Ricky Villa, Steven Gerrard and the 20 Greatest FA Cup Final Goals

Shane Murray@shanemurray76Featured ColumnistMay 16, 2014

Ricky Villa, Steven Gerrard and the 20 Greatest FA Cup Final Goals

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    With an intriguing contest between Arsenal and Hull City drawing close, this is an ideal opportunity to reflect on some of the more spectacular and pivotal goals in FA Cup final history. 

    Most fans will remember stunning strikes such as Steven Gerrard's stoppage-time equaliser in 2006 or Ricky Villa's mazy run back in 1981, but what other memorable goals have been scored in the final of this famous old competition?

    Obviously, memory and technology dictates that I have to choose from the more recent finals of the past 40 or 50 years, but I'm open to suggestions and links to your favourite FA Cup final goals in the comments section.

Ricky Villa, Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 Manchester City, 1981

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    Ricky Villa's mazy dribble and composed finish is synonymous with the FA Cup and cup final folklore and is deservedly a permanent fixture on this kind of list.

    Having drawn 1-1 in the initial encounter five days previously, the two sides met again for a Thursday-night replay under the Wembley lights.

    Villa opened the scoring after eight minutes, but Manchester City held a 2-1 lead with goals from Steve Mackenzie and Kevin Reeves.

    Garth Crooks leveled for Spurs in the 70th minute, before Villa embarked on a run six minutes later that would write his name into Wembley legend.   

    Picking the ball up 35 yards from goal, the Argentine weaved his way past a quartet of City defenders before calmly placing the ball past Joe Corrigan from eight yards for a goal that was named Wembley Goal of the Century in 2001. 

Keith Houchen, Coventry City 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur, 1987

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    Keith Houchen's name will forever live in FA Cup and Coventry City folklore after this spectacular diving header in the Sky Blues' FA Cup final victory over hot favourites Tottenham Hotspur in 1987. 

    Trailing 2-1 at the time, Houchen dove acrobatically and forcefully to meet Dave Bennett's superb right-wing cross, before Gary Mabbutt deflected Lloyd McGrath's cross past Ray Clemence to give Coventry a shock win in their first-ever domestic cup final appearance.

    This fabulous diving header holds a special place in my heart because it occurred during the first FA Cup final I watched live as a kid back in Ireland.

Steven Gerrard, Liverpool 3-3 West Ham United, 2006

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    Like he did 12 months previously in Liverpool's dramatic Champions League triumph over AC Milan, Steven Gerrard made his presence felt when his team needed him most with two goals in an epic cup final tussle with West Ham United

    The Hammers had taken a 2-0 lead before Djibril Cisse and Gerrard hit back for the Reds. However, a Paul Konchesky strike looked set to give the Londoners victory until Gerrard's stunning, and timely, intervention with 90 minutes on the clock. 

    Suffering from cramp after a typically industrious afternoon's work in the Cardiff sun, the Liverpudlian somehow managed to find the strength to send a thundering effort past Shaka Hislop from all of 35 yards to send the game to extra time. 

    There were no further goals in added time, and Liverpool eventually triumphed 3-1 on penalties, with Gerrard also converting one of his side's three. 

Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea 2-0 Middlesbrough, 1997

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    Roberto Di Matteo's goal deservedly takes its place on this list for two reasons. 

    Firstly, it was the quickest goal scored in an FA Cup final at that time, hitting the back of the net after just 42 seconds. 

    Secondly, it was a devastating and ambitious shot from the Italian that had no right to beat Middlesbrough goalkeeper Ben Roberts from that kind of distance. 

    But it did, and Chelsea added a late Eddie Newton goal to clinch the cup. 

Stuart Pearce, Nottingham Forest 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur, 1991

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    Stuart Pearce had a thundering left foot and set the standard for attacking full-backs throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s.

    He was always good for a goal from left-back, whether it be marauding forward with purpose or from dead-ball situations. 

    His stunning thunderbolt of a free-kick gave Nottingham Forest the lead just 16 minutes in—see 3:31 on the clip above—but a Paul Stewart goal and a Des Walker own goal gave Spurs a 2-1 lead four minutes into extra time, and the Londoners held on for a famous win. 

Charlie George, Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool, 1971

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    The mercurial Charlie George was the scorer of one of Arsenal's most important and iconic goals, which clinched the league and FA Cup double for the Gunners in 1971. 

