Dan Agger’s disallowed goal for Liverpool v Anzhi: The ruling & precedents (Gary Crosby, George Best & Robin van Persie)

Danish defender Dan Agger appeared to have scored a second Liverpool goal against Anzhi in the Europa League on Thursday evening when he headed the ball out the (one) hand of keeper Vladimir Gabulov and slotted it home.

Many pundits and experts in English football questioned the decision despite the rules clearly stating that the custodian was still “in control of the ball” thereby ensuring the Liverpool centre back was not allowed to be challenging him from behind.

Kudos to referee Bas Nijhuis for making the absolute correct decision to disallow the goal by the Liverpool defender. The full ruling from page 116, Law 12, from the Laws of the Game, 2012/2013, is as follows:

A goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball:

  • While the ball is between his hands or between his hand and any surface (e.g. ground, own body)
  • while holding the ball in his outstretched hand
  • while in the act of bouncing it on the ground or crossing it in the air

When a goalkeeper has gained possession of the ball with his hands, he cannot be challenged by an opponent.

So why was there a mini uproar within Anfield and on the social networks among Liverpool fans who felt Agger’s goal should have stood?

It can be largely blamed on one man: Gary Crosby. Everyone remembers the incident on March 3, 1990 as Nottingham Forest beat Manchester City 1-0 thanks to a hugely controversial goal.

Crosby sneaked up behind Dibble, headed the ball out of the keeper’s (1) hand and tapped the ball home. The goal stood at the time but with the current rules would not have been allowed.

How much control the keeper has of the ball when handling it inside the area, both legally and figuratively has been debated for some time and arguably came to prominence through George Best who tested the limits of Gordon Banks in a friendly between Northern Ireland and England in 1971.

There are also other precedents in English football (and across the globe) the final two videos below feature two other sneak attacks in English football.

One by George Parris for Brighton & Hove Albion v Bristol Rovers in October 1995 – which was allowed and a second by Robin van Persie against Manchester City whilst the Dutchman was still at Arsenal, which was disallowed.

If you have any more “sneak attack” goals, and we have featured a fair few of these “he’s behind you” sort on the site over the years, leave them in the comments below. Videos below of all the goals and disallowed efforts mentioned above are here:

UPDATE: Two further examples have been added. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer versus Middlesbrough in 2007 and an occurrence from the MLS just last season.

Dan Agger v Anzhi

Gary Crosby v Manchester City

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George Best v Gordon Banks

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George Parris

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Robin van Persie v Manchester City

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer v Middlesbrough

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Josh Saunders red carded for elbow on Steven Lenhart

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