10 Most Controversial Goals in Soccer History | 2024

Few things are more frustrating in football than conceding a controversial goal that shouldn’t have stood.

Controversy is like the secret spice that adds flavor to a football match. Flops, red cards, and VAR all contribute to a match’s debatable nature.

Everyone enjoys a bit of controversy; it’s the fundamental element of the game that ultimately determines whether your team deserves to lose.

But, of course, there are days when the ref’s decisions feel more confusing than explaining a meme to your grandma, and decisions go against you.

Let’s not kid ourselves: while everyone can agree on the top soccer moments, the real joy lies in heated debates over the “did-it-cross-the-line” moments.

Doesn’t it?

So, in the aftermath of the recent Liverpool vs Tottenham controversial offside decision, we took a nostalgic stroll through the archives to curate a list of controversial goals that sparked more discussion than a family dinner about politics.

What is a controversial goal?

A controversial goal in soccer is one that sparks disagreement or debate about its fairness or validity.

These goals often result from disputed decisions by match officials or involve situations like offside calls, handballs, or debates over whether the ball crossed the goal line.

The controversy arises when different parties, including players, managers, and fans, have conflicting opinions on whether the goal should have been allowed or disallowed. Such incidents are memorable and can impact the outcome of a match or competition.

1. Maradona’s “Hand of God” vs England (1986 World Cup)

10 Most Controversial Goals in Soccer History

Talking about controversial goals in soccer inevitably brings up Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal.

In a contentious World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and England during the 1986 Football World Cup in Mexico, Maradona, who was widely recognized as one of the best players globally, used his hand to push the ball into the net. Despite the clear violation, the referee allowed the goal to stand.

Maradona himself essentially admitted to using his hand, describing the goal as a combination of “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”

This “hand of god” goal gained even more significance due to the political tension of the Falklands War, which had positioned Argentina and England as adversaries, not just on the soccer field but also on the global stage.

The rivalry between Argentina and England in soccer still echoes today.

Remarkably, despite the controversy, Diego Maradona went on to score one of the greatest goals in soccer history during that very match.

2. Geoff Hurst “scores” vs England (1966 World Cup)

10 Most Controversial Goals in Soccer History

England fans have always harbored resentment for Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” in 1986, yet somehow, the memory of England scoring a controversial goal against Germany in the 1966 World Cup final seems to have slipped away.

With the score deadlocked at 2-2 in overtime during the World Cup final between England and West Germany, a pivotal moment unfolded.

Geoff Hurst took a shot that struck the crossbar and bounced down, but uncertainty lingered about whether the ball had crossed the line.

The referee consulted his linesman, who deemed it a goal.

The debate regarding the legitimacy of this goal continues, with fans employing modern technology to argue both sides of the story.

3. Thierry Henry’s “Hand of God” vs Ireland (2010 World Cup qualifiers)

10 Most Controversial Goals in Soccer History

Thierry Henry, known as one of the greatest footballers of his time, found himself in a controversial moment during a World Cup qualifying game against Ireland.

In overtime, Henry unmistakably used his hand to control the ball before setting up William Gallas for a crucial goal.

Despite the obvious handball, the referee missed the incident, leading to France securing their spot in the World Cup in South Africa, while Ireland failed to qualify.

Post-match, Henry admitted to the handball, sparking debates about sportsmanship and fairness in the game, particularly at the highest levels.

4. Frank Lampard’s “Disallowed goal” (2010 World Cup)

10 Most Controversial Goals in Soccer History

In the 2010 World Cup, Frank Lampard undeniably scored for England against Germany, yet the goal was not allowed to stand.

This controversial decision by the officials became a rallying point for supporters of goal-line technology.

A similar goal-line dispute arose in a more recent World Cup game involving England and Germany, two teams already known for their intense rivalry.

Beyond impacting the dynamics of that specific game, it underscored the limitations of human judgment in the midst of high-speed action. This incident significantly fueled the push for goal-line technology, which FIFA introduced a few years later.

5. Steffan Kiessling’s “ghost goal” (Bundesliga 2013)

10 Most Controversial Goals in Soccer History

Steering away from the World Cup and delving into the Bundesliga, there’s a notable incident in a match between Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim.

Steffan Kiessling executed a header from a corner kick, and the ball nestled against the side-netting.

Despite his initial disbelief, Kiessling played along with his teammates after they celebrated what became known as his “ghost goal.”

The referee allowed it, but the controversy surrounding this goal remains to this day.

6. Referee scores in the 1986 Turkish League

This stands out as one of the wildest and most amusing goals in football history.

In a match against Ankaragucu, Besiktas faced a 0-1 defeat, all thanks to referee Atan Hakem’s header.

Although this goal should have been disallowed, it bizarrely stood! Besiktas ended up losing the Turkish championship by just 1 point.

7. Referee ends Leeds’ title hopes (Premier League final 1971)

Referee Ray Tinkler’s controversial decision to allow Jeff Astle’s offside goal dealt a decisive blow to Leeds United’s aspirations of securing the 1971 Premier League trophy.

The offside situation unfolded as Colin Suggett stood in an offside position when Tony Brown intercepted a pass and outpaced the Leeds defense.

Despite the linesman raising the flag for offside, Astle successfully netted the goal.

Tinkler’s decision still lingers with Leeds fans to this day.

8. Luis Garcia “Mircale goal” for Liverpool (2005 Champions League)

In a Champions League semi-final clash between Premier League powerhouses Liverpool and Chelsea, a moment of contention arose when Liverpool’s Luis Garcia took a shot.

William Gallas made a crucial move, hooking Garcia’s shot off the line, sparking intense debate.

Despite the referee being convinced that the ball had crossed the line, replay footage failed to provide conclusive evidence.

Chelsea expressed their fury, but the decision was unchangeable. The atmosphere at Anfield during that match was charged with electricity, as every move carried immense significance.

This disputed goal propelled Liverpool into the final in Istanbul, where they went on to achieve an iconic comeback.

9. Germany’s 1990 World Cup final (Karma)

Argentina, having secured the previous World Cup, harbored hopes of achieving a consecutive victory in 1990.

Captain Maradona led the team, but this time, controversy did not center around him.

In a match that some deemed sweet karma for the Argentines and less than entertaining for others, Germany’s Jurgen Klinsmann triggered controversy by dramatically diving and rolling after a challenge from Pedro Monzon.

Monzon received a red card, and Germany was awarded a penalty. Andreas Brehme converted the penalty, clinching the World Cup title for Germany.

10. Gerry Taggart’s “Disallowed Goal” vs. Everton

In a contentious incident during a 1997 match between Everton and Bolton, a controversial goal was disallowed.

Bolton’s Gerry Taggart headed the ball against the bar and over the line, seemingly scoring. However, the referee, Stephen Lodge, ruled it wasn’t a goal.

Playing at home, Bolton felt unjustly robbed of a victory, as the ref failed to recognize that Gerry Taggart’s looping header had indeed crossed six inches behind the goal line before being cleared by defender Terry Phelan.

The repercussions of the referee’s decision were substantial.

The match ended as a goalless draw, and both teams finished the season with 40 points. Despite this, Bolton faced relegation from the Premier League, while Everton managed to survive the drop.