send the away support into hysteria.
With Stamford Bridge still in shock, the Toffees went on to win the ensuing penalty shootout, sending the Cup holders on their way.
2. vs. West Ham 2013/14 (second strike)
Baines' latest masterpiece comes in at second on the list.
Technically, this is as good as it gets and is by far his best-measured free-kick. Having already fooled Jaaskelainen once, Baines opts for the other corner, comprehensively beating the goalkeeper who can only watch in awe.
Neither Jaaskelainen nor the wall are anywhere near preventing this, both at the mercy of Baines' art. The fact that the ball gently clips the post just adds to the goal's beauty.
1. vs. Newcastle 2012/13
It takes something special to beat Baines' second effort against West Ham, but the daddy of the bunch remains this viscous strike against Newcastle from last season.
Few anticipated a shot from here, with Baines a considerable distance from goal and more renowned for precision rather than brute force.
However, this strike altered those perceptions as the Toffees' No. 3 unleashed a fierce howitzer past Tim Krul, sending Everton on their way to a 2-1 win.