50 Most Controversial Goals (And Non-Goals) in World Football History
Everybody loves controversy.
Admit it: When people reach a consensus about the greatest moments in football history, that's great. But arguing about the rest is better.
We've already given you our top 50 goals. Now it's time to talk controversy—and our 50 most controversial goals of all time.
You know the ones we're going to talk about. And you probably have a strong opinion on them.
Let's hear it, then.
Was it a goal? Was it not? Who got screwed?
On to the list.
50. Drunk Fan Scores in Russia
What do you get when you combine vodka and football?
You get this guy scoring a goal in Russia! And the referee allowed it!
OK, just kidding. The ref didn't allow it and this one's not controversial at all.
It's just funny.
49. Torquay United Striker Poaches a Goal
I'm not sure this Torquay United goal against Stockport County created much controversy.
It happened in a lower-league English match, so not that many people cared.
But there are a couple of things that bother me about this goal.
First, isn't the striker in an offside position? When the ball is "played"—or dropped by the goalkeeper—he's behind everyone. That sounds like offside to me.
Also, doesn't this break some kind of unwritten law that all professionals abide by?
48. The Accidental Ajax Goal
I'm not sure when this goal happened, or who the opponent was—but this one is another entry in the funny/controversial category.
Ajax were trying to play the ball back to their opponent after an injury. Instead, the long kick went into the opponent's net.
By the way, Ajax allowed the other team to score a make-up goal.
47. Balloons? Or the Ball?
Here's some creative home field advantage.
In January 2008, pre-mega-money Manchester City traveled to Sheffield United's Bramall Lane for an FA Cup match. Before the game, City's fans released balloons with their team's sky blue and white colors.
Unfortunately for City, defender Michael Ball couldn't tell the difference between a balloon and a ball.
Sheffield United probably should have cleared the pitch. But then again, the balloons were from City's own supporters.
City complained and keeper Joe Hart proceeded to pop them all. But Sheffield United still won 2-1.
46. Stephane Henchoz Stops Henry
This handball by Liverpool's Stephane Henchoz kept the 2001 FA Cup final scoreless.
Arsenal later took the lead but lost, 2-1.
More importantly, you can see the moment on Thierry Henry's face when he realizes that handballs don't always get punished.
More on that later.
45. Raul's Handball Against Leeds
Fast forward to the 0:25 mark of the video.
That's Real Madrid's Raul scoring with his hand against Leeds United in the 2001 Champions League.
And how did the ref miss it?
44. Frank Lampard's Non-Goal Against Spurs, 2011
Frank Lampard probably deserved a break after that non-goal in the 2010 World Cup (more on that later).
But this wasn't a goal. Here's another view.
Remember, the whole ball has to cross the line.
43. Luis Tejada: Goal or No Goal?
El Salvador's Luis Tejada got credit for this goal against Panama in the 2011 Gold Cup quarterfinals.
Was it a goal or not? Replays were inconclusive.
It's a shame that FIFA won't institute goal-line technology to sort these things out.
42. Rooney and Giggs Fool the Lineman
This goal should have counted.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney took the first touch on a corner kick in this match against Chelsea.
Ryan Giggs then dribbled the ball and crossed for Cristiano Ronaldo to head home a goal.
No problem, right?
Well, the linesman didn't understand that Rooney had made the first touch and disallowed the goal.
It was unfair, but United scored on the retaken kick anyway and won 3-0.
41. Italy's Entire 2002 World Cup
American soccer fans threw hissy fits during the 2010 World Cup because of a certain referee from Mali (more on that later).
All we can say is that it happens. Just ask Italy's 2002 World Cup team.
40. Paddy Connelly Gets Robbed
Paddy Connelly scored this goal for Dundee United in the Scottish League against Partick Thistle.
The only problem was that the referee didn't see it—or the defender holding the ball afterwards.
39. Fabio Grosso Wins a Dubious Penalty
Italy got over its 2002 misfortune by winning the 2006 World Cup. Along the way, they benefited from some equally dubious decisions.
Take this one, for instance, when Fabio Grosso made the most of a challenge to win a penalty in second-half stoppage time against Australia.
Was it a dive? Was there contact?
38. Falcao and Porto Stun Arsenal
This goal by Porto's Radamel Falcao against Arsenal was legal.
It happened in a 2010 Champions League match.
The controversy came from the idea that it showed poor sportsmanship. Or something.
37. Another Dive, Another Goal
Diving happens all the time. But it's usually not done this badly.
This unbelievable dive by Emerson Acuña earned Atletico Junior a penalty and a goal against America.
36. Tevez Scores an Offside Goal
Referees have a hard job. It's difficult to get every call right.
This call, from the 2010 World Cup, was not hard.
Carlos Tevez was clearly offside. Argentina should not have scored.
35. Tulio's Handball Against Argentina
Repayment for the Hand of God?
