Stoke City FC

Anatomy of a goal: Peter Crouch's insane dipping volley vs Manchester City

Max Cooper
Mar 24, 2021, 1:00 PM GMT
Crouch scored possibly the best goal of his career against Manchester City
Crouch scored possibly the best goal of his career against Manchester City / PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images
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If you asked Tony Pulis what is the perfect goal that a football team could score, he'd probably point you back towards 24 March 2012, when Stoke City were in the thick of their Premier League adventure.

The Potters possessed the perfect blend of big, strapping hard nuts and intelligent, nippy wingers, with the likes of Jermaine Pennant and Matty Etherington supplying 'Land of the Giants' extras Kenwyne Jones, Jonathan Walters and Peter Crouch.

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It was a glorious year to be a Stoke City supporter, as they ventured into their very own Land of the Giants, entering the Europa League and reaching the knockout stages, off the back of a 2011 FA Cup final appearance.

And it was in that year that the loyal fans witnessed possibly the greatest goal ever scored at the then-Britannia Stadium, when the Potters played host to soon-to-be champions Manchester City in a classic Premier League encounter.

For Pulis, the beauty of this goal may not stem from the strike itself, but from the fact that from start to finish, the ball never touched the ground. The move began at the feet of Asmir Begovic, as he sent a typically vertical hoof from the edge of his penalty area towards the head of Crouch, stood about 35 yards from goal.

Facing his own goalkeeper, Crouch waited for the ball to plummet from the sky, before *ahem* giving his marker the slightest of shoves, and then pirouetting to head the ball into the path of teammate Pennant on the right flank.

Peter Crouch, Jonathan Walters
Leap of faith / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Being the predatory striker that he was, the Stoke forward followed the trajectory of his pass, and quickly saw the ball returned to his feet from Pennant's cushioned header.

Now stood level with the right-hand side of the penalty area, on a 90 degree angle from Joe Hart's net, Crouch was faced with a number of options.

Lay it back into Pennant's feet so he can whip in a cross? Touch it back into midfield and restart the buildup? Try and knock an ambitious volleyed cross into the mixer? Or, do something no one expected nor could have seen coming? Yeah, that one.

Crouch took one touch on the volley, propelling the ball to midriff height, (shoulder height for most other players) rotated his body and raised his long leg to cannon a thunderbolt towards goal.

Stoke City's English striker Peter Crouch
The eagle has landed / AFP/Getty Images

Now, there are two types of speculative efforts which stir two separate emotions when the ball leaves the striker's foot. The first instinctively sparks an ironic cheer from the crowd, who have watched football long enough to know that shot was sailing into Row Z.

But the second creates a hushed silence around the ground, and a feeling of incredulous inevitability grows from the second the ball is hit, to the instant it ruffles the back of the net. It was so obviously going to be a goal, that the look on Crouch's face as he volleyed it screamed "that's in."

"I always enjoy volleying, but they don't always fly in like that!"

Peter Crouch

And sure enough, the ball sailed into the air, soaring and hurtling towards the Man City goalposts. It flew so high, that had there been a roof on the Britannia Stadium, the ball might have kissed it on its path to fame.

In the blink of an eye, Crouch's effort sailed from the right corner of the penalty area to the top left corner of Hart's net, evading the goalkeeper's futile but spectacular full-stretch dive. The ball nestled into the inside-netting of the goal, before - after what must have felt like a lifetime for the little sphere - finally landing back on the green grass of Staffordshire.

"Crouchy's goal was wonderful. He does it in training. Technically he's very good - he is made for us."

Tony Puls

The Britannia erupted, with fans literally beside themselves, unable to process what they had just seen, or how to commemorate it. Crouch ran around the pitch with his hand covering his mouth in pure shock, while Pulis genuinely had no idea what to do, threatening to remove his baseball cap in delight, before quickly fixing it firmly on top of his head.

It was a moment that the Premier League will never forget, and one that Stoke fans now treasure and cling onto, while watching their current edition battle it out in the obscurity of the Championship.

Ah, happy days.

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