    Scoreless at full-time, Arsenal trailed 1-0 to Steve Heighway's 92nd-minute opener, before Eddie Kelly became the first substitute to be credited with an FA Cup final goal in the 101st minute. 

    With legs tiring in the May sunshine, George mustered up the strength to collect John Radford's pass outside the Liverpool area, before unleashing a fierce drive past Ray Clemence for a spectacular winner. 

Steve MacKenzie, Manchester City 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur, 1981

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    The second goal from the 1981 final, and to be honest there could have been a third with Tommy Hutchison's spectacular header in the drawn first game for City, but Steve MacKenzie's volley beats him to it on this occasion. 

    This strike came just three minutes after Ricky Villa had opened the scoring for Spurs and set the platform for City to lead going into the final third of the game after Kevin Reeves' 50th-minute penalty. 

    However, the 1981 final will always be remembered for Villa's mesmeric slalom through the City defence and Tottenham's eventual victory. 

Kevin Keegan, Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle United, 1974

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    It's arguable which of Kevin Keegan's two goals in the 1974 decider is better, but since we haven't had many team goals, I'll press the case for this team effort. 

    Keegan opened the scoring in the 57th minute with a well-struck volley that Willie McFaul couldn't keep out, and with Steve Heighway adding a second in the 74th minute, the Reds were knocking the ball around with confidence and purpose entering the final stages. 

    And as it had done on many occasions before and since, that possession managed to translate itself into a goalscoring chance as a series of passes unlocked the Newcastle United defence for the Englishman to slot home from close range. A simple finish, but one derived from a patient and purposeful build-up, and a goal that put an added gloss on manager Bill Shankly's last official game in charge. 

Ray Parlour, Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea, 2002

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    Ray Parlour forged a career for himself as a hard-running, hard-working midfielder, always committed to the cause and willing to give his all for the jersey. 

    With just 22 goals in more than 400 appearances for club and country, Parlour wasn't renowned for his goalscoring exploits. 

    However, the 12-times capped England international left a lasting impression on the 2002 cup final when he opened the scoring against Chelsea with a beautiful right-footed strike from more than 20 yards in the 70th minute. 

    Freddie Ljungberg added a second 10 minutes later to seal the first part of a memorable double for Arsene Wenger's side. 

Bobby Stokes, Southampton 1-0 Manchester United, 1976

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    Bobby Stokes' match-winning strike is hardly a thing of sublime beauty, but try telling that to any Southampton fan or neutral lucky enough to witness one of the biggest cup final upsets of all time. 

    The Saints finished sixth in the old Second Division and faced the might of a Manchester United team that had just finished third in the First Division. 

    However, all that was redundant as the sides entered the last 10 minutes scoreless, before Stokes popped up to scuff the ball past Alex Stepney in the United goal with just seven minutes remaining. 

Ian Porterfield, Sunderland 1-0 Leeds United, 1973

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    Three years previously, Second Division Sunderland had blazed a trail for the lower divisions when they caused an even bigger shock with a 1-0 victory over a highly vaunted Leeds United side, who were the current holders of the trophy. 

    Sunderland took the lead in the 31st minute when Ian Porterfield was first to react to a knockdown from a corner, before swiveling and volleying home from the edge of the six-yard area. 

    The Black Cats then survived the expected United onslaught with goalkeeper Jim Montgomery producing a memorable double save from Trevor Cherry and Peter Lorimer to secure the first major trophy for the club. 

Didier Drogba, Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United, 2007

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    Didier Drogba's goal is noteworthy for a number of reasons, not just because it was the difference between Chelsea and Manchester United on the day. 

    It was the first FA Cup final goal scored at the new Wembley Stadium.

    The goal itself was a typical Drogba effort and scored with just four minutes of extra time to play after the sides had finished scoreless after 90 minutes.

    The Ivorian picked the ball up just outside the box and played a superb one-two with Frank Lampard before prodding the ball past Edwin van der Sar. 

Norman Whiteside, Manchester United 1-0 Everton, 1985

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    Another game to go to extra time and be decided by one goal, Norman Whiteside was the hero as he secured the trophy for Manchester United with a 1-0 victory over holders Everton

    The Northern Irishman showed no signs of fatigue as he picked up a pass from Mark Hughes on the right wing before charging purposefully toward goal in the 110th minute. 

    With left-back Pat Van Den Hauwe backing off, he strode unchallenged into the box before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Footballer of the Year Neville Southall. 

