In association football (soccer), a ghost goal (or phantom goal) is a questionable goal, usually involving uncertainty as to whether or not a ball crossed the goal line. A ghost goal can be awarded without the ball ever crossing the goal-line and, conversely, the term can be applied when the ball crosses the goal-line unseen by the referee. In an attempt to combat the issue of ghost goals, new rules allowing goal-line technology were passed by IFAB in 2012 and have consequently been introduced for some football competitions, including the FIFA World Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and Premier League.
In Germany, the term "Phantomtor" usually refers to a Bundesliga "goal" awarded to Bayern Munich player Thomas Helmer in April 1994 against 1. FC Nürnberg, as his team scraped to a 2–1 victory. It was an error of judgement by the match officials, as the ball missed the goal and instead went over the byline. The goal directly influenced the outcome of the competition at both ends of the table — had the Phantomtor not stood and the match finished 1–1, Bayern Munich would have lost out on the league title on goal difference and Nürnberg would have survived relegation by one point — and led to an official objection by FIFA because the German Football Association ordered the result to be annulled and the game to be replayed. A re-match eventually took place and Bayern Munich ran out 5–0 winners.
The term in the English language arose from a quote by Chelsea manager José Mourinho, following a 2004–05 UEFA Champions League semi-final against Liverpool, ultimately decided by a single goal by Luis García, awarded by referee Ľuboš Micheľ, but dubbed a "ghost goal" and described as "a goal that came from the moon" by Mourinho.
Television replays were inconclusive as to whether the ball crossed the line or not. Micheľ said that his decision was based on the reaction of the assistant referee, who signalled that the ball had indeed crossed over the line, but had he not awarded Liverpool the goal, he would have awarded them a penalty kick and sent off Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech for a foul on Milan Baroš instead.
After studying a series of still images of the incident, motion expert Dr. Mike Spann concluded that Micheľ had made the correct decision by signalling a goal.
In 1980, Clive Allen scored a spectacular free kick for Crystal Palace against Coventry City. The ball rebounded off the stanchion but the referee disallowed the goal as he thought it had just hit the outside of the stanchion. This was shown on Match of the Day on BBC television when it was then transmitted on Sunday afternoons.
A few months before the 2004–05 UEFA Champions League semi-final between Chelsea and Liverpool which led to the term "ghost goal" entering the lexicon, Pedro Mendes of Tottenham Hotspur caught Manchester United's goalkeeper Roy Carroll off his line with a shot from 55 yards out, in the 89th minute of a Premier League match in January 2005. Carroll attempted to catch the ball but spilled it over his shoulder and a few yards over the goal line, before scooping the ball back into the playing area. Referee Mark Clattenburg and his officials were unable to determine whether the ball had crossed the line and the game finished goalless.
Referee Stuart Attwell awarded a goal to Reading against Watford in an English Championship match in September 2008, despite the ball having passed wide of the goal, meaning his assistant should have awarded a corner kick; the match finished 2–2. A similar incident happened in a 2. Bundesliga match between MSV Duisburg and FSV Frankfurt, when Christian Tiffert took a shot that hit the crossbar and landed 1.5 metres outside of the goal-line, yet was still awarded as a goal.
Conversely, during an English Championship game in August 2009, Crystal Palace's Freddie Sears put the ball in the net, hitting the stanchion at the back of the goal, but rapidly bounced out. A goal was not awarded. This was very similar to the incident that occurred for Crystal Palace's Clive Allen almost 30 years prior.
Another incident in England came in a Premier League game between Bolton Wanderers and Queens Park Rangers on 10 March 2012, when QPR's Clint Hill headed the ball in from close range, crossing the line by a couple of yards, before goalkeeper Ádám Bogdán was able to palm the ball onto the crossbar and out. The Football Association (FA) subsequently called for goal-line technology to be implemented as soon as possible. This incident was also notable for the fact that the corner which lead to the goal was the wrong decision and should have been a Bolton goal kick, meaning two bad decisions "evened themselves out".
On 15 April 2012, in Chelsea's FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur, referee Martin Atkinson awarded Chelsea a goal resulting from a 49th-minute shot by Juan Mata. Atkinson ruled the shot had crossed the line, despite replays confirming several Tottenham players had successfully blocked the effort at a point several yards in front of the goal-line. John Terry, the Chelsea player with the clearest view of the "goal" from his vantage point on the ground, admitted uncertainty, "I thought it hit me, if I'm honest. I don't think it did [cross the line], I thought it stayed out, but I've not seen it on the replay."
On 18 October 2013, Stefan Kießling of Bayer Leverkusen was involved in a situation against 1899 Hoffenheim. He appeared to have missed the net on a header attempt off a corner. He turned away in frustration only to have his teammates come celebrate with him seconds later. Upon further review, the ball ended up in the back of the net after squeezing through a hole in the side netting, unnoticed by everybody at the time. The goal was allowed and was the cause of much debate after the match.
On 16 November 2013, Adrian Cieslewicz of Wrexham was involved in a situation of this kind. With Wrexham 2–0 down at Kidderminster Harriers in a Conference Premier game, Cieslewicz burst into the penalty area and appeared to slot the ball into the bottom corner of the net. However, the ball had actually squeezed through a hole in the net, and referee Amy Fearn originally disallowed the goal. After six minutes of consultation, with her assistants amidst protests from the Wrexham players, the goal was awarded. However, Kidderminster took advantage of the delay in the match and scored to make it 3–1.
