Willock to Rooney and Guti: The assists so good that nobody cared about the goal
The art of goalscoring is often considered as the hardest in football but sometimes the assist makes it the easiest thing in the world.
Newcastle smashed six goals past Tottenham on Sunday but it was a player that wasn’t on the scoresheet that has got the most praise.
The Magpies raced into a five-goal lead after just 21 minutes of their 6-1 drubbing over Spurs, with Joelinton scoring alongside doubles from both Jacob Murphy and Alexander Isak.
But it was Joe Willock’s outrageous assist for Isak’s first strike that has been hailed as the pass of the season by Toon icon Alan Shearer.
Having collected possession inside his own half, Willock lofted a through ball with the outside of the boot in behind Tottenham’s backline that put Isak through on goal to slot past Lloris.
Bruno Guimaraes told Sky Sports: “Willockinho with his new hair today — he looked like Ronaldinho and played like him too.
“An amazing through ball. What a pass! Only Modric can play a pass like that. It was amazing.”
FIFA’s annual Puskas Award honours the most aesthetic goal, but assists like Willock’s prove sometimes fans couldn’t care who scored…
Dimitar Berbatov vs West Ham
Honourable mention: Fernando Redondo vs Man United
It’s not often that Cristiano Ronaldo scored a goal and found that the spotlight was on someone else but Berbatov managed it.
Less than two months after joining Manchester United in 2008, the Bulgarian endeared himself to the Old Trafford faithful with the ‘Berba Spin’.
United were already leading West Ham when Berbatov stopped a pass down the left flank going out of play and bamboozled defender James Collins with two yards of pitch to spare.
He then calmly squared the ball for Ronaldo to tap home and the man himself even cited it as one of his best moments on the pitch during an interview with talkSPORT.
Dennis Bergkamp vs Juventus
Honourable mention: Cesc Fabregas vs Burnley
Bergkamp was another player not on the scoresheet during a historic result but his assist is one that has stood the test of time.
Freddie Ljungberg scored twice and Thierry Henry added another during Arsenal’s 3-1 Champions League win over Juventus in 2001.
And it was Ljungberg’s second that owed it all to Bergkamp who toyed with Paolo Montero on the edge of the box before Alessio Tacchinardi arrived to help out.
Bergkhamp twisted and turned between the two and then lifted a delicate chipped ball around the corner for Ljungberg to run onto and lift over Gianluigi Buffon.
Guti vs Deportivo de La Coruna
Honourable mention: Guti vs Sevilla
The Spaniard’s near 20-year association with Real Madrid saw him play with some of the best players of all time.
And yet none of the skill from any of the Galacticos’ can claim to be quite as audacious as Guti’s no-look backheel against Deportivo.
In 2010, with Madrid leading 2-0 on route to a 3-1 win, Kaka put Guti through on goal with only goalkeeper Dani Aranzubia to beat.
With the entire world, including Aranzubia, expecting him to take the shot, Guti instead cut the ball back with a no-look backheel for Karim Benzema to roll into an empty net.
Wayne Rooney vs Orlando City
Honourable mention: David Beckham vs Atletico Madrid
Rooney’s raking ball for Robin van Persie’s goal against Aston Villa may be the pick of his 103 Premier League assists, but the Dutchman’s superb volley was nothing to be sniffed at either.
So it’s fitting we head to America to appreciate another one of Rooney’s Hollywood passes that required a much simpler finish.
With DC drawing 2-2 to Orlando in the final seconds and their goalkeeper stranded in the opposition box, Rooney first ran half the pitch and denied Will Johnson a breakaway winner with a thunderous sliding challenge.
The United legend then picked himself and drove forward before hitting a pinpoint diagonal for Luciano Acosta to head home.
Lionel Messi vs Croatia
Honourable mention: Gareth Bale vs Inter Milan
Messi finally got his hands on the coveted World Cup in December and it was nothing less than his performances deserved.
The Paris Saint-Germain superstar’s two goals helped Argentina edge France on penalties in a historic final following a 3-3 draw.
Messi had already notched in the 3-0 semi-final victory over Croatia but it was a piece of outstanding brilliance that remained one of his greatest moments.
The 35-year-old rolled back the years after embarking on a wonderful, jinking run from inside Croatia’s half and ended on the byline.
Josko Gvardiol, 14 years Messi’s junior, used his pace to catch up to the great man but was then spun around on the edge of the box as Messi pulled the ball back for Julian Alvarez to turn home.
Alexis Mac Allister: “I couldn’t believe the play Messi made [against Croatia] on Julián’s goal. I left Juli aside and went to hug Leo. I told him ‘you’re a son of a b*tch*’. The strength he has and how he handles his body is amazing.” @gastonedul 🗣️🇦🇷pic.twitter.com/TXGWycYFch
— All About Argentina 🛎🇦🇷 (@AlbicelesteTalk) March 1, 2023
Stuart Pearce told talkSPORT: “Gvardiol has come into this game with a big, big reputation as a young man going up in the came but he’s come up against an absolute genius there.
“He twisted, he turned, he showed strength, he showed vision, he showed balance, he showed everything. And he’s just taken Argentina to the final of the World Cup.
“Incredible play by Messi. Absolutely incredible.
“I had to drop my microphone and just applaud what I’d just seen, incredible.”
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