5 of the most shocking and controversial moments in EPL history
Just like any sport, the English Premier League has had its ups and downs over the years. We’ve cheered, we’ve cried, and we’ve booed in equal measure, but there are also some moments that leave us lost for words. From beach balls to kung fu kicks to biting, here are five of the most shocking moments we’ve ever seen in the EPL.
5. Suarez gets a bit bitey
What’s one thing you can do if a defender takes the ball away from you?
A/ Admit you messed up and move on
B/ Blame your teammates because it wasn’t your fault
C/ Bite that defender
If you answered option C, then you’re either a vampire or Luis Suarez. Back in April 2013, Suarez’s odd and shocking Premier League moment happened when playing for Liverpool against Chelsea. With Chelsea up 2-1, Suarez was close to attempting a shot at goal when the ball was poked out by defender Branislav Ivanovic. Seeing no other option available, Suarez went for the old bite-him-on-the arm trick and both players fell to the ground while the ball went out for a corner kick.
Apart from some red marks, Ivanovic was fine.
As referee Kevin Friend didn’t see the incident, Suarez wasn’t sent off for the shocking moment and, in fact, scored an equalising goal to end the game 2-2. Although Suarez would say he was sorry for the bite, the FA gave a 10-game ban, which forced him to miss the remainder of the season.
That was not the first or last biting incident, as Suarez had already received a seven-game band in 2010 for opponent biting and would even do it again in the 2014 World Cup for Uruguay. Seriously, get this guy a mouth guard if he’s not going to stop biting opponents.
4. A beach ball saves the day
Can an inanimate object help to win a match? As Liverpool found out against Sunderland in October 2009, it is possible in this hilarious but still controversial moment.
For whatever reason, a Liverpool supporter knocked an inflatable beach ball onto the pitch and this weirdly ended up helping the other team. Sunderland striker Darren Bent struck the ball (the normal football supposed to be on the pitch) towards Liverpool’s goal, and while the shot could have been easily saved, it collided with the beach ball and both found their way into the net.
Despite protests that the goal should be disallowed according to the rulebook due to an “outside agent” being on the pitch, Bent’s goal was kept and Sunderland went on to win 1-0.
The famous beach ball is now kept in the National Football Museum in Manchester for all to see. Unfortunately, no club signed the ball and it retired after its brilliant scoring moment.
3. Newcastle players duke it out
We know that tempers can flare dramatically when opposing teams play one another on the field. However, what we rarely see is two players fighting each other on the same team, yet that’s what happened to Newcastle’s Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer against Aston Villa in April 2005. Although Newcastle lost 3-0 to Aston Villa, it was another embarrassing event that made the news.
This unusual and controversial moment occurred with 10 minutes left in the game when Bowyer blamed Dyer for intentionally ignoring him and not passing the ball. Things escalated very quickly and a lot of violent shoves and punches happened before the two were separated (even helped by Aston Villa players) and sent off the pitch, apparently continuing their argument back to the dressing room.
Dyer received a three-game suspension, while Bowyer got four games and was fined six weeks’ worth of wages. The two issued a public apology later on, but it’s safe to say that the damage was certainly done. Check out this deep dive on the bizarre incident over here.
2. Di Canio tells referee to have a nice trip
Before he was a West Ham legend, Italian forward Paulo Di Canio had a brief stint at Sheffield Wednesday and this is where he performed his most famous shocking moment (or perhaps second-most, but more on that later). In September 1998, Di Canio was shown the red card in a match against Arsenal, but it was what happened afterwards that was to grab the headlines.
In a fit of rage and obviously disagreeing with being sent off the pitch, Di Canio shoved referee Paul Alcock and sent him stumbling to the ground. Di Canio was punished with a £10,000 fine and an 11-game ban. After he left Sheffield Wednesday in the following year to West Ham, Di Canio somewhat made up for his very unsportsmanlike shove with an incredibly beautiful gesture in a match against Everton in December 2000.
With the game tied 1-1 and only five minutes left in regulation, Everton’s goalkeeper Paul Gerrard injured his leg diving for the ball and clearly wasn’t getting up. As the play didn’t stop and West Ham had an open net for the chance to win 2-1, the ball was kicked to Di Canio for an easy header when this amazing – some would say bonkers – moment happened in the Premier League. Instead of scoring, Di Canio caught the ball and refused to keep playing until Everton had a goalkeeper on the pitch.
1. Cantona channels his inner Jean-Claude Van Damme
Fiery Frenchman Eric Cantona remains one of the most talented scorers the game has ever seen, but he’s also pretty good at kung-fu kicks. Despite his incredible talent on the pitch and helping to bring four Premier League titles and two FA Cups to Manchester United, it will unfortunately be his infamous kick that Cantona will be remembered for by many people.
It was January 1995 and Man Utd were playing an away game against Crystal Palace when this shocking Premier League moment transpired. After being sent off for a hard foul, Cantona was making his way to the sidelines when one of Palace’s fans began a verbal tirade against Manchester United’s star player. No one expected what happened next, least of all the fan, who was later named as Matthew Simmons. Having heard enough expletives for one night, Cantona performed a flying kick against Simmons in the stands and proceeded to give a few well-aimed punches for good measure.
The incident ended up going to court, where Cantona was eventually given 120 hours of community service, fined £30,000 in total by the FA, and was banned from playing in the EPL and French national squad for nine months. To end it all, Cantona gave a bizarre quote during a press conference in the aftermath, stating, “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much.” You can decide your own meaning from that.
Of course, there are many more shocking Premier League moments, but those are the ones we think stand out the most. Will we ever see flying kicks or beach balls or in-team fights again? Hopefully not, but here’s to many more weird and wonderful events in the future of the EPL.
Author: Joe Garland