The worst goal-line decisions of all time – ranked

The worst goal-line decisions of all time – ranked

Say what you want about VAR but one addition to football that few people can complain about is goal-line technology.

Prior to its introduction, officials were often forced to play a guessing game with particularly tight calls and, as this list shows, they often guessed wrong.

Here are ten of the most famous incidents of goal-line controversy throughout footballing history.

Lionel Andres MessiLionel Andres Messi
Valencia got away with one in 2017 | Power Sport Images/Getty Images

Lionel Messi has scored a lot of goals, but if the officials had been concentrating during Barcelona’s meeting with Valencia in November 2017 he would have one more.

On the half hour mark, Messi fired away a shot from the edge of the box which Neto allowed to slip through his butter fingers. The Valencia stopper tried in vain to claw it out, but it was clear to everyone in Camp Nou that he had been unsuccessful.

Everyone but the assistant referee that is, who remained unmoved. The game went on to end 1-1.

Cristiano Ronaldo had a volcanic reaction to the assistant referee failing to award his match-winning strike against Serbia in March 2021.

With the scores level at 2-2 and 90+ minutes on the clock, Ronaldo met Nuno Mendes’ crossfield pass on the volley, only for Stefan Mitrovic to clear his effort ‘off the line’. To add to the drama, with goalkeeper Mark Dmitrovic stricken, Mitrovic would then prevent the rebound going in as well.

On closer inspection, the replays showed Ronaldo’s shot had crossed the line. He reacted as you might expect, picking up a yellow card for his protestations before throwing his armband to the ground in disgust.

Dorinel MunteanuDorinel Munteanu
This mistake cost Romania their place in Euro 1996 | Simon Bruty/Getty Images

Romania’s Dorinel Munteanu was denied a stunning goal at Euro 1996 in a group game against Bulgaria.

His vicious 25-yard strike was not given despite clearly crossing the line after it bounced off the underside of the bar.

The goal was a turning point in the tie with Bulgaria holding out for a 1-0 win, a result that eliminated their eastern European rivals.

John Terry, Marko Devic ofJohn Terry, Marko Devic of
Yeah, sure it didn’t cross the line John… | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

England’s Euro 2012 campaign was far from memorable, with the Three Lions being knocked out in the quarter finals by Italy.

One of the most notable moments came in their final group game against Ukraine. 15 minutes or so after Wayne Rooney had given his side the lead, England were given a massive let-off when Marko Devic’s shot was deemed to have not crossed the line.

Replays soon revealed that John Terry had not got there in time to clear it, although the Chelsea defender chose not to fess up.

Juventus FC v Atalanta BC  - Serie AJuventus FC v Atalanta BC  - Serie A
Muntari’s ‘goal’ is still bitterly remembered by Milan supporters | Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Milan and Juventus went into their game in February 2012 level on points at the top of the Serie A table.

Antonio Nocerino got the Rossoneri off to a perfect start with a 14th minute equaliser and Sulley Muntari then thought he had doubled their lead later in the first half. Even in real time, it was easy to see Muntari’s shot had crossed the line but the officials were not convinced.

To compound matters, Juventus would equalise in the final ten minutes with the result providing them with the inspiration to string together a title winning run of form.

Clive AllenClive Allen
Allen was not celebrating like this for long | Getty Images/Getty Images

Clive Allen was somewhat of a trend setter when it came to goal-line controversy.

Playing for Crystal Palace in a game against Coventry back in 1970, the prolific frontman rifled a free kick straight into the stanchion. The only problem was that the ball was struck with such force the officials thought it had bounced back off the bar.

The replays were shown back on Match of the Day that evening. Thank goodness there wasn’t social media back then, ay?

Roy CarrollRoy Carroll
Roy Carroll loved a blunder | Phil Cole/Getty Images

Pedro Mendes did not score many goals during his career, but when he did they were usually spectacular.

However, he was deprived one of his greatest strikes ever by some clumsy officiating. With just a few minutes to go in Manchester United vs Tottenham back in 2005, Mendes let one rip from the halfway line with error-prone stopper Roy Carroll fumbling it over his own line.

Luckily for the Northern Irishman, the assistant referee did not give the goal, ensuring the match ended 0-0 in the process.

After several months away due to the coronavirus enforced lockdown, supporters could have be forgiven for thinking that the first Premier League game back, Aston Villa vs Sheffield United, might be a bit underwhelming.

In many ways this prediction was correct, with the pair playing out a 0-0 draw. That is not to say that the match was entirely devoid of drama, though.

Just before half time, Villa keeper Orjan Nyland appeared to carry Oliver Norwood’s free kick over his own line. Michael Oliver waved away Sheffield United’s protest when he did not give the goal, furiously pointing at the goal-line technology on his wrist which had apparently not buzzed.

After the game it emerged that Hawkeye had malfunctioned. The point that this error gave Villa would prove vital, with Dean Smith’s side surviving relegation by that margin at the end of the season.

Would this goal being given have prevented England crashing out of the World Cup? Probably not. Does it still sting to this day regardless? Yes, very much so.

With the score 2-1 to Germany, Frank Lampard unleashed an ingenious effort from the edge of the box which loooped over Manuel Neuer, hit the underside of the bar and bounced well over the line.

Somehow though, the goal was not given and Germany went on to steamroll their way to a 4-1 victory.

Geoff HurstGeoff Hurst
This remains the most talked about goal-line decision of all time | Evening Standard/Getty Images

More than 50 years on and people are still discussing this controversial decision.

On the grandest stage of them all, the 1966 World Cup final, England striker Geoff Hurst was given the benefit of the doubt when his effort bounced off the underside of the bar in extra time.

The goal put the Three Lions 3-2 up, with Hurst completing his hat trick in the dying seconds of the game.

Since then actual academic studies have been conducted into whether the ball crossed the line, with the consensus being that it did not.

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