Eight best solo displays ever 11 years on from Messi’s four goals vs Arsenal
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11 years on from Lionel Messi's four-goal masterclass against Arsenal, Daily Star Sport are looking back at some of the best ever solo performances in the history of the game.
Although football may be a team sport, there's always been something special about watching an individual run a game and decide the outcome on their performance alone.
It's not just forwards who have the ability to shape a match either – some of the most memorable matches involve defenders who have won the contest for their team.
Starting with Messi, let's take a look back at eight of the best solo displays in football.
Lionel Messi vs Arsenal
Messi has been turning in world-class performances ever since 2004, but this has to go down as one of his best. Not for the first time, the Barcelona forward bailed his club out of a hole with an incredible four-goal haul against Arsenal.
His first – a powerful drive from just outside the box – brought Barcelona level in the tie. 16 minutes later and Barca were in front as Messi fired into the roof of Manuel Almunia's net from close range.
He completed his hat-trick just before half-time with a cheeky dink before rounding off the scoring two minutes from time with an arrowed strike through the legs of the Arsenal goalkeeper. Sublime.
Gareth Bale vs Inter Milan
Gareth Bale announced himself on the European stage with a magnificent hat-trick as Tottenham fell to defeat against Inter Milan.
Spurs were already 4-0 down when Bale opened his account, the Welshman bursting through the Inter defence before angling a perfect strike into the far corner of the net.
His second was a carbon copy from the edge of the box into the corner of the goal, while his third was similar again – a drilled effort after good work from Aaron Lennon.
Steven Gerrard vs West Ham
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Steven Gerrard was involved in some colossal matches in his time as Liverpool's captain.
But when it comes down to it, we think his role in the Reds' FA Cup final comeback against West Ham encapsulates everything about the current Rangers manager.
With Liverpool 3-2 down and the game heading into injury time, Gerrard, who had been suffering with cramp, picked himself up off the canvas and rifled a first time shot that flew past Shaka Hislop.
It was an incredible strike to draw the Reds level, and one that proved crucial as Rafael Benitez's men went on to lift the trophy on penalties.
Michael Owen vs Argentina
Can you imagine the reaction on Twitter if the social media site had been around when Michael Owen made his name with his goal against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup?
Owen shrugged off the challenge of Jose Chamot before skipping beyond Roberto Ayala and firing a powerful strike beyond Carlos Roa into the back of the net.
England lost the last-16 clash on penalties and Owen would go on to produce other incredible solo displays, most notably against Germany, but this was where it all began.
Roy Keane vs Juventus
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Remember what we were saying about performances not having to all be about goals? Step forward, Roy Maurice Keane (Yes, that really is his middle name).
United were looking to reach their first European Cup final since 1968 but needed a miracle after Juventus extended their lead to 3-1 on aggregate within 16 minutes of the semi-final second-leg in Turin.
Keane hauled his side back into the game with an important header eight minutes later, but disaster soon struck when the Irishman received a booking which would rule him out of the final.
Many players would've shrunk at the prospect of missing the final, but not Keane.
The midfielder produced a dominant performance against the likes of Edgar Davids and Zinedine Zidane, helping United to advance through to the final in Barcelona.
Reflecting on the match in his autobiography, Sir Alex Ferguson recalled: "Pounding over every blade of grass, competing as if he would rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired all around him.
"I felt it was an honour to be associated with such a player.”
Andrey Arshavin vs Liverpool
Andrey Arshavin scored 23 goals for Arsenal in the Premier League – four of them came on one memorable night at Anfield.
The diminutive Russian opened his account with a tap in from close range on 36 minutes, but was made to wait until late in the second-half to increase his tally.
Arshavin picked up the ball in Liverpool's half, drove forward and unleashed a rasping strike that was always curling away from Pepe Reina to make it 2-2.
His third – another close range finish – made it 3-2, while his fourth of the night put Arsenal 4-3 up in a game that they would end up drawing 4-4.
Ronaldo vs Man Utd
Long before the Portuguese version of Ronaldo came along, the original Ronaldo was tearing things up for PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
Arguably his finest hour came in the white of Real against Man United in 2003, with the Brazilian hitting a stunning hat-trick to send United packing at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League.
His first was a delightful finish past Fabian Barthez at the near post, his second was put on a plate by Roberto Carlos and Zinedine Zidane, while his third was a magnificent solo effort.
Zinedine Zidane vs Brazil
There are some who regard Zidane's performance against Brazil at the 2006 World Cup as one of the greatest of all time – it's easy to see why.
The Frenchman, 34 at the time, was unplayable in Frankfurt, running rings around household names including Ze Roberto, Kaka and Gilberto Silva.
Zizou didn't even score in the match, although he did set up the only goal of the game for Thierry Henry as France advanced through to the semi-finals.
Clive Tyldsley summed up the aura of Zidane saying: "Here is the mystical Zidane, the magical Zidane." A truly incredible footballer.
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- Arsenal FC
- Lionel Messi
- Barcelona FC
- Gareth Bale
- Inter Milan FC
- Tottenham Hotspur FC
- Liverpool FC
- West Ham FC
- Steven Gerrard
- Premier League
- Champions League
- FA Cup
- World Cup
- England Football Team
- Manchester United FC
- Juventus FC
- Real Madrid FC
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