Sport on TV: In-flight deviation helps produce brilliant day of crackers

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The Independent Online

Ray Stubbs and his Match of the Day team on Saturday night were in no doubt: in terms of the quality of goals scored, the afternoon's Premiership fixture list had provided one of the most extraordinary days in the history of England's top division. And to prove the point they gave an A-H rundown in "Goal Of The Month" style - but for Saturday's goals alone.

Indeed, it was an afternoon of screamers from 20 yards or more - and it seemed that the later they were scored, the more spectacular they were. The picks of the bunch both came almost with the last kick of their respective games, and they were both winners - from Portsmouth's Pedro Mendes, who gave Harry Redknapp's relegation strugglers some hope for the future with a 2-1 win against Manchester City, and William Gallas, who broke Tottenham's hearts with a spectacular 25-yarder that gave Chelsea a 2-1 win and put them well clear of Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson's side beat Newcastle yesterday - with a brace of goals from Wayne Rooney, both of them stylish and deadly.

But was this the top flight's greatest day? Anecdotal evidence suggests that more goals are being scored from outside the area - although that may have much to do with the ball. The Premiership's official ball at the moment is the grandly named Nike Total 90 Aerow Premiership Ball, which, the company claims, "is designed to dramatically reduce drag, resulting in better accuracy and increased velocity", thanks to its "exclusive Geo Balanced Technology featuring six double-hex panels ... The casing is hand-stitched with high performance PU materials with linear grooves for consistent sustained flight."

It's that last phrase that might stick in the craw of Premiership goalkeepers: there scarcely seems to be a long-range shot nowadays that doesn't exhibit in-flight deviation (which has nothing to with odd sexual practices on aeroplanes). And the ball is easier to play tricks with: what almost looked like a toe-poke from Henrik Pedersen for Saturday's goal that sealed Bolton's 4-1 win over West Ham, was actually expertly guided in with the outside of his foot.

So where does it stand in the pantheon of great Saturdays? Purely aesthetically - in terms of the sheer beauty of Saturday's goals - it's probably one of the best, though there may have many better in times past, before the age of microscopic televisual scrutiny. And as far as any wider significance is concerned, almost any final day of a Premiership season, taken at random, is more genuinely thrilling. For, as Arsenal and Real Madrid demonstrated with their exhilarating 0-0 draw last Wednesday, goals aren't everything.

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