Chelsea's Fernando Torres looks on during the match at Old Trafford.
No matter how great the talent, no matter how impressive their skill, balance, touch and instinct – it always comes as a reassurance for regular mortals to know that even professional players, at a high level, are capable of shanking a ball horribly when well-placed to score. The sight of a top striker miscueing the swing of their boot as a golden cross floats into their path lets us all know that – no matter how good you are – everyone makes mistakes.
Some mistakes, of course, are more howling than others. From the over-hit shots that smack against the woodwork when a simple tap-in would do, to the total mix-up of legs that leaves a ball bouncing limply back in the direction it came from – football may be the beautiful game, but it can be ugly all the same. We've put together a list of five glaring open goal misses, to celebrate those moments when even the very best can't quite deliver the goods.
5. Mario Balotelli - Queen's Park Rangers vs Liverpool FC
Liverpool's Italian striker Mario Balotelli reacts during the English Premier League football match vs. Queens Park Rangers
A recent master of mercurial play, the hot-then-cold Italian striker's worst open goal miss came in a pre-season game for former club Manchester City, when – through on goal – he infamously tried and failed to produce a backheel finish against LA Galaxy. But his time at Liverpool F.C. showed that he has a surprising knack for fluffing his lines at key moments.
It took Balotelli until February of the 2014-15 season before he scored a Premier League goal for Liverpool, but opportunities had presented themselves prior. In a game against recently promoted QPR, the ball fell to Balotelli in front of goal after Alex McCarthy parried Adam Lallana's shot straight to him. Despite having time to compose himself, he volleyed over the crossbar in what could have been a costly error. Steven Caulker's own goal in the dying minutes rescued three points in a game that ran much closer than it needed to.
4. Darren Bent - Tottenham Hotspur vs. Portsmouth
Tottenham's Darren Bent misses a headed chance in the final minutes against Portsmouth at White Hart Lane.
Not exactly a popular figure during his time at Tottenham, Darren Bent's goalscoring record is suggestive of a player with enough strength and intelligent movement to get himself into good scoring positions, but one lacking the killer instinct of a great finisher. That was probably never more apparent than in the infamous 2008-09 home game against Portsmouth when his profligacy before goal was laid bare.
After a lot of pressure from the home side late on into the game, David Bentley put in a nice floated cross for Bent, who found himself completely unmarked on his approach to the six yard box. The goal that would have meant an additional two points for Spurs never came, sadly, as Bent keyed himself up before heading just shy of the upright. Harry Redknapp's post-match assessment was not flattering.
Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United is challenged by Keith Gillespie of Sheffield United.
If your scoring record for Real Madrid actually lists more goals than appearances, it's safe to say that you're probably not the sort of player who regularly misses tap-ins from a few yards out. But such is the complexity of football that even Cristiano Ronaldo is capable of the odd howler. Having taken a few seasons to really flourish in the Premier League, by 2006-07 Ronaldo was beginning to get the bit between his teeth, which is why an uncharacteristic mistake against Sheffield United sticks out all the more.
A straight pass across the area from Ryan Giggs found the Portuguese star in acres of space and the entire goal to aim at. Rather than take a touch, he elected to hit it first time. Bramhall Lane came alive as they watched the ball cannon off his boot and over the crossbar. The Red Devils still won the game though, thanks to a Rooney double, and something tells me Ronaldo has found ways of putting it behind him in the intervening decade.
2. Fernando Torres - Manchester United vs Chelsea
Chelsea's Fernando Torres shoots during the Premier League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Fernando Torres probably thought his record-breaking move to Stamford Bridge had bottomed out, in terms of how awful it proved to be, by the time his new club visited Old Trafford early on in his first full season as a Chelsea player. Yet, predictions are there to make fools of us all, and his misplaced finish before the vitriolic jeers of the Stretford End will be rememberd as one of the worst in the top flight's history.
A fantastic through ball from Ramires cut through United's back line as Torres displayed the skill and instincts of old to round De Gea with ease. Having scored his first goal of the season earlier on in the game, he looked a renewed player, but then came the historic miss – the bizarre shot wide that seemed to say his Chelsea career was never really going to come alive.
1. Ronny Rosenthal - Aston Villa vs Liverpool
Ronny Rosenthal (here playing for Spurs) closing down David Ginola of Newcastle United.
The missed shot generally regarded as the all-time worst miss in Premier League history, also happened to come very early on in Premier League history. In September 1992, the Prem was only just beginning its inaugural season after replacing the old First Division as the new top tier of English football. Although he later played for both Tottenham and Watford in the top flight, Ronnie Rosenthal's most lasting contribution to the game's folk history came for Liverpool at Villa Park on a regular Saturday for the B6 faithful.
In a game that Villa would go on to win 4-2, Rosenthal was put through on goal after David James' goalkick was misread by the home team's defenders. Rosenthal's first touch took him around Mark Bosnich with total ease, and whilst he probably could have dribbled the ball over the line – he had so much space and time – he aimed for the roof of the net, clipping the underside of the bar and writing his name into top flight infamy.