Manuel Lanzini, Spurs v West Ham, 18 October 2020
The Hammers were three goals behind after 16 minutes but somehow still in the game when Aaron Cresswell’s 94th minute free-kick was cleared out to the Argentinian, 25 yards from goal. There was no desire for a touch from Lanzini, striking the ball first time with the outside of his right foot. The shot swerved away from Hugo Lloris, dipping at the right time to land in the top corner. Immediately Lanzini removed his shirt, sprinting around wishing fans were there to witness his moment of genius. Instead he settled for his jubilant teammates who had just salvaged something from what seemed like a lost cause. The point took West Ham up to eighth and, more importantly, gave them the belief they could compete with the likes of Spurs.
Alisson, West Brom v Liverpool, 16 May 2021
There are few things more enjoyable than a goalkeeper scoring a last-minute winner after going up for a corner. Keepers don’t score in the opening 10 minutes; it happens when a team is chasing victory in critical circumstances. Alisson was sent up as Liverpool searched for three points against an already-relegated West Brom. The Reds needed a win to give them a realistic chance of finishing in the top four and avoid the ignominy of missing out on Champions League football, less than a year after winning the Premier League. West Brom made the mistake of letting Alisson roam inside the box unattended, which considering his height and power seems silly. The Brazilian found space on the edge of the six-yard box, waiting for Trent Alexander-Arnold’s inswinging cross before perfectly flicking home. In the end, it was a key factor in securing Champions League football next season.
Matt Lowton, Crystal Palace v Burnley, 13 February 2021
After a year of being unable to attend a football match in person, I went to cover this unglamorous fixture at Selhurst Park. It was absolutely freezing; feeling in my toes and fingers was lost but I was brought joy by a man in yellow, charging down the right touchline, giving off the impression of a frustrated winger. Lowton dribbled past opponents before playing a one-two with Jay Rodriguez on the edge of the box and sprinting into the right position to strike a sublime volley across the goalkeeper, completing a 3-0 away win. I was one of a handful of people who got to witness the remorseless finish from a man who had never scored for the club before, offering an unexpected reminder of the joy of football.
Jesse Lingard, Wolves v West Ham, 5 April 2021
A change of scenery is what many of us need after months of staring at the same four walls in lockdown. Jesse Lingard was a player who felt the need for liberation after becoming a forgotten figure at Old Trafford. Since joining West Ham in January on loan, the midfielder has impressed in their push for European football. The best of Lingard’s strikes came at Molineux, where he picked up the ball inside his own half and dribbled confidently upfield, drifting by retreating defenders as he went. Upon reaching the Wolves area, he struck the ball beyond Rui Patrício and into the corner of the net. It was a nice reminder that those who have gone through difficult times can come out the other side, and prove their qualities when they have been doubted.
Érik Lamela, Arsenal v Tottenham, 14 March 2021
Scoring one rabona in a career is an impressive achievement but to hit a second, in a crucial north London derby, is not bad going. Lamela has flattered to deceive during his lengthy Tottenham career, offering plenty of evidence the talent is there but failing to back it up on a consistent basis. There was no time to plan what he did at the Emirates after Lucas Moura took a poor touch. Instead he quickly moved his feet, allowing him to wrap his stronger left foot around the back of his right, and with laser accuracy sent the ball into the bottom corner, to the surprise of everyone apart from him. A mere mortal would have swung their weaker foot at the ball and hoped for the best, but that does not offer the kind of drama Lamela wants to create. He spoiled the moment by later getting sent off, allowing Arsenal to go on to win the game. But what is football without flawed genius?