Four-goal salvos, hat-trick heroes
Norman Hubbard is ESPNsoccernet's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and he'll try to answer as many as possible.
When was the last time a player scored more than four goals away from home in the Premier League? Adam Lim from Singapore asked
Adam's question refers to Edin Dzeko's achievement in scoring four times in Manchester City's 5-1 win at Tottenham in August. The simple answer is that no one has ever topped that in the Premier League. Four men - Andy Cole for Manchester United against Ipswich, Alan Shearer for Newcastle against Sheffield Wednesday, Jermain Defoe for Tottenham against Wigan and Dimitar Berbatov for United against Blackburn - have scored five times in a game, but all were at home.
Dzeko became the seventh man to score four times in an away match. The others are are Efan Ekoku for Norwich at Everton in 1993; Gianluca Vialli, for Chelsea at Barnsley in 1997; Jurgen Klinsmann, for Tottenham at Wimbledon in 1998; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, for Manchester United at Nottingham Forest in 1999; Michael Owen, for Liverpool at West Brom in 2003; and Andrei Arshavin, for Arsenal at Liverpool in 2009. Arshavin and Solskjaer merit particular mentions, the Russian because he is alone in not actually winning the game in question - it was a 4-4 draw - and the Norwegian because he did not even start the match at the City Ground. He only appeared for 19 minutes in United's 8-1 victory.
I was wondering how many players in the Premier League have scored a hat-trick of set-pieces (including penalties) before Wayne Rooney did against Arsenal? Muneer Majid from Houston, Texas asked.
Rooney's treble in the 8-2 win over Arsenal consisted of two free-kicks and a penalty. As far as I can work out, there is only one previous Premier League hat-trick consisting solely of set-plays. It was scored by Matt Le Tissier in Southampton's 4-3 defeat to Nottingham Forest on the opening day of the 1995-96 season and included two penalties and one free-kick.
How is the champion of England determined if two teams finished level on points, level on goal difference, and level on head to head record? For instance, if Manchester United and Manchester City are level and both of their matches in that season ended 0-0, Julian Toh from Malaysia asked.
This follows a question in my last column. Goals scored comes into the mix after goal difference so if, to use your example, United and City have the same number of points and an identical goal difference, the side who had scored and conceded more would be the winner. Were they still level, then a play-off at a neutral venue would be required. So far, this has never happened.
As spectators, we often see referees award dubious penalties and free-kicks. Can you think of a case when a team was awarded such a dubious penalty or free-kick that out of "sympathy" for the other team, they opted to deliberately miss the kick and not use it as a goalscoring opportunity? Daniel Nohejl asked.
I am only aware of one player in recent history deliberately missing a penalty. In a 2003 international against Iran, Denmark's Morten Wieghorst shot wide on purpose because an opposing defender had picked the ball up after thinking the referee had blown for half-time. He had not and Wieghorst, now Denmark's Under-21 coach, opted to miss the target.
However, there is one other example that is worth mentioning. In a 1997 meeting of Arsenal and Liverpool, referee Gerald Ashby ruled David Seaman had fouled Robbie Fowler. The Liverpool striker later wrote: "I tripped, but he had made no contact. It wasn't a dive, I simply lost my balance as I changed direction. Instinctively, I turned to Gerald Ashby and said 'no, no, no, ref, it wasn't a pen'." Ashby disagreed.
Fowler's rather tame spot kick was then saved by Seaman only for team-mate Jason McAteer to score the rebound, suggesting the Merseysider intended to miss. However, he said: "As a goalscorer it's part of my job to take it and I wanted to score it. I tried to score. I never missed on purpose. It just happened, it was a bad penalty."
Fowler won a UEFA Fair Play award and got a letter from Sepp Blatter praising him for his honesty; the latter probably isn't among his most prized possessions, not least because at the same time UEFA were fining him £900 for wearing a T-shirt showing his support for Merseyside dockworkers who were losing their jobs.