Which footballers have scored with their very first touch on debut? | The Knowledge

Plus: dramatic swings in return fixtures; big title-winning margins; and the ref who blew for half-time after 29 minutes

“Mario Balotelli scored with his first touch on his first appearance for Monza,” tweets William Mata. “Is his feat of scoring a first-touch debut goal unique?”

Mario Balotelli is a one-off but his feat certainly isn’t, William. Let’s start up in Glasgow. “Celtic have two examples of debutant first-touch scorers in recent years,” writes Patrick Bradley. “Barry Robson made his debut for Celtic in 2008, coming on as a sub for free-kick legend Shunsuke Nakamura in a league game at Pittodrie. Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink immediately drew a foul on the edge of the Aberdeen box and Robson ensured Naka’s talents were not missed by firing home the free-kick.

“On the last day of the 2015-16 season, Ronny Deila, in his last match in charge, gave a debut to Jack Aitchison, who became Celtic’s youngest debutant at 16 years and 71 days. Aitchison came on late in the game and promptly scored the final goal in a 7-0 thrashing of Motherwell with his first touch in senior football. Not bad.”

Jack Aitchison, aged 16, celebrates scoring with his first touch as a Celtic player
Jack Aitchison, aged 16, celebrates scoring with his first touch as a Celtic player Photograph: Jeff Holmes/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

Even Aitchison’s feat, a first-touch goal on senior debut, is not unique. “Central Coast Mariners’ Matt Hatch scored with his first touch as a senior professional,” offers Ciaran Hannigan. “It took just him only 25 seconds to get on the scoresheet against Macarthur FC to break the record for the fastest debut goal in Australian national league history.”

And who can forget Alan Smith scoring with his first touch in professional football, for Leeds at Anfield? Well, probably someone, so that’s why we mention it.

🔥 "What a moment!" #OTD in 1998, Alan Smith's strike started an #LUFC comeback to defeat Liverpool 3-1 pic.twitter.com/WPiRq4KVfN

— Leeds United (@LUFC) November 14, 2020

Garry Brogden also has this about a Middlesbrough bogeyman. “Daryl Murphy always seemed to score against my lot when he played for Sunderland,” sighs Garry. “He was sent to Ipswich on loan in 2010. His debut was against us, and he scored with his first touch after 23 seconds. Naturally.”

We’ve made mention of a couple of first-touch debutant scorers in a previous edition of this column on fast debut goals. A member of England’s one-cap club, Michael Ricketts, scored as a 17-year-old for Walsall against Brighton in May 1996. And Maheta Molango – who you may topically be aware of – stated his case 12 seconds into his Brighton debut against Reading in August 2004. As for some others …

If I'm not mistaken, Swansea won 2-1 at Bramall Lane at the start of the 2018/19 season, and sub Yan Dhanda got the winner with his first touch in senior football. Nowhere to go but down from there, I guess.

— Cirkus (@lightdiesdown) March 10, 2021

Ethan Chislett scored for @AFCWimbledon 22 seconds into the first game of this season. It was his first touch on his senior debut.

— Wayne Ziants (@wziants) March 11, 2021

Can any fixture beat an 18-goal increase?

Regarding Sean Cavany’s question about the 13-goal swing in two Hull City v Wigan games, and whether this is a record (3 March), it reminded me of a startling result I saw recently in an old Manchester United programme,” writes Peter Erlam. “In 1961, the year I saw my first match at Old Trafford, the reserve team beat Barnsley 11-8 in September while in January Barnsley had won 1-0 at their ground. So, not really a goal-swing record but certainly a contender for biggest difference in goals scored in home and away fixtures between the same teams in one calendar year.”

Emphatic title-winners (2)

“Celtic won the SPL title earlier this month with an 18-point lead over Rangers in second,” wrote Matt Bicknel in April 2012. “What is the most emphatic total that a team has ever won a league title by?”

As discussed last week, Celtic ended that 2011-12 season 20 points clear of Rangers. The following year they saw their own 20-point lead and raised it to 29, then went one better by finishing 30 points clear of Aberdeen in 2016-17. Rangers could still break Celtic’s record this season, though it’s unlikely – they are 20 points ahead with six games remaining.

