The King rules, cup factor and rivalries - LFC's 130 greatest goals in numbers

AnalysisThe King rules, cup factor and rivalries - LFC's 130 greatest goals in numbers

Published 27th June 2022
By Andrew Beasley

Following the conclusion of our countdown of Liverpool's 130 greatest goals to celebrate the club's anniversary this month, football writer Andrew Beasley takes a statistical dive into the list of brilliant strikes.

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Liverpool have scored more than 10,000 goals in their illustrious history, so to select the 130 best – an average of one for every year since the club was founded – will not have been a simple task.

Of course, several thousand goals were scored before football was regularly televised. Indeed, the earliest effort in the list occurred in the very first episode of Match of the Day. Footage was not recorded for every game as recently as the 1980s, so some fantastic goals from yesteryear will unfortunately have been lost to history.

The countdown therefore relies upon filmed efforts only. The shortlist was decided by a panel, who agreed the order for goals 130 to 11, with the ranking of the top 10 decided by a public vote. But what makes a goal great enough to merit inclusion?

The panel considered the quality, importance, iconic status and lasting legacy of each goal. Some were spectacular long-range strikes or dazzling team moves, others perhaps less impressive at face value but were scored in the biggest matches in Reds history.

Every supporter will have at least one that they believe should have also made the list; goals that mean something special to them, even if they were not particularly momentous within the history of the club.

There can be few arguments about the 130 that made the cut, though, and taking an in-depth look through the list reveals there are certain factors that help to make a goal special from a Liverpool perspective.

Football is built upon fierce rivalries and that clearly played a part in the selection. Almost a quarter of the goals were either scored against Everton (who conceded 19 of them) or Manchester United (13).

The importance of goals against the Reds’ traditional biggest foes only increases if they occur in cup competitions, where everything is on the line. Only three of the top 15 ranked Liverpool goals versus the Blues and Red Devils were scored in the league. Late derby winners for David Fairclough and Gary McAllister sit alongside an effort from Mohamed Salah against United in 2020, which had all of Anfield proclaiming “we’re gonna win the league”.

But it has been in the cups where many memories have been made. The list includes semi-final goals for the likes of Brian Hall and Andy Carroll, with cup final strikes for Jimmy Case, Graeme Souness, John Aldridge and Michael Owen – among others – against Liverpool’s two biggest rivals.

Interestingly, there are more goals in the countdown that were scored in the FA Cup than in the European Cup/Champions League.

The second- and third-oldest goals in the 130 were in the Reds’ successful semi-final and final respectively in 1965, the first year in which Liverpool won the FA Cup. It was a significant occasion, and an important stepping stone in the continued growth of Bill Shankly’s first great side.

The Reds’ most recent goal scored in a victorious FA Cup final is in the countdown, too. Steven Gerrard’s stunning long-range effort against West Ham United in 2006 was both important and spectacular, so well worth its position at number two in the standings.

Thirty-seven of the 130 strikes were scored from outside the box. Gerrard might not have had his own category within this group like Xabi Alonso – whose two goals in the list were both scored from within his own half – but with other unforgettable efforts against United, Middlesbrough and Olympiacos, the former captain takes the crown for most goals from further than 18 yards out.

Like Gerrard, Terry McDermott and John Barnes were attacking midfielders who could be lethal from long range, and they directly contributed to the most goals in the countdown. The former has the edge as his five goals and four assists had a higher rank on average than the latter’s nine efforts.

McDermott was also responsible for what was voted the best league goal in Liverpool history, with his header in a 7-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in 1978 capping a spectacular counter-attack. “That must be the best goal Anfield has ever seen,” said Bob Paisley afterwards, and few people at the time would have been better placed to judge that than the legendary Liverpool manager.

The famous goal was also notable as it was one of six in the top 130 assisted by Steve Heighway. The man immortalised in the Fields of Anfield Road chant leads the way for creating goals, with three of his six assists occurring in European finals.

While they did not link up for any of the goals in the top 130, one of Heighway’s teammates topped the chart of scorers. Three men each contributed seven goals to the list but averaging the rank of their strikes put Sir Kenny Dalglish ahead of Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler. It feels fitting that the man who many Kopites would call Liverpool’s greatest ever player is the king in more ways than one.

The Scot was also the only player from the top three scorers to net two of the top 10 goals. Dalglish scored at Chelsea in May 1986 to secure the league title in his first campaign as player-manager and won the 1978 European Cup with a strike against Club Brugge at Wembley.

The man for the big moment he might have been, but he did not take the number one spot, which went to a forward who played for the Reds up until the end of last season.

Divock Origi’s decisive 2019 goal against Barcelona is almost the perfect strike to top this chart. It was a crucial goal, in a massive match, against a fellow giant of world football. That it was scored in front of the Kop only made it sweeter.

But it also summed up everything that has been great about Liverpool throughout their history. The fifth-oldest goal in the countdown was a devilishly clever set-piece effort at the Kop end in the semi-final of the European Cup (with Ian Callaghan the scorer, against Inter Milan in 1965), and here was another example of exactly that.

Against all the odds, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Origi crafted a goal so unlikely and yet so perfectly ‘Liverpool’ that it carried Jürgen Klopp’s side to the Champions League final. It might not have directly won a trophy or been an eye-catching screamer, but it was a sublime moment of inspiration and a worthy winner of the Reds’ countdown of their greatest ever goals.

  • Enjoy all 130 goals in the countdown as we broadcast the full list from 9pm BST on LFCTV tonight.
Published 27th June 2022