Ten years ago today, Darren Bent scored one of the most infamous goals in the history of the Premier League. Playing for Sunderland, the then England striker converted a right-footed cross from Andy Reid, scuffing his shot past Liverpool’s Pepe Reina in what proved to be the only goal of the game at the Stadium of Light.
Or so it seemed. A right-footed ball in by Reid was not the only strange thing about this goal because Bent hadn’t actually scuffed his shot. Instead, his well-struck effort ricocheted off a beach ball and over Reina’s shoulder.
Said beach ball had been thrown on to the pitch by 16-year-old Callum Campbell, who had travelled to see the Reds at the Stadium of Light. Unfortunately, in these early days of social media, the teenager received death threats and was sick in his garden when he returned home having, albeit inadvertently, helped his side to lose.
As with all these things, there was a fair amount of fall-out after the match. Campbell’s blushes could have been spared, with the ball an “outside agent”, meaning the goal should have been disallowed.
Referee Mike Jones consulted with his team and, having allowed it to stand, was demoted to the Championship for a week.
The Cheshire official has since regained his Premier League stripes and has officiated 202 top-flight matches. Barring this incident, Jones has been one of few refs in recent years to avoid controversy.
While Sunderland now sit ninth in League One, this result moved them above Liverpool and up to seventh in the top flight at the time.
It seems a million miles away now but the Black Cats could be approaching a fresh dawn after appointing a new manager on Thursday in Phil Parkinson.
Liverpool are of course riding high in the Premier League with a perfect record ahead of Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford, where they will be aiming for a ninth win from as many games.
Bent himself retired in January and is now a popular pundit, but admits for all the 106 Premier League goals he scored for various clubs, his strike on October 17, 2009, is the one he’s best remembered for. “It was a freak accident but it was a nice goal to score,” he told Sky Sports.
“I finished with 106 Premier League goals – although some people say 105! But it’s a weird bit of history that I’m proud to be a part of.”
Meanwhile, Reina still plays, albeit occasionally for AC Milan, and last year’s tweet on this day shows he is probably still not entirely over the goal.
And what of the infamous beach ball? Well it usually resides in The People’s Collection at the National Football Museum in Manchester.
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Who the hell put the ball in there?? https://t.co/SOypAvV4vD
— Pepe Reina (@PReina25) October 17, 2018