Defenders often have one of the most thankless jobs in football. They put their bodies on the line to save the team, while rarely receiving the plaudits showered on midfielders and forwards for the goals they score.
So, to even out this imbalance, this article celebrates 10 of the most impressive goals ever scored by defenders.
1. Philippe Albert vs Manchester United, 1996
We’re starting this list with an absolute belter from the classic 1996/97 season, in which Newcastle United and Manchester United battled for supremacy in the then-called Premiership title race.
St James’ Park would turn out not to be a happy hunting ground for Sir Alex Ferguson that day, as he watched his side succumb to a 5-0 defeat.
But it’s the fifth goal that’s particularly well remembered, a truly audacious chip from centre-back Philippe Albert at least 20 yards away from goal. Make sure you watch all the way to the end for this one:
Despite Newcastle being 12 points clear at Christmas, Ferguson would ultimately have the last laugh as he led his team to the title.
2. Daniel Agger vs West Ham United, 2006
Former Denmark captain Daniel Agger’s first goal in a Liverpool shirt was one that he’ll surely remember forever.
West Ham players failed to close down the solid centre-back as he strode forward. So, 40 yards from goal, he took a crack, and this was the result:
The goal drew Liverpool level after conceding early, and Peter Crouch added the winner three minutes later to secure all three points for the Reds.
3. Matty Taylor vs Everton, 2006
Deployed in defence and midfield throughout his career, Matty Taylor was a truly versatile player. Yet this goal against Everton at Goodison Park goes beyond just versatility.
There’s plenty of fortune in the way the ball set up for Taylor, bouncing up awkwardly from a defender’s sliding challenge, but the looping finish over Tim Howard’s head is pure class:
While we’re talking about Matty Taylor, it’s impossible not to give a bonus mention to another world-class goal he put away during his Portsmouth career, this 40-yard screamer against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in 2005:
4. Glen Johnson vs Hull City, 2008
The second Portsmouth player to feature on this list, former Chelsea man Glen Johnson scored his first goal at Fratton Park for Pompey in style.
The Hull defenders must have thought they’d managed to clear the danger, successfully clearing two crosses away.
But Johnson had other ideas, expertly controlling the ball on his chest and producing this dipping, swerving half-volley that completely bamboozled Boaz Myhill in the Hull City net:
5. Maynor Figueroa vs Stoke City, 2009
Coming from a game between Stoke City and Wigan Athletic in December 2009, this goal is a particularly special one as not only was it scored by a defender, but it also won Match of the Day’s “goal of the season” competition.
The referee awarded a free kick after a fairly innocuous foul on Scott Sinclair by Robert Huth. With the ball just inside the Wigan half, the Stoke players trotted back into position, thinking there was no immediate danger. How wrong they were.
Wigan centre-back Maynor Figueroa had realised that Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorenson was off his line, and so the Honduran international unleashed a left-footed bullet that soared over the entire half and straight into the top corner of the goal.
The strike is so inch perfect that you have to wonder: would Sorenson have got there, even if he had been on his line?
6. Matthew Lowton vs Stoke City, 2013
Sorry Stoke fans, this is the second goal against your side on this list, but Matthew Lowton’s chest and volley is potentially one of the best Premier League goals ever scored.
After clearing a Charles N’Zogbia corner, Stoke players rushed out from their position in the penalty box to chase the ball down.
But before they could even get close, Lowton had brilliantly controlled the ball on his chest with one touch and twisted his body round to flawlessly volley on his right foot.
This is a beautifully taken goal that’s very easy on the eyes:
7. Phil Jagielka vs Liverpool, 2014
Described on the commentary as a “bolt from the Everton blue”, Phil Jagielka’s strike in the Merseyside derby is a true scorcher.
In the 91st minute of the game with Liverpool defending a tenuous 1-0 lead, an Aiden McGeady cross was headed clear by Dejan Lovren.
Dropping around 30 yards from goal, the onrushing Jagielka hit a first-time half-volley perfectly with the outside of his boot, sending the ball curling away from Simon Mignolet and into the top corner:
This stunning goal secured a valuable and well-deserved point for the Toffees.
8. Cuco Martina vs Arsenal, 2015
Cuco Martina made less than 30 appearances in two years at St Mary’s Stadium playing for Southampton. But Saints fans will no doubt remember him fondly for one particular match.
In a topsy-turvy season for the top clubs in England, Arsenal arrived in Southampton on Boxing Day 2015 likely envisaging leaving with three points. However, the home side had different plans, running out 4-0 winners on the night.
The tone of the match was set with the first goal when Martina delivered a wonderful Christmas present to the Saints faithful, with this outrageous, outside of the boot curling effort into the bottom corner:
When you look at the reverse angle on this one, the swerve on the ball to take it back into the far post is just unbelievable.
9. David Luiz vs Liverpool, 2017
Brazilian maestro David Luiz is well-remembered for having excellent feet for a centre-back, and in this match against Liverpool he really showed them off.
Chelsea talisman Eden Hazard was haphazardly bundled over by Adam Lallana nearly 30 yards away from goal at Anfield, with referee Mark Clattenburg giving the Blues a free kick.
It looked like Willian was setting himself to shoot at goal, when all of a sudden, his Brazil teammate Luiz appeared from nowhere and hit the target with a perfect side-foot shot.
Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool net was caught entirely unaware, and the ball nestled comfortably in the corner:
10. Vincent Kompany vs Leicester City, 2019
Both Manchester City and Liverpool were in stunning form at the back end of the 2018/19 Premier League season.
Dropped points could mean giving the upper hand to the other side in the title race. So, when City were struggling to break down Leicester at the Etihad in the penultimate game of the season, you can understand that nerves were starting to fray by the 70th minute.
Up steps Vincent Kompany. The Leicester defenders dropped further back, allowing the City captain to make his way forwards and release this thunderbolt of a strike into the top corner:
City went on to win the league by just one point, meaning the three points earned from this 1-0 victory were essential to the entire outcome of the season.
But, if there’s ever a goal that’s worthy of winning a title by itself, this is surely it.