On 28 November 2015, Ryan Donk of Kasımpaşa was involved in a situation against Galatasaray. With Kasımpaşa 1–0 down at Galatasaray in a Süper Lig match, Donk kicked the ball. It hit the crossbar and then fell to 9 cm inside of goal line. However, referee Halis Özkahya looked at the linesman and dissallowed the goal and continued the match, which would finish 2–2.
On 26 November 2017, Lionel Messi kicked the ball towards Valencia CF goalkeeper Neto, but passed by him and entered the goal by several inches. The referee did not see, and the goal was not awarded. The game ended 1–1.
In the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final between England and West Germany, 11 minutes of extra-time had elapsed and the score was level at 2–2. Alan Ball put in a cross to England striker Geoff Hurst, who swivelled and shot from close range. The ball hit the underside of the crossbar bouncing down towards the line and bounced off the ground before being cleared away by West Germany's defenders.
The England players celebrated a goal, but referee Gottfried Dienst was uncertain if they had indeed scored. He consulted his assistant, Tofiq Bahramov; after non-verbal communication, as they had no common language, the Swiss referee awarded the goal to the home team. The crowd and the audience of 400 million television viewers were left unsure whether the ball had crossed the line and whether the goal should have been given or not.
Bahramov, from Azerbaijan, became famous and celebrated in English popular culture as "the Russian linesman", as Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union at the time, and the nickname stuck to the point where his real name was all but forgotten. Bahramov also became famous in his home land. Azerbaijan's national football stadium was named after him and a statue was built. When England played the Azerbaijan national team in a World Cup qualifier in October 2004 — in the stadium named after Bahramov — many England fans travelling to the game asked to be shown the grave of the official, who had died in 1993, so that they could place flowers on it, and before the match a ceremony honouring him was attended by Hurst and other footballing celebrities.
In England, supporters cite the good position of the linesman and the statement of Roger Hunt, the nearest England player to the ball, who claimed it was a goal and that was why he wheeled away in celebration rather than attempting to tap the rebounding ball in.
According to the Laws of the Game the definition of a goal is when "the whole of the ball passes over the goal line". The Germans argue that if that were the case, it would likely have bounced from there into the net, not out on the field as it did. In addition, German players claimed to have seen chalk dust, which would indicate it was not a goal and that the ball had merely bounced on the goal-line. The English counter by saying that the backspin put on the ball after hitting the crossbar could just as likely have caused the ball to bounce behind the line and then back out of the goal. Hunt claimed to have seen the ball bounce behind the line.
When Bahramov wrote his memoirs, he stated that he believed the ball had bounced back, not from the crossbar, but from the net, so the further movement of the ball was already insignificant, and not visible for him either so it did not matter where the ball hit the ground anyway. Referee Dienst did not see the scene. Commentators such as Robert Becker of Kicker magazine accused the assistant of bias because the German team had eliminated the Soviets in the semi-final.
A study conducted by the engineering department at Oxford University concluded the ball did not cross the line entirely and that it was 6 cm away from being a goal. In Germany it led to the creation of the expression Wembley-Tor, or "Wembley goal", a phrase used to describe any goal or non goal scored in a similar fashion to Hurst's.
There exists colour footage of Hurst's goal, taken from another angle by an amateur cameraman situated on the stands and having a view almost parallel to the English goal line. This film material appears to show that the ball did not cross the goal-line in full.
England went on to win the match 4–2 and secure their first and only World Cup so far.
On 13 June 1996, during the group stage match between Bulgaria and Romania, the ball of Dorinel Munteanu crossed the goal line by about one foot, after which it bounced back. Referee Peter Mikkelsen did not notice and did not award the goal. As a consequence, Romania lost the match.
On 27 June 2010, England were playing Germany in the knockout round of the 2010 World Cup in Bloemfontein. In the 38th minute, 53 seconds after Matthew Upson had scored for England, Frank Lampard shot the ball and it hit the underside of the crossbar, resulting in it crossing the line into the goal but bouncing back into the field of play due to backspin (without hitting the net). Neither the referee nor his assistant were in a position to award the goal. Had the goal been given, England would have drawn level at 2–2. Germany, where this goal was given names like "Wembley goal reloaded", "inverted Wembley goal" or "revenge for Wembley", went on to win the game 4–1.
On 19 June 2012, on the final matchday of the group stage of UEFA Euro 2012, the match between England and Ukraine featured a ghost goal by Ukraine's Marko Dević. With the co-hosts trailing 0–1 to a 48th-minute headed goal by Wayne Rooney, Dević's shot was hooked clear from behind the England goal-line by John Terry under the eyes of a fifth official standing beside the goal. Dević's teammate Artem Milevskiy was offside in the build-up to the incident, which also went unnoticed by the match officials. The following day, UEFA and its chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina admitted an error had been made and that Ukraine had been denied a legitimate goal. Then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter called the use of technology "a necessity".
I believe Chelsea would have preferred the goal to count rather than face a penalty with just ten men for the rest of the game. If my assistant referee had not signalled a goal, I would have given a penalty and sent off goalkeeper Petr Čech.