Matt Ritchie: In defence of those accused of football's worst misses

Matt Ritchie for Newcastle
"He shoots, he must score..."

Matt Ritchie has been widely pilloried for "that miss" at Burnley on Monday, but that reaction is too predictable - we are going to defend the Newcastle midfielder, and others that have suffered a similar fate.

Ritchie had produced another display of hard graft when his attempt to tap home from two yards resulted in him missing the target altogether.

But let us look at the factors that might have contributed:

  • It had to be a first-time effort, with defender Matt Lowton breathing down his neck
  • The cross changed trajectory following a small deflection
  • And he might have been thinking about his celebration before he connected

Below we try to explain why some other members of this club were just victims of misfortune and not inexplicably poor finishing. We're definitely not clutching at straws on their behalf.

Fernando Torres (for Chelsea v Manchester United, 2011)

Fernando Torres
Don't look behind you Fernando!

What happened: It is a league game at Manchester United. The home side lead 3-1 with seven minutes of the match remaining when Torres, who scored the opener, pounces on a through-ball. He times his run perfectly, takes the ball around keeper Edwin van der Sar but then slots wide of the empty goal from seven yards.

What might have caused the miss: If you look at the footage, Torres looked down at the turf to suggest there might have been a bobble. He was bearing down on a goal surrounded by United fans, who might have put him off - you only need to look at the photo to see their reaction to the miss. And let us not forget the weight of burden of that £50m price tag!

What they said:"This is one thing in football that happens and what he can remember is he played really well and scored a great goal" - Chelsea keeper Petr Cech

Verdict: Many elements could have conspired against him.

Nwankwo Kanu (for West Brom v Middlesbrough, 2004)

Nwankwo Kanu (right)
Nigeria striker Nwankwo Kanu's effort was described as 'Miss of the 2003-04 season'

What happened: With the final whistle fast approaching and Boro 2-1 up, Geoff Horsfield fires the ball across the area for the waiting Kanu, who side-foots his shot over the bar from two yards out.

What might have caused the miss: The Nigerian striker seemed to get his feet mixed up. That, in combination with the fast pace of the cross, might have caused the ball to loop up. And perhaps there was the pressure of knowing he could salvaged a point for the Baggies.

What they said: "It looked far easier to put it into the back of the net than to put it over the bar" - West Brom manager Bryan Robson

Verdict: The pressure might have been the key factor.

Ronny Rosenthal (for Liverpool v Aston Villa, 1992)

Ronny Rosenthal
Ronny Rosenthal will never forget his miss against Villa, most probably because he's constantly reminded of it

What happened: Reds keeper David James pumps the ball forward, Villa defender Shaun Teale misjudges the flight and allows Rosenthal to run on to the ball. The Israeli takes the ball around goalkeeper Nigel Spink and edges forward a few more yards before striking his shot against the bar.

What might have caused the miss: This is arguably the most highlighted miss in English top-flight football, but is that fair? He does have an open goal to aim at, but Teale recovers to home in on the striker, who might have felt rushed to take the shot.

What they said:"There was a player chasing me, not far behind, and I had a bit of pressure so I wanted to put a bit of pace on the ball, which I did. But it took a bobble just as I kicked it and the ball lifted itself on to the bar" - Rosenthal

Verdict: Teale and the bobble might have influenced the miss.

Raheem Sterling (for Manchester City v Burnley, 2018)

Raheem Sterling (right)
Did Raheem Sterling (right) miss because of Nick Pope?

What happened: There are 20 minutes remaining and City, who are 1-0 up at Turf Moor, attack down the right. Full-back Kyle Walker pings the ball across the six-yard area into the path of Sterling, who side-foots wide.

What might have caused the miss: Sterling allows the ball to run across him in an attempt to steer it just inside the far post. Why do that? If you look at the footage you can see goalkeeper Nick Pope attempt to close down the space which the England international can aim at - that might have caused the England winger to make the error.

What they said: "Today Raheem missed one chance - it can happen. It was not the first time that someone had missed a chance and it was not just Raheem, it happened a lot in this game" - City boss Pep Guardiola

Verdict: Pope possibly caused the miss.

Peter van Vossen (for Rangers v Celtic, 1996)

Peter van Vossen
Former Netherlands player Peter van Vossen is fondly remembered by Celtic fans

What happened: The blue half of Glasgow are 1-0 up with seven minutes remaining. They have the chance to all but secure the Old Firm derby when Jorg Albertz, having sold a dummy to the keeper, lays the ball into the path of team-mate Peter van Vossen. However, the Dutchman side-foots his shot over the bar.

What might have caused the miss: It looked a terrible miss, but the former Netherlands forward aimed his gaze at the ground afterwards to suggest there was a bobble - seemingly the bane of so many that have endured a similar fate. There was also a Celtic defender closing him down.

Verdict: That infernal bobble again. Maybe.

Diana Ross (for USA at the World Cup opening ceremony, 1994)

Diana Ross
Diana Ross fully recovered following the penalty miss in 1994

What happened: In the middle of the opening ceremony for USA '94, Ross takes a long run-up to the penalty area in an attempt to score past an unnamed goalkeeper. However, she sends her spot-kick wide, before the goal splits in two.

What might have caused the miss: As Ross, also known for her successful music career, ran up to take the kick she was flanked by volunteers holding white discs that might have increased the pressure.

The former Supreme was also holding a microphone and singing her 1980 hit I'm Coming Out, while acknowledging the crowd inside Soldier Field Stadium as she approached the ball. These elements might have affected her concentration.

Verdict: Unusual circumstances led to Ross' miss.

Rocky Baptiste (for Harrow Borough v Waltham Abbey, 2009)

Rocky Baptiste
All 6ft 6in of Rocky Baptiste left his mark at many clubs, including on one November 2009 day at Earlsmead Stadium

What happened: Striker Baptiste, who had signed for Harrow in the summer, pounced on a poor defensive header and took the ball around the keeper before trotting towards goal. With the goalline not much more that a foot away, Baptiste smashed the ball out for a throw-in.

What might have caused the miss: We don't know.

What they said: "It was the miss of the century. There was no excuse for this one. He went to smash it in frustration but if he had left it then it was going in." - Harrow boss David Howell

Verdict: Indefensible. We can't even try.

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