The FA Cup is the oldest association football competition in the world and it has been the stage for some magnificent goals since it first began in the 1871-1872 English football season, almost 150 years ago. Here is a rundown of what I believe to be the ‘Top 10 FA Cup Goals of All Time’ and the cause of some magical moments in football history.
1. Ricky Villa for Tottenham Hotspur (vs Manchester City): FA Cup Final Replay of 1981
There is surely no better way to start this list than the mercurial dribble and finish that was voted ‘Wembley Goal of the Century’ in 2001. The iconic image of the bearded, long-haired Argentinian weaving his way at sharp angles between the City defenders is etched into the minds of all football fans young and old. In the 76th minute of the match, and with the score poised at 2 – 2, Villa received a pass into his feet 30 yards from the opposition’s nets and crept towards the edge of the area. Faced by two City defenders, he initially faked a shot and found himself dribbling into a blind alley towards the dead-ball line left of the goalposts. Then suddenly with a beautiful piece of balance, he shifted the ball quickly inside to his right foot, bamboozling two City defenders in the process, before faking another shot and then rifling the ball low past the Man City goalkeeper. It was like poetry in motion as the Wembley crowd held their collective breath in the tantalising seconds before he scored what turned out to be the winning goal as Spurs won the Cup for a sixth time.
2. Ronnie Radford for Hereford United (vs Newcastle United): FA Cup Third Round Replay of 1972
Whenever a song is played on the radio it is widely known that the writer of that song receives income as ‘royalties’ paid to him or her for usage of their asset. If the same has applied to the amount of times that Ronnie Radford’s 1972 screamer has been replayed on television over the past forty years then I have no doubt that he must have been earning a handsome pay packet into his retirement years for a goal that is an integral part of FA Cup folklore. As a non-league club, Hereford had incredibly earned a 2 – 2 draw at St. James’ Park against all odds to take top-flight Newcastle United to a replay. Due to a terrible period of wet weather, the replay at Edgar Street took place on a very muddy pitch that looked virtually unplayable but ‘The Toon’ managed to go one-nil up heading into the final five minutes. Radford then took matters into his own hands as he won the ball with a gutsy tackle just inside the Newcastle half and passed it into the Hereford centre-forward’s feet for a one-two. The return pass bobbled across the quagmire of mud and sat up perfectly for Radford to strike it first time from 30 yards with so much power that it whooshed unstoppably into the top corner. The ensuing pitch invasion and joyous scenes added to the spectacle of the goal as Hereford went on to win the match in extra-time.
3. Roberto Di Matteo for Chelsea (vs Middlesbrough): FA Cup Final of 1997
Chelsea had become big spenders in the mid-90s due to a massive injection of investment from multi-millionaire fan Matthew Harding and had employed Dutch legend Ruud Gullit as manager in an effort to end their 27-year trophy drought. Middlesbrough, on the other hand, would be playing their first FA Cup Final but their hopes for the day were dashed quickly due to a barnstorming strike from Di Matteo after only 42 seconds. It became the quickest goal in FA Cup Final history as the Italian midfielder received the ball in his own half and embarked on an unchallenged run before unleashing a dipping shot from 25 yards that fired into the net off the underside of the crossbar. The most sensational start to an FA Cup Final for many years, the timing of the goal has since been bettered (by Louis Saha for Everton in 2009) but Di Matteo’s name will forever be more famous for his superb long-range goal as Chelsea claimed the silverware.
4. Ryan Giggs for Manchester United (vs Arsenal): FA Cup Semi-Final Replay of 1999
The top two teams in the Premier League endured a season-long battle in 1998-1999 that hit a peak in the FA Cup Semi-Final Replay at Villa Park. A few days after a 0 – 0 bore draw in the initial attempt, they upped the quality in the second effort to produce a fantastic match and one of the greatest goals ever witnessed. With the score at 1 – 1 and deep into extra-time, the ‘Welsh Wizard’ intercepted a poor pass from Vieira near the halfway line and began a mazy dribble down the left wing. With a series of shoulder-drops, mini-bursts and sublime close control, Giggs unwaveringly streamed past five Arsenal players before smashing the ball high past Seaman into the roof of the net. Manchester United soldiered on to win a historic ‘treble’ and many pundits cited Giggs’ sensational goal as the ignition for this unprecedented success.
5. Charlie George for Arsenal (vs Liverpool): FA Cup Final of 1971
Arsenal had just won the First Division heading into the 1971 FA Cup Final against Liverpool in what was considered a golden age in English football and a showpiece final between two fierce rivals of the era. On a sunny and hot day it was an energy-sapping match and neither team could break the deadlock as a 0 – 0 draw took the Final into extra-time. After goals for each team took the game to 1 – 1, Charlie George received an inside pass in the 111th minute about 20 yards from the Liverpool net. With one neat touch to set up the ball, George struck the ball beautifully with his right foot from the edge of the area and it flew past Ray Clemence just inside the left goalpost. The long-haired George then showed off his unique celebration of lying flat on his back until his team-mates lifted him to his feet whilst the Arsenal fans were in raptures at the completion of their first ‘Double’ when the final whistle was blown.
