Imagine this situation: you’re playing in a game of football and your side have won a corner kick. The planned routine is a short corner and your task is to get on the end of the eventual ball into the box. What if you could 100 per cent guarantee you would have several yards of space at the start of this move and you could be relatively sure that no one would track your run?
It sounds too good to be true. But that’s precisely what Wolverhampton Wanderers managed in their 2-1 victory over Everton last month, putting together a neat corner routine that was converted smoothly by Daniel Podence — at 5ft 5in (165cm), hardly the most obvious penalty-box target.
How did they manage it? Well, Podence took the corner kick. And therefore this goal is completely unique in the past three and a half seasons of Premier League football, the only time a player has taken a corner and his side have kept possession of the ball before he’s converted from a close-range position.
The move itself depended on two wonderful passes and a neat finish — first from Ruben Neves (who had received the ball from Podence’s corner) across to Joao Moutinho, lingering on the edge of the box.
Moutinho’s lovely outside-of-the-foot ball over the defence falls perfectly for Podence’s run…
… and Podence’s volley is calm and clinical.
It might have simply been an improvised team effort rather than a planned routine, but it doesn’t really matter. This goal is interesting because it demonstrates how the defending side doesn’t even consider that the corner taker might become a penalty-box threat.
There are two key factors. First, it relies on Podence ensuring he stays onside — not too difficult because the opposition will always have players inside the six-yard box.
Second, it relies on the ball across to Moutinho, which forces the defending side to turn to face away from the corner taker. Not merely does this encourage them out towards the other side of the pitch when the goalkeeper (probably) shouts ‘out!’, but it also means Podence can run in behind on the blindside. At no point in the move is any Everton defender aware of his run.
Using data, it’s possible to find other examples from recent Premier League seasons where players have taken a corner and then scored from a close-range position, although none of the other examples are quite as slick.
The two most intriguing goals are different, but nevertheless worth a look.
Here’s Newcastle’s Sean Longstaff doing it earlier in the campaign, although this relies on a bounce off the woodwork. Longstaff takes the corner short to Kieran Trippier, who sends the ball into the box for a Sven Botman header. This hits the far post and bounces kindly for Longstaff to tuck home the rebound. Hardly one off the training ground. It’s notable, though, that Longstaff had run past two Fulham defenders before converting. Again, they didn’t consider the corner taker might become a goal threat in the area.
That’s the peculiar thing about defences at corners — if you are one of the players tasked with getting out towards the players involved in the short corner, it seems you almost automatically switch off. There’s also sometimes a huge gap between the two groups — those getting out to shut down and those defending the cross. Arsenal exploited that space effectively at the weekend with Granit Xhaka getting into a good position for a cutback.
The other relevant goal was scored by Andrew Robertson in 2019-20 against Sean Dyche’s Burnley — not a side known for being vulnerable to headed goals at set pieces. Again, there’s a caveat here. After Robertson plays a short corner back for James Milner’s cross, Burnley clear the initial cross.
But the move ends up in a similar situation to the Podence goal. The ball falls to Fabinho, outside the box and towards the opposite side of the pitch to where the corner was taken. Burnley push out towards him, while Robertson charges in behind on the blindside.
Fabinho’s drifted pass into the box meets his run and Robertson loops an excellent header into the far corner.
Maybe things would be different if a renowned goalscorer is taking the corner, like Thierry Henry used to for Arsenal, for example — he’d be less likely to sneak in unnoticed. And these goals are clearly extremely rare. But their rarity is what surprises the opposition — they don’t expect the corner taker to become a serious goalscoring threat a few moments later.
But in an era of specialist set-piece coaches and increasingly complex routines, perhaps this type of goal is worth other sides trying to replicate.
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