Anatomy of an own goal: Gareth Bale

A common response to an own goal, both in theory and in the moment, is to feel sympathy for the scorer. After all, they do not set out to put the ball in their own net, and the cost of doing so can be high – sometimes a point, sometimes all three. It is difficult to feel much sympathy, though, when the goal in question is objectively hilarious. You should not feel bad for laughing at Gareth Bale’s own goal in 2012, because it is one of the funniest things to have happened on a Premier League pitch in recent years.

The 2012/13 campaign, as we are sure you recall, was the season of Bale. The Welshman scored 21 goals and provided four assists in the Premier League, almost carrying Tottenham into the top four. In the Europa League, meanwhile, he was directly involved in another six goals in eight competition appearances.

Spurs made a stuttering start under Andre Villas-Boas, losing 2-1 to Newcastle United on the opening day and then being held to 1-1 home draws by both West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City. They eventually got off the mark in their fourth game of the season with a 3-1 defeat of Reading, before posting further victories over Queens Park Rangers, Manchester United and Aston Villa to move into fifth place.

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Unfortunately for Tottenham, four losses in their next six outings saw them slip down to seventh heading into a crunch clash with Liverpool at the end of November. It was a positive afternoon for Villas-Boas’ men, who held a 2-0 lead at the interval thanks to goals from Aaron Lennon and Bale.

The two goalscorers combined once more in the second half, though not in the way either would have wanted. With Liverpool pushing for their first goal of the game, Lennon cleared Steven Gerrard’s header off the line and straight into the face of his unfortunate team-mate. Liverpool, via Bale’s mush, had scored.

There is an argument that football has become too serious in the last few years, so it is always important to have the little things on which everyone can agree. Things like ‘man gets hit in the face with a football’ is always funny, regardless of your club affiliations. It is up there with ‘man falls to ground clutching groin’ and ‘man falls over while attempting a rabona’ – even the most joyless will be able to laugh.

As an added bonus, you can watch this clip over and over with your own choice of background music or sound effects. Want to sync the ball hitting Bale’s face with the beat from Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough? Be our guest. Prefer to lay it over the effects from an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon? That ought to work just as well.

There’s a split-second where you might picture Lennon scratching his head, though, as if to say “Wait? Where did the ball go? And why is Gareth lying prone on the ground in front of me? Oooooh, that’s why.”.

If you were in Bale’s spot you would just stay lying down, right There is not a lot to be gained from springing back up to your feet and getting on with things and, besides, you probably feel a little dizzy.

How many times are you going to have the opportunity to rest up for a bit, 20 minutes before the end of a match, without anyone questioning your priorities or dragging you back to your feet?

We are not saying Bale scored the own goal on purpose, largely because it would literally be impossible to do so, but he did at least have the nous to acknowledge the situation for what it was and give himself a time-out.

The worst thing about it all, of course, is that Bale failed to take revenge in the reverse fixture, playing 90 minutes at Anfield in a 3-2 defeat, and was only fit enough to play 30 minutes of Real Madrid’s two Champions League group stage meetings with Liverpool in 2014.

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If only there was another opportunity for the Spanish club’s record signing to get some delayed revenge on the Reds; perhaps in a manner that left him on the ground afterwards, as if to provide some degree of symmetry to the situation from 2012.

Hang on, he did what? In the Champions League final? Yeah, he probably doesn’t have much trouble remembering that one.

Anatomy of an own goal: Gareth Bale
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