Brazil's Tulio clearly handled the ball in this 1995 Copa America game. The goal still counted, though.
Thanks to the controversial goal, the match finished in a draw. Brazil, of course, won the penalty shootout.
34. Luis Fabiano's Handball Against Ivory Coast
Those Brazilians sure know how to get away with handballs in big international matches.
This one happened in the 2010 World Cup group stages. Ivory Coast were the victim. Luis Fabiano was the culprit, and the goalscorer.
33. Gary Crosby and Andy Dibble
There's not much to argue here.
The year was 1990, and England was the setting.
Either you think Nottingham Forest's Gary Dibble had a right to head the ball out of Manchester City goalkeeper Andy Dibble's hands, or you don't.
The referee thought it was quite fine and allowed the goal.
32. Freddie Sears' Disallowed Goal
Fast forward to the 0:31 mark of the video.
That's Crystal Palace's Freddie Sears scoring against Bristol City in 2009.
The referee, thinking the ball had hit the post, awarded a goal kick.
Not surprisingly, Bristol City scored a late winner.
31. Zico's Disallowed Winner
In a 1-1 game between Brazil and Sweden at the 1978 World Cup, Welsh referee Clive Thomas blew the full time whistle while Zico's game-winning head was heading into the net.
What was he thinking?
30. Duisberg Gifted a Fifth Against FSV Frankfurt
There's no way this is a goal.
What was the referee thinking?
Regardless Duisberg beat FSV Frankfurt 5-0 on the day.
29. Chris Riggott's "Own Goal"
28. Liverpool Gets Away with One
Why did Everton not get a goal for this play against Liverpool?
Was it because the Everton player wasn't far enough away from the kick-taker?
Why is the ref pointing to his watch?
The world may never know.
27. Koman Coulibaly
How does a referee from Mali become famous in the United States?
Strangely enough, Koman Coulibaly did it by taking charge of a soccer match. Imagine that!
We all remember this one since it happened only last year.
It's still hard to figure why Coulibaly ruled out this goal.
26. Sergio Aguero's Handball Goal
Fast forward to the 0:51 mark of the video.
That's Sergio Aguero playing for Atletico Madrid. And by playing, I mean scoring with his hand.
Nice boxing stance, by the way.
25. Roy Carroll Robs Pedro Medes
Tottenham Hotspur's Pedro Mendes took a speculative 50-yard shot from near the half line against Manchester United in this 2005 match.
United keeper Roy Carroll made an error, dropped the ball and then scrambled it off the line.
Actually, he didn't scramble it off the line. It crossed the line and should have been a goal.
24. The Stanchion Denies Clive Allen
This shot by Crystal Palace's Clive Allen in a 1980 match against Coventry City went in the net and bounced off the stanchion.
The stanchion is the supportive extension used to hold up the goal at the back. It's not the bar.
Bottom line: This was a goal but it was disallowed.
23. Foul Play, Then Fair Play
In the 1998-99 FA Cup fifth round, Arsenal beat Sheffield United 2-1 after Marc Overmars scored a controversial goal.
The ball had been kicked out of bounds by Sheffield United so that a player could receive treatment for an injury. Ray Parlour threw in the ball, intending it to reach the United keeper.
But Kanu didn't realize what was going on. He passed to Marc Overmars, who scored past the befuddled keeper.
In an act of good sportsmanship, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger offered to replay the match. Arsenal won the replay, too.
Arsenal's goal was legal, but Wenger decided it wasn't good sportsmanship. That's probably why he was so bothered by Porto's goal in 2010.
22. Darren Bent Scores off a Beach Ball, 2009 Sunderland vs. Liverpool
Wait, what's that beach ball doing there?
Oh, come on, Darren Bent. Don't celebrate that.
Yeah, well, you're still overrated.
21. Chesterfield Get Robbed
Third Division Chesterfield led Premiership side Middlesbrough 2-1 in the semifinals of the 1997 FA Cup.
Jonathan Howard fired in a shot that bounced off the bar and over the line. It should have been 3-1 Chesterfield, but the referee ruled it out.
Middlesbrough fought back for a 3-3 draw and won the replay. Chesterfield got robbed.
20. Vata Matanu Garcia's Handball
Benfica beat Marseille in the 1990 European Cup semifinal on a goal by Vata Matanu Garcia.
Unfortunately, Garcia used his hand to score the goal.
19. Fear the Sheikh
Way to be a good loser, Kuwait.
France had just scored its fourth goal in this 1982 World Cup group stage match. But Sheikh Fahid Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the president of the country's football association, thought it just wasn't fair.
So what did he do? He went down to the pitch and demanded that the goal be disallowed. He said the Kuwait players had stopped playing because they thought they heard a whistle.
And the referee agreed with him!
Yeah, the ref was later suspended.
18. Messi's Hand of God
17. Nani Punks Heurelho Gomes
Nani can dazzle with his skills.
