Andrea Pirlo’s outstanding individual performance against England at Euro 2012 still fresh in the memory, it illustrated the capability some players have to take the match on themselves and single-handedly win or save the day.
Maradona more or less did it to win the 1986 World Cup, Roy Keane’s performance in the Champions League semi-final against Juventus in 1999, Ronaldinho getting a standing ovation from the Real Madrid fans for his performance for Barcelona in the El Classico of 2005, while most recently Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick against Brazil for Argentina to win the match 4-3.
What about Newcastle though?
Tino Asprilla – Barcelona 1997/98 An enigmatic Colombian capable of the sublime and the ridiculous, Tino was in the mood on this night though, scoring a fantastic hat-trick to win the game 3-2. The Spanish giants couldn’t live with Asprilla as he scored two wonderful headers (albeit from fabulous Keith Gillespie crosses) and tucked away a penalty he had won himself, a marvellous individual performance.
Philippe Albert – Man.City 1995/96 A game in which Newcastle fell behind three times, Albert, the nonchalant Belgian defender, led United back three times in an enthralling 3-3 draw. Albert strode the length of the pitch to score and bring United on level terms at 1-1, had a shot from the edge of the box which the keeper could only parry to Asprilla to make it 2-2, then netted once again from the edge of the box with just 9 minutes remaining to make it 3-3. A sensational individual performance , saving United not once but three times from the position of Centre-Half!
Alan Shearer – Leicester City 1996/97 Perhaps the clearest example I can find, Newcastle were losing 1-3 at St.James’ and in desperate need of a win to continue challenging for the title. Hopes looked bleak however, as that is how the score remained until the 77th minute. This was to change though as Shearer took centre stage, destroying Leicester with a 13 minute hat-trick to win the match in the last minute 4-3. Magnificent.
Laurent Robert – Tottenham 2003/04 The eccentric Frenchman with a rocket in his left boot was in stunning form when Tottenham came to visit, scoring two contenders for goal of the season. Robert produced two unbelievable long distance efforts either side of half-time, both of which nestled into the top corner, giving Kasey Keller no chance. As well as this however, Robert went on to gain two assists, producing fantastic delivery from corners of which Shearer was to profit from twice, meaning United ran out emphatic 4-0 winners as a result of Robert’s stunning display.
Shay Given – Tottenham 2004/05 (FA Cup) In a season that included lengthy cup runs in both the Uefa Cup and FA Cup, United took to this FA Cup quarter-final having played Olympiakos in the Uefa Cup just three days earlier. Newcastle started brightly and scored in the 5th minute, however fatigue set in for the second half and Newcastle had to rely heavily on their stopper to pull off a string of world class saves to preserve their slender lead. Notable stops from Jermaine Defoe and then Robbie Keane drew a standing ovation from the St.James’ Park crowd as Shay single-handedly kept Newcastle in the hunt for the FA Cup.
Hatem Ben Arfa – West Brom 2011/12 Ben Arfa was battling on two fronts: to establish his place permanently in the Newcastle first team and to impress France manager Laurent Blanc ahead of the upcoming Euros. With this performance he would achieve both. Ben Arfa was on a different level to anyone on the pitch on the day, firstly setting up a Papiss Cisse tap in with an inch perfect cross, before scoring a sublime counter-attacking goal which started with Ben Arfa on the edge of his own penalty area. Ben Arfa traded passes with YohanCabaye before racing down the pitch, played another one-two with PapissCisse, then cut inside to unleash a fearsome drive and fabulous goal. Ben Arfa was once more involved in the third goal, playing a one-two with Demba Ba, collecting his back-heel, then pulling another perfect ball back to Cisse who put United 3-0 in front and in a commanding position, which they saw out 3-1.
Any other contenders?