6. David Ginola for Tottenham Hotspur (vs Barnsley): FA Cup Sixth Round of 1999
Not many footballers could match Frenchman David Ginola for his technique at the height of his powers and he excelled in his period for Tottenham in the late 1990s. This was exemplified by an outstanding solo goal in 1999 as he helped Spurs to avenge their defeat to Barnsley in the FA Cup from the previous season. With midfielder Adie Moses sent off for two yellow cards, Ginola was able to find space on the left wing and, in the 68th minute, he cut inside and started running straight towards the centre of the South Yorkshire club’s defence. Winding his way past four players as he advanced into the box, a shimmy from side to side created the tiny bit of space required to fire a shot under the advancing goalkeeper and seal his side's progress into the semi-final.
7. Dennis Bergkamp for Arsenal (vs Sunderland): FA Cup Third Round Replay of 1997
With a meeting in the league combining with being drawn in the Third Round of the FA Cup, Arsenal and Sunderland would meet each other three times in the space of eleven days in January 1997. As The Mackams won the league match, Arsenal were desperate to make sure that they came out on top in their cup tie. An uneventful first-half passed by in the replay before Bergkamp showed the class that the football world became accustomed to whenever he had the ball at his talented feet. After being knocked off the ball on the edge of the box, the Dutch striker chased it down and beat two defenders with a fantastic ‘double-dragback’. As this lovely piece of skill faced him towards the goal, he meandered into the box and jointly curled/chipped the ball past Lionel Perez into the roof of the net. The Sunderland fans looked aghast as they witnessed Bergkamp contribute to the beating of their team whilst manager Peter Reid admitted afterwards that he almost found himself applauding the brilliant goal.
8. Norman Whiteside for Manchester United (vs Everton): FA Cup Final of 1985
Bizarrely, it was Manchester United labelled the underdogs for the FA Cup Final as Howard Kendall's Everton were aiming for a historic treble, but young Northern Irishman Norman Whiteside had other ideas. Manchester United held off the strong Everton attack in the first half but their job became difficult as defender Kevin Moran brought down Toffees midfielder Peter Reid when he was through on goal after half-time. The ten men seemed to play like twelve however and had the better chances before the match went into extra-time at nil-nil. With the watch counting down in the second half of ET, Mark Hughes picked up the ball in his own half before releasing Whiteside down the right with a magnificent pass from the outside of his foot. Whiteside trapped the ball, cut inside with a skilful step-over to beat a defender before bending a beautiful shot beyond Neville Southall and into the corner of the net.
9. Trevor Sinclair for QPR (vs Barnsley): FA Cup Fourth Round of 1997
Winning BBC Match of the Day’s ‘Goal of the Season’ award is no mean feat and so it is not a huge surprise that the unmistakable dreadlocks of Trevor Sinclair made it onto this list of the best FA Cup goals after winning the award with an outstanding goal. Barnsley travelled to Loftus Road in the Fourth Round fancying their chances of an away victory and passage to the next stage of the cup. As the match ebbed and flowed, there seemed little danger as a long cross floated towards the edge of The Tykes’ box. What happened next was truly unpredictable. Sinclair leapt backwards into the air just on the edge of the penalty area and astounded the watching public with 20-yard powerful bicycle kick ensuring him a place in every compilation of great FA Cup goals. It was a rare highlight in a season where QPR were eliminated in the next round and also missed out on a First Division play-off spot.
10. Jermaine Beckford for Leeds United (vs Manchester United): FA Cup Third Round of 2010
The downfall of Leeds United since the turn of the century needs no reprise here and when they drew their old rivals Manchester United in the Third Round of the FA Cup in 2010 the gulf between the two clubs was huge. The Red Devils were the current Premier League champions whilst Leeds were challenging for the play-offs in League One, a whole forty-two place below the Old Trafford side. However, their star striker, Jermaine Beckford, had hit a purple patch leading up to January and was already nearing twenty goals with only half a season played. As Jonny Howson received the ball deep in Leeds’ half of the pitch, he struck a long pass up towards Beckford who escaped the marking, and offside trap, of Wes Brown. After a poor first touch, the Leeds striker then showed his trademark pace to sprint after the ball and deftly squeeze it under the bodies of both Brown and his goalkeeper as it trickled into an empty net and secured a famous victory for his team. The goal also marked the first time that Sir Alex Ferguson had ever lost in the Third Round as Manchester United boss and, remarkably, the first time he had ever lost to lower league opposition.