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10 times sportspeople did the unexpected

01 May | BY Guy Giles | MIN READ TIME |
10 times sportspeople did the unexpected

On the anniversary of Edwin Van der Sar's only career goal, we reflect on 10 of the best times sportspeople broke the mould.

Van der Sar scores his only career goal

This may have been a moment to celebrate for Van der Sar and Ajax, but spare a thought for opponents De Graafschap.

When Van der Sar stepped up to take an 85th-minute penalty – Ajax’s third of the match – they were losing 7-0 and down to 10 men. Oh, and they were at home.

None of that mattered to Van der Sar, though, as he nonchalantly jogged to the opposite penalty area, placed the ball on the spot and stroked his spot-kick into the bottom left corner.

De Graafschap would go on to score a consolation goal in the 90th minute, but that didn’t matter to Van der Sar – he had joined the elite ranks of the goalscoring goalkeepers. 

David James leads the line

While Van der Sar’s penalty was a rare occurrence, there are a number of goalkeepers who have scored at some point in their career.

There are, however, very few who have dumped the gloves, changed shirt and led the line for 15 minutes in a crucial league match.

That’s exactly what David James did as Manchester City chased a winner at home against Middlesbrough to qualify for the UEFA Cup in 2005.

Unlike Van der Sar, though, James didn’t find the back of the net. In fact, manager Stuart Pearce later described him as having “the worst impact of all-time”.

Oh dear.

Cosmin Moti the penalty hero

Goalkeepers scoring goals is always fun to watch, but nothing compares to seeing an outfield player go between the sticks.

Vinnie Jones, Harry Kane, Rio Ferdinand, Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka have all donned the gloves at some point in their careers, but none did so as successfully as Ludogorets defender Cosmin Moti.

Moti found himself in goal for their penalty shoot-out against Steaua Bucharest in 2014 after their goalkeeper was sent off, with a spot in the Champions League on the line.

He first stepped up to dispatch the opening penalty before saving two Steaua spot-kicks to send the Bulgarian minnows into the competition for the first time in their history.

His exploits are so legendary at Ludogorets that he now has a stand named after him – not a bad day’s work.

Bartolo Colon hits a homer

Let’s get this straight – some pitchers are decent batters. Bartolo Colon is not.

‘Big Sexy’ had spent 19 years in the MLB, playing for nine teams, and stepped up to the plate 225 times before he hit his first home run.

At 42 years and 349 days, the four-time All Star became the oldest player in league history to hit their first home run, a record unlikely to ever be broken.

He probably broke the record for slowest-ever trot around the bases as well, but we’ll let that one slide.

Jason Gillespie’s double century

While Colon’s record-breaking effort took just one swing of the bat, Aussie legend Gillespie’s took place over the course of nearly 10 hours in the Chittagong heat.

The fast bowler – with a previous-best score of 54 – strode to the crease as nightwatchman, hoping only to survive a few overs.

Instead, he compiled a brilliant double century, facing 425 balls over 574 minutes at the crease, all but securing a huge win for Australia.

‘Dizzy’ would never play Test cricket again, but he certainly went out on a high. His 201 not out remains the highest score ever by a nightwatchman – another record unlikely to ever be broken. 

Alastair Cook takes a Test wicket

Hapless bowlers facing 90mph bouncers is a common sight in cricket. Hapless batters sending down 60mph long hops is not.

So, when England captain Alastair Cook brought himself on to bowl in the closing moments of the first Test against India at Trent Bridge in 2014, with a draw all but confirmed, everyone sat up.

With his awkward action, Cook looked to be providing a final bit of entertainment for the crowd after an uneventful day.

Instead, he ended up taking a Test wicket as Ishant Sharma somehow nicked a leg-side stinker behind.

He would end his career with a better bowling average than Jimmy Anderson, England’s all-time leading wicket taker. Let’s not forget those 12,472 runs, either. 

Zinzan Brooke nails World Cup drop goal

When a forward winds up to kick in rugby, the usual reaction is to cringe and hope for the best.

Not so when Zinzan Brooke had the ball in hand – the legendary All Black is one of the most skilful big men to ever play the sport.

Brooke would finish his career with three drop goals in Tests, none more famous than his effort in the 1995 World Cup semi-finals against England.

Picking up the ball on halfway, Brooke took a few strides forward before stroking home a drop goal that even the best kickers would be proud of.

John Eales the back up kicker

Not to be outdone by his trans-Tasman rival, Australia captain John Eales was another rugby superstar who did the unexpected.

Standing at 6ft 7in, the gangly second-rower was not a player you would expect to strike it well off the tee.

Eales, however, finished his career as the highest-scoring forward in Test history with 173 points, having nailed 31 conversions and 34 penalties on the international stage.

His last-minute penalty against New Zealand in 2000 secured a 24-23 victory for the Wallabies to round off one of the greatest Test series of all time.

J.J. Watt turns wide receiver

American football is a highly specialised sport, with players tending to do one job and one job only.

Tell that to J.J. Watt, one of the most decorated defensive linemen in the history of the NFL-turned wide receiver.

Over the course of the 2014 season, Watt caught three touchdown passes, as many as Pro Bowl receivers Davante Adams, Zach Ertz and Andre Johnson.

While he hasn’t repeated his exploits since, very few defensive players have scored offensive touchdowns in the history of the league, let alone three in one season.

Wes Welker takes on kicking duties

Despite going undrafted in 2004, wide receiver Wes Welker enjoyed a hugely successful career across 12 seasons in the NFL.

Welker holds multiple franchise records for both the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots, and the record for most receptions by an undrafted player in NFL history.

And, in 2004, he became just the second player in the NFL to return a kickoff and a punt, kick an extra point and a field goal, and make a tackle in the same game.

His kicking skills weren’t called upon again until six years later, and he remains one of the very few players to fill in as a kicker in the sport’s history.

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Guy Giles

Guy Giles

Sports writer who produces regular football and cricket tips, while also covering a range of other sports.

Guy Giles

Guy Giles

Sports writer who produces regular football and cricket tips, while also covering a range of other sports.