It's all about the turn.
It’s all about the turn and the noise of the crowd.
It’s all about the turn and the noise of the crowd and the purity of the strike.
It’s all about Robbie Fowler.
Liverpool’s greatest Premier League goal was scored on Sunday March 3, 1996.
First, some context. Liverpool went in to this game against Aston Villa in third place. A 15-game unbeaten run had put Roy Evans’ team within striking distance of Manchester United and Newcastle United at the top of the table.
Villa, for the record, were fourth, just three points behind the Reds before kick-off at Anfield.
Eight minutes after kick-off, however, they were effectively six points adrift.
The hosts scored three times in those opening eight minutes. It was Evans’ Liverpool at their best: bold, expansive, irresistible.
The Reds’ second goal, scored in the fifth minute, is the subject of this piece.
Ingenuity and execution. It’s all about Robbie Fowler.
The turn, then. Fowler thinks about the turn as soon as his chief accomplice Steve McManaman directs the ball towards him from 10 yards away.
He glances over his right shoulder, sees the space and thinks about the turn. He does all of this in no more than a second.
There were just over 39,500 people inside Anfield that day, but only one of them imagined the turn was a possibility.
Steve Staunton tries to close Fowler down from behind, but Steve Staunton hasn’t thought about the turn and then it’s too late, because the turn’s happened. The turn’s happened and Steve Staunton is bewildered and going in the wrong direction.
Now, after the fact, just over 39,500 people think about the turn. They’ve seen the turn and the by-product of their brains processing it is an almost involuntary gasp of wonder; a collective intake of breath as bums leave seats in anticipation of what could happen next.
Just listen to the noise of the crowd. Very few footballers can do things to evoke that sort of sound from people who have paid to watch them play. Robbie Fowler was one of those footballers.
His back was to goal, 40 yards from the Kop-end net. Now, suddenly, he’s in that space he saw. Suddenly, Mark Bosnich is in Fowler’s sights. From the Villa goalkeeper’s perspective, the situation has gone from innocuous to ominous in no time at all.
Andy Townsend attempts to get close to Fowler but quickly becomes resigned to his fate, becomes resigned to Villa’s fate. The ball is going in the back of the net and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
Two almost imperceptible, velvet-soft touches - one with his left foot, one with his right - later and Fowler has the ball out of his feet.
And then he hits it. He hits it with that left foot of his, with no backlift. He hits it so sweetly that the flight of the ball never deviates.
He hits it so sweetly that it’s clocked at 78mph and arms are aloft in celebration on the Kop before Bosnich dives. The ball is in the net and there was never anything anyone could have done about it.
It bears repeating that this game took place on the first weekend of March, and this was a 20-year-old Fowler’s 28th goal of the season. His 29th followed three minutes later.
Fowler scored 183 goals for Liverpool, but none of the other 182 were better than this.
This was vintage Robbie Fowler.
This is Liverpool’s greatest Premier League goal.