Was Raheem Sterling’s Miss the Worst in Champions League History?

Sterling could have tied the game up for Manchester City, but instead, tragedy struck

Sterling miss UCL
Raheem Sterling of Manchester City looks dejected after missing a goal scoring chance during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final match between Manchester City and Lyon at Estadio Jose Alvalade on August 15, 2020.
Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

Manchester City star Raheem Sterling made history during his team’s Champions League quarterfinal match against Lyon, but it’s not history that the Englishman ever wanted to make. In the 86th minute of the match, with City down 2-1 against the underdog French side, Sterling found himself in front of a wide open goal and simply skied the ball, in the process achieving one of, if not the, worst misses in Champions League history:

As commentator Clive Tyldesley said so eloquently, that miss truly did defy every rule of gravity and physics; the ball wasn’t bouncing particularly roughly, as sometimes happens when a player misses an open net. Instead, Sterling just…missed it. CBS Sports analysts Jamie Carragher and Micah Richards couldn’t believe it, either:

Because no colossal mistake ever goes unpunished, Lyon would come back the other way and score the tie-clinching goal just 59 seconds later — City goalie Ederson will be kicking himself for spilling the shot that led to Moussa Dembele’s strike to push Lyon into the semifinals:

The Champions League is the biggest and most prestigious competition in European soccer, and has a history of tragic misses, but Sterling’s might have topped them all, given the context. Heavily favored City were already on their back legs but were creating chances to tie Lyon and hopefully send the game to extra time, and Sterling is one of their best players. To have him gifted an open goal from an exquisite TK pass was as good as City could have hoped for in that scenario, but their star player couldn’t convert.

The only Champions League “miss” that comes to mind as equally (or more) impactful wasn’t really a miss at all. AC Milan’s Andriy Shevchenko shot directly at Liverpool goalie Jerzy Dudek in the dying seconds of those teams’ legendary 2005 Champions League final, which Liverpool eventually won on penalties after coming back 3-0 down.

However, at least Shevchenko had to force a ridiculous reaction save from Dudek, making it more excusable that he didn’t slot it into the goal. Sterling had no goalie in front of him, and no one to blame for himself for what could be the worst miss in the history of this storied competition.

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