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07/10/2013 08:49, Report by Ben Ashby

#23 – Best's opportunism

George Best's twinkling talent shone in an infamous moment against England in 1971...

Player: George Best
Match: Northern Ireland v England, 15 May 1971, Windsor Park
 
If the football gods could confess their regrets, one would surely be that George Best never played in a World Cup or a European Championships. Being Bestie, though, he still left his mark on the international game – never more vividly than with the moment of flair he magicked up against England in a Home Championship match in May 1971 at Windsor Park. It was pure Best: imagination, impudence, brilliance.
 
Gordon Banks, ball in hand, was looking to send a punt up the field. Best, though, stood in front of the England keeper jockeying him, in a way the rules forbid these days. Best wasn’t just intent on causing a nuisance, however. He had a plan.

“I’d always thought," he recalled in his autobiography Blessed, "that if you could get your timing spot-on, it might be possible to nick the ball from a goalkeeper in the split-second between him throwing it out in front of him and making contact with his boot.”
 
George did just that, sending the ball looping high over Banks as he tried to launch it. He spun in behind and rushed goalwards, now involved in a foot-race with the panicking Banks to reach the ball first. Best duly won and nodded into the empty net.
 
The referee – spoilsport – ruled out the goal. High boot. But it almost didn’t matter. George had outwitted football convention, and the moral victory was his.

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