The most emphatic triumph in a top-flight European league occurred in France in 2015-16, when Paris Saint-Germain finished 31 points ahead of Lyon and Monaco. In the same year, Marco Silva’s Olympiakos ended the season 30 points clear of Panathinaikos – and that was in a 30-game season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic lifts L’Hexagoal, the Ligue 1 trophy, in 2016
Zlatan Ibrahimovic lifts L’Hexagoal, the Ligue 1 trophy, in 2016. Paris Saint-Germain won the league by 31 points Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In the Premier League, since you asked with such polite telepathy, the biggest winning margin is Manchester City’s 19 points in 2017-18. That record could go this year as well – City, who have played a game more, are 14 points clear of second-placed Manchester United and have eight matches remaining.

Knowledge archive

“A referee in Italy called off an under-14s game after 60 minutes last week because one side was getting hammered 31-0,” wrote Tom Lewis-Jones in November 2015. “Are there any other example of refs bringing an early conclusion to proceedings for unusual reasons (ie other than weather, floodlight failure, crowd trouble etc)?”

One particularly fine example comes from Germany on 8 November 1975, when Wolf-Dieter Ahlenfelder took charge of a Bundesliga game between Werder Bremen and Hannover 96. Ahlenfelder made a few strange decisions in the first half, the strangest of which was to blow for half-time after just 29 minutes. A linesman pointed out his error, so Ahlenfelder added on 16 minutes of stoppage time.

The reason for the early halt to proceedings? Well, Herr Ahlenfelder initially denied he had been drinking but did later admitted to having had several glasses of schnaps before the game. “We are men,” he added. “We don’t drink Fanta.”

Knowledge archive

Can you help?

“Salford won the rearranged 2020 Papa John’s Trophy final on Saturday and reigned as champions for just 24 hours, with the 2021 final won by Sunderland. Has there ever been a shorter reign?” muses George Jones (and many others).

I am sure that many years Ago When Saturday Comes claimed that a lower tier Scottish team used to run on the pitch to the sounds of Talking Heads "Road to Nowhere"
Is this true, who was it? and are there any other odd examples?

— John Tumbridge (@JohnTumbridge) March 16, 2021

“At time of writing, the Premier League table shows all the top-half teams with a positive goal difference, and all the bottom-half teams with a negative difference. Has a season ever finished this way?” asks Jezz Nash.

“Gabriel Heinze has played alongside both Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) and Lionel Messi (Argentina). How many other players can match that claim?” wonders Masai Graham.

@TheKnowledge_GU Mierzejewski doesn't quite qualify here, but has any footballer played for the most Northern, Southern, Western and Eastern club of a country/league? https://t.co/rqGnUvv2MW

— Jack Tanner (@mrjacktanner) March 14, 2021

“I’m wondering where and when did the concept of a perfect hat-trick (goals scored from a header and both feet) begin?” asks Gerard Doyle. “I know Geoff Hurst managed it in the 1966 World Cup final, so was it considered an extra-special feat back then, or is the concept more modern?”

Stade de Reims' old badge featured a bottle of champagne, which other clubs have had alcohol on their badge? pic.twitter.com/PyNKTXvLxr

— Chêsney Mooncalf (@ElTufote) March 16, 2021

“I noticed that a player called Chair scored for QPR against the Chairboys (Wycombe) the other night,” begins Daniel Marcus. “I joked to myself that this would be like a lad called Tractor scoring against Ipswich or an old lady scoring against Juventus. Can anyone think of any other real-life examples of players scoring against ‘nicknamesake’ clubs?”

“What’s the longest continuous period of play (no throw-ins, free-kicks, etc) in the Premier League?” asks Francis Wilmer.

That makes own goals our joint top scorer. Hey @TheKnowledge_GU - has OGs ever finished as a team's top scorer?

— Food, Fun and Forest 🍗🍰🥳🎉🌳🌲 (@FoodFunForest) March 13, 2021

• Email your questions and answers to knowledge@theguardian.com or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.


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