Demba Ba’s opener for Istanbul Basaksehir against Manchester United on Wednesday may just be the worst goal collectively ever conceded by an elite level team.
The manner in which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men allowed the sluggish former Newcastle man to sprint 70 yards virtually unchecked before planting the ball beyond Dean Henderson was the type of moment that would have a coach of a team of seven-year-olds pulling their hair out.
That it happened in a Champions League fixture – supposedly the absolute zenith of club football – is absolutely bamboozling.
Of course, teams can be caught by this type of breakaway in the closing moments of a match they are chasing, but Ba’s bewildering effort arrived before 12 minutes were up in the Turkish capital.
Poor collective decision making
Everything started to go wrong for United when they played a short corner. They had not reckoned on an effective press on the ball from their hosts, who deserve credit for their opportunism in the situation.
United had thrown all four of their defenders forward, while Nemanja Matic, who was the player elected to sit, was drawn towards the ball when it became clear United were struggling to retain possession. In attempting to work his team out of a corner, he had instead played his role in one of the most embarrassing goals ever conceded.
Instead of going backwards to Matic, who was now stranded in no-man’s land, Aaron Wan Bissaka cut back down the right and attempted to deliver the belated cross into the box. Under pressure, it was cut out at the near post and the clearance dropped to an orange shirt.
Solskjaer’s side were now woefully exposed, with eight of their players caught behind the ball, which was still no further than 18 yards from the home side’s goal line.
Ba's lonely charge to goal
One quick square pass and a launch forward – it did not even need to be remotely accurate to be effective – and Ba suddenly had the freedom of United’s half.
The 35-year-old took a decent first touch on his chest then navigated the sea of green between himself and Dean Henderson before taking a touch to open up the angle and placing a right-footed shot past the goalkeeper.
Matic, meanwhile, was the closest of the white-clad visiting players to the forward, but the Serb is not known for his pace and was unable to make up the ground in time. Had he just a yard less to cover, he may have disrupted the attack.
It was an utterly miserable goal to concede – and the second scored by Basaksehir was not much better from a defensive point of view. Indeed, on any other night, Solskjaer’s side would be roasted for such a concession, yet it is almost an afterthought due to the remarkable nature of the first.
In the above still from BT Sport’s coverage, the casual fan would be forgiven for thinking that the United backline were holding a position in front of their own net. It was as if the field had been momentarily turned around by no-one thought to tell Solskjaer or his side.
So often what a bad goal is conceded, it is the result of an individual mistake. This was simply gross incompetence and no-one in United’s ranks should escape censure for the worst defending the Champions League will see this season.