    The match was also notable for the sending off of United's Kevin Moran, as it was the first time a player had been dismissed in an FA Cup final. 

Lawrie Sanchez, Wimbledon 1-0 Liverpool, 1988

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    One of only three headers to make this list, Lawrie Sanchez and Wimbledon deserve a special place in the memories and hearts of football fans for one of the most unforgettable giant-killing exploits of recent times. 

    Liverpool came into the game in confident mood having clinched the league title while the plucky Dons were expected to offer little resistance to their pursuit of the double.

    However, the "Crazy Gang" had other ideas and set about to frustrate their more illustrious opponents and took a shock lead when Sanchez rose highest to head home Dennis Wise's 37th-minute free-kick.

    Dave Beasant then became the first goalkeeper to save a penalty in an FA Cup final when he denied John Aldridge, while he also became the first 'keeper to lift the famous trophy as captain.   

Louis Saha, Everton 1-2 Chelsea, 2009

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    Louis Saha's place on this list is as much for the speed at which his goal arrived as the poise and precision with which he opened the scoring for Everton.

    The French striker hit an unstoppable opener with just 24 seconds gone, to beat Roberto Di Matteo's record set in 1997 by 18 seconds.

    Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, with a beautiful strike in the 72nd minute, hit back to clinch the trophy for Chelsea.  

Nat Lofthouse, Bolton Wanderers 2-0 Manchester United, 1958

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    While researching this piece, I did my best to include goals from previous eras, but footage was hard to come by. However, this clip from the 1958 clash between Bolton Wanderers and Manchester United makes the cut for two reasons.

    Firstly, because Nat Lofthouse, like Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortenson, was a legend of the FA Cup and the British game.

    And secondly, because his second goal, watch from 1:40, gives an insight into how the game was played before goalkeepers became such a protected species.

    This was a time when men were men and robust challenges were the norm, and Harry Gregg in the United goal certainly could do little about Lofthouse's not-so-subtle challenge on him. 

Michael Thomas, Liverpool 2-0 Arsenal, 1992

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    Michael Thomas had broken Liverpool hearts when he struck a last-minute winner for Arsenal at Anfield to deny the Reds the title in 1989. 

    Fast-forward three years, and the midfielder was lining out for Liverpool against Second Division Sunderland in a game Graeme Souness' men were expected to win comfortably. 

    However, they had to wait until Thomas' stunning volley in the 47th minute to take the lead, before Ian Rush added a second 21 minutes later to see the First Division outfit home. 

Peter Osgood, Chelsea 2-1 Leeds United, 1970

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    The third header on the list, Peter Osgood's powerful effort against Leeds United in the 1970 FA Cup final replay sent the game into extra time after the sides couldn't be separated after the initial 120 minutes at Wembley 18 days before.

    With the Wembley pitch deemed unfit for action, the replay went to Old Trafford, where Mick Jones gave Leeds a first-half lead.  

    It was Charlie Cooke who laid the ball on the proverbial plate for Osgood, who had scored in each of the previous rounds that season, and the striker made no mistake with a thundering header past David Harvey.

    David Webb struck in the 104th minute to give Chelsea victory after what can only be described as two epic encounters. 

Ray Wilkins, Manchester United 2-2 Brighton & Hove Albion, 1983

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    Third-placed Manchester United faced relegated Brighton & Hove Albion in the 1983 decider, a game in which they were expected to easily navigate the challenge of the South Coast side.

    However, they trailed to a 14th-minute Gordon Smith goal until Frank Stapleton leveled in the 55th minute, before Ray Wilkins struck one of the goals of his career.

    The England midfielder collected the ball outside the area and nonchalantly curled a left-footed shot into the top corner, see 1:37 above. 

    Gary Stevens equalised with three minutes to go to send the game to a replay, which United won comfortably, 4-0. 

Ian Rush, Liverpool 3-1 Everton, 1986

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    Ian Rush has scored in several FA Cup finals, but his effort as Liverpool clinched the double in 1986 is perhaps the best and most memorable of them. 

    Trailing to a 27th-minute Gary Lineker strike, the Welshman pulled the Reds level in the 56th minute, before Craig Johnston added a second six minutes later. 

    However, Liverpool saved the best for last, and a flowing move involving Rush, Jan Molby and Ronnie Whelan saw the latter cross for Rush to control and slam home from the right side of the six-yard box, to clinch a first double for the Anfield club.