PL25: Ronny Rosenthal’s Whole New Ball Game (1992/93)

The 2017/18 season celebrates 25 years of the Premier League. To mark the occasion we’ll be taking a look at some of the more off-kilter moments from each year of the Premier League. We start in 1992/93, when an Israeli striker wrote his name into the history books.

The Premier League was barely a month old before its first iconic moment had taken place. The opening month of the season had seen shocks, with title favourites Manchester United and Arsenal both losing their opening two fixtures, reigning First Division champions Leeds United taking a hiding at new boys Middlesbrough and by matchweek nine Norwich City were the surprise pacesetters at the top of the league, closely followed by Coventry City and newly-promoted Blackburn Rovers.

Liverpool had experienced a mix bag of an opening month. Victories at home to Sheffield United and Chelsea were countered by three defeats and four draws, leaving ‘Pool floundering in 15th place as they headed to Villa Park, with manager Graeme Souness starting to feel the pressure. The subplot heading into the game surrounded Dean Saunders, who would be making his debut for Aston Villa in the match, having joined from Liverpool in the week leading up to the match.

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With Ian Rush absent the responsibility for leading the line fell to Ronny Rosenthal, a £1.1m summer signing from Standard Liege. Rosenthal had impressed on loan the previous season, having scored seven goals in eight games as Liverpool won the FA Cup, but was yet to open his account in the Premier League.

Halfway through the first-half, with the scores level at 0-0, David James pumped a long-ball towards the Villa backline, Shaun Teale misjudged the flight of the ball, and Rosenthal steamed through on goal. With Nigel Spink strewn on the ground having committed himself to an early dive, the Israeli forward sidestepped the ‘keeper to leave himself with the simplest of tap-ins. And he blasted it against the woodwork.

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There is a stunned half second of silence between the ball bouncing off the woodwork and the Aston Villa defence clearing their lines, where the Villa Park faithful try to comprehend what they’ve just seen. Luckily for Rosenthal, Mark Walters gave Liverpool the lead shortly afterwards, and the Israeli added to the scoring in the 84th minute. Unluckily, Dean Saunders had helped himself to two of Villa’s four goals in the intervening forty minutes, and Liverpool lost the game 4-2.

Rosenthal’s Liverpool career never really recovered, and after 14 goals in 66 games he was sold to Tottenham Hotspur in 1994. Less than prolific spells at White Hart Lane and subsequently Watford followed and in 1999 the man born in Haifa drew the curtain on his career. While he may never be mentioned in the same breath as some of the Premier League’s greatest imports, his legacy has been well and truly cemented, and the man himself is philosophical about the miss.

“Does it bother me? No it doesn’t matter now. I’m glad it happened! I’m glad I missed because I’m still on the map!” he told LFCtv, presumably in his hotel before he hit the bar.

Liverpool finished the season in 6th place, while Aston Villa’s 2nd place finish, 10 points behind eventual champions Manchester United, would be the highest they would achieve in the first 25 years of the Premier League.

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The endless debate for the Premier League’s greatest goal will continue for years to come – Bergkamp’s fluke against Newcastle? One of Le Tissier’s hit-and-hopers? Rooney’s overhead shinner in the Manchester Derby? But there will only ever be one winner for the Premier League’s greatest miss. Ronny Rosenthal has become a byword for ineptitude in front of goal, and football will forever be indebted to him.

Take a bow, son. Take a bow.

 

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