He can also be either really cheeky or really annoying, depending on who you root for.
If you support Manchester United, you probably think this is brilliant. If you don't you probably think this is despicable.
Heurelho Gomes thought it was a free kick. Nani and the ref thought otherwise.
16. Tevez Keeps West Ham in the Premiership
Nothing about this goal was controversial on the field.
It was controversial because of Carlos Tevez's contract situation. Some claimed that Tevez was ineligible to play because of a weird third-party ownership deal with West Ham and Tevez's agency.
He played anyway and this goal gave West Ham a 1-0 win over Manchester United and kept the Hammers in the Premiership.
Sheffield United were relegated but later settled with West Ham over the eligibility issue.
15. Belgium's Two Offside Goals Against USSR, 1986 World Cup
Everybody knows what happened in the game between England and Argentina at the 1986 World Cup.
But the Belgium-USSR match in the quarterfinals might have been even more controversial.
The Soviets led twice in normal time but Belgium scored two equalizers. Both were offside.
The second one was egregious. Jan Cuelemans scored in the 77th minute when he was about five yards offside (around 6:35 in the video).
Belgium won, 4-3, in extra time.
14. Karl Heinz Schnellinger's Save
West Germany beat Uruguay 4-0 in the 1966 World Cup quarterfinals after Karl Heinz Schnellinger parried the ball away from the top corner with his hands.
Umm, Schnellinger wasn't the goalie. He was a defender.
13. Joe Jordan and David Jones
In October 1977, Scotland played Wales in a World Cup qualifying match. Wales would have all but qualified with a win.
The score was goalless in the 78th minute when Scotland's Joe Jordan challenged Welsh defender David Jones for a ball in the Wales box.
Jordan handled the ball and the referee blew his whistle—for a foul on Jones.
Don Masson scored the ensuing penalty and Scotland won.
After the winning penalty, Jordan kissed his hand. Because, you know, that was the classy thing to do.
12. West Germany Win It All in 1990
The 1990 World Cup final was full of controversy.
First, West Germany's Jurgen Klinsmann got Argentina's Pedro Monzon sent off by diving. And then rolling around.
Then, with five minutes left, Andreas Brehme scored the winning penalty after a dubious refereeing decision.
You be the judge.
11. Spain Get Bailed out
So much was wrong with this goal from the 1982 World Cup.
Spain, the hosts, trailed Yugoslavia 1-0 in the first group stage. The referee awarded a penalty for a questionable foul that looked like it occurred outside the box anyway.
Roberto Lopez Ufarte missed the first penalty (not shown on the video), but the referee ruled that another one had to be taken. Juanito converted it.
Spain won, 2-1, and advanced to the second group stage.
10. Ballboy Scores for Santacruzense Against Atletico Sorocaba
Somebody needs to give this ball boy a raise.
This "goal" happened in the Brazilian league.
And it stood!
How in the world do you miss that as a ref?
9. Atan Hakem Scores Against Besiktas, 1986 Turkish League
Hey, nice header!
Oh, that was the ref.
What? The goal stood?
And he was offside?
8. Frank Lampard
This non-goal turned into a rallying point for advocates of goal line technology.
Frank Lampard clearly scored for England against Germany at last year's World Cup. But the goal didn't count.
Germany won, 4-1, but people forget that England had dominated the minutes leading up to Lampard's non-goal. Had it counted, England would have been down only 2-1 with more than a half left to play.
It could have been so different.
7. Jeff Astle Ends Leeds' Title Hopes
This goal by West Bromwich Albion's Jeff Astle ended Leeds United's title challenge in 1971.
The trouble was, he was offside.
And the referee ignored his linesman's flag.
6. Gerry Taggart Gets Robbed
In a 1997 league match against Everton, Bolton's Gerry Taggart headed the ball against the bar and over the line.
The referee ruled it wasn't a goal. The game ended in a scoreless draw.
The following spring, Everton avoided relegation by one point, at Bolton's expense.
5. Reading's Ghost Goal
Watford's John Eustace got credit for this "own goal" against Reading from 2008.
The ball was like five yards wide of the post.
4. Luis Garcia "Scores" Against Chelsea, 2005 Champions League Semifinal
So did Luis Garcia score?
We don't know.
Here's the linesman's view. Could you see it?
We know this: Liverpool wouldn't have won the European title in 2005 without this "goal."
And this: The game really needs to use goal-line technology.
3. Thierry Henry's Handball Against Ireland
Oh, Thierry. It's such a shame.
You're such an amazing player.
And such an amazing cheat.
Ireland should have been given a replay. At the very least.
2. Geoff Hurst "Scores" Against West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final
Here's the controversial "goal," in color, from the 1966 World Cup final between England and Brazil.
What do you think?
1. The Hand of God
You knew it had to be this one.
Diego Maradona. Argentina versus England, 1986 World Cup.
The Hand of God.