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‘Inside The Vault‘ revisits iconic moments in the history of sport. In this edition, David Smith looks back at Maynor Figueroa’s stunning free kick for Wigan against Stoke City in 2009.
There have been some stunning long range lobs in the Premier League.
David Beckham’s lob over Wimbledon goalkeeper Neil Sullivan for Manchester United in 1996 comes immediately to mind, and remains one of the most iconic goals in Premier League history.
Wayne Rooney’s lob from his own half for the Red Devils against West Ham in March 2014 earned comparisons to Beckham’s famous strike, with Rooney cheekily claiming his effort eclipsed the former United winger’s effort 18 years earlier.
Xabi Alonso garnered something of a reputation for shooting from his own half, finding the net against Luton Town in the FA Cup in 2006 with a remarkable left-footed effort from his own half, before repeating the feat later eight months later in the league with a wonderful goal against Newcastle from behind the centre circle.
While not strictly a lob, Matty Taylor – who had a penchant for long range wonder goals – volleyed over Everton keeper Tim Howard from 45 yards at Fratton Park just months after Alonso’s strike against the Magpies.
And who could forget when Charlie Adam lifted a sensational chip over Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in Stoke City’s 2-1 defeat to Jose Mourinho’s men in 2015.
Maynor Figueroa’s incredible free kick for Wigan in December 2009 deserves to be included on this pantheon of wonderful lobbed goals.
The Honduran defender lit up a largely unremarkable league game between Stoke and the Latics at the Britannia Stadium with an unforgettable piece of improvisation.
“The footballing arrogance Maynor showed to take the shot on was exceptional.”Wigan coach Roberto Martinez
Wigan arrived in Stoke having conceded a whopping 13 goals in their previous two Premier League away games, with a 9-1 humiliation against Spurs at White Hart Lane fresh in their minds, while Stoke, then managed by Tony Pulis, were known for their formidable home record at the Brittania.
It was Roberto Martinez’ visitors who took the lead, however, with defender Emerson Boyce bravely heading them into the lead (and getting a kick in the face from Salif Diao for his troubles) in the 15th minute after Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen had saved Hugo Rodallega’s header from a Jason Koumas free kick.
Turkish striker Tuncay Sanli popped up with his first goal for Stoke to draw Pulis’ hosts level in the 37th minute.
Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross flicked on a long ball, allowing Tuncay to dribble forward and fire a low strike past Wigan shot stopper Chris Kirkland.
Before that equalizer, Shawcross was lucky to avoid conceding a penalty after pulling Paul Scharner’s jersey inside the area.
Figeruoa’s magic moment arrived in the 72nd minute.
When Wigan substitute Scott Sinclair collected the ball with his back to goal just inside his own half, Stoke centre back Robert Huth was over zealous in his tackling, catching Sinclair with a clumsy kick.
A bemused Rory Delap – following up on Huth’s initial tackle – tapped the ball upon hearing the referee’s whistle, turned his back to the ball, which had rolled to a stop.
Sinclair jogged forward on the wing, leaving the set piece for Figeroa, and opened his body in anticipation of receiving a quick pass.
Figueroa, then 26, had other things in mind.
The left back spotted Sorensen off his line, and took the free kick immediately.
His measured, beautifully weighted kick was a thing of utter perfection.
Sprinting forward at full pelt, he clipped the ball powerfully from inside his own half, catching everyone by surprise.
Sorensen backpedalled furiously and futilely as the ball sailed over him with pace.
Had Figueroa’s kick been any lower, or slower, the Danish ‘keeper would likely have kept it out. His shot, however, was as straight as an arrow, looping over the retreating Sorensen into the top right corner of the net.
It was a goal that will live long in the memory, and one worthy of winning any game, but Wigan failed to hold on to their lead.
Just two minutes after the Honduran international stunned all those in attendance at the Britannia, Shawcross headed the Potters level from a Matthew Etherington corner.
Rodallega then had a chance to snatch all three points from 12 yards for the visitors in the 90th minute after Jordi Gomez was fouled in the box, but Sorensen saved his tame spot kick to earn Stoke a point.
It was a somewhat ordinary Premier League match illuminated by a moment of genius.
Afterwards, Sorensen acknowledged he was beaten by an incredible strike.
“Obviously it is never great to be beaten from that distance, but you have to credit his awareness and his strike was unbelievable. I don’t think I have seen a strike like that for years.”Thomas Sorensen
Take a bow Maynor Figueroa.