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Fastest UCL goals, little and large

Norman Hubbard is ESPNsoccernet's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to and he'll try to answer as many as possible.

Looking at Alex Pato's strike against Barcelona, where did it rank among the fastest goals in the history of Champions League? Asu Moses from Nigeria asked.

Pato's effort for AC Milan against the reigning champions on September 13 came after 23 seconds. Remarkably that only put it fifth among the fastest goals in the competition. The quickest, and indeed the runaway winner, came from the Dutch striker Roy Makaay, who netted for Bayern Munich against Real Madrid in 2007 after 10.2 seconds.

He took the record from Gilberto Silva, who scored after 20 seconds for Arsenal against PSV Eindhoven in 2002. Third on the list is Alessandro del Piero for Juventus against Manchester United in 1997 and in fourth, meaning Pato's isn't even the quickest goal for AC Milan, came from Clarence Seedorf against Schalke in 2005.

Has anyone ever scored three hat-tricks in three consecutive league games? Simon Ball from Houston, Texas asked

Simon sent in the question after Wayne Rooney scored his second successive treble in Manchester United's 5-0 win over Bolton. That made him only the fourth player to score back-to-back Premier League hat-tricks after Les Ferdinand, Ian Wright and Didier Drogba. Had Rooney scored a penalty and found the back of the net, instead of hitting the post, against Chelsea, he would have gone one better than them and managed a trio of trebles.

To find a player who has scored a hat-trick of hat-tricks in England's top division, you have to go back to 1946 when Jack Balmer managed it for a Liverpool side who went on to win the title in the first season after World War II. As he scored four goals in one of those games, he actually got 10 in three games. The only others to have done it in the old Division One were Frank Osborne for Tottenham in 1925 and Tom Jennings for Leeds the following year.

My question is about team captains. We constantly see, when the captain is substituted, the captain give another player the armband or the player replacing him. But has it ever happened, that for whatever reason, a captain gives a team-mate the armband, but does not leave the game? James from San Antonio, Texas asked.

It actually happens comparatively often if the regular captain begins on the bench. A case in point was last week's Carling Cup game between Brighton and Liverpool when Jamie Carragher started off wearing the armband and then gave it to Steven Gerrard when the latter was brought on. However, it is very much up to the individuals in such situations. On the same night, Petr Cech led Chelsea against Fulham. He was withdrawn at half-time and the club vice-captain Frank Lampard, who had already come on, took the armband. However, when the club captain John Terry was subsequently introduced, Lampard continued as skipper. It would be newsworthy if a player was stripped of the captaincy during a game, but the armband tends to change hands for rather more mundane reasons.

Who are the tallest and shortest footballers in history? Also we have the impression tall players should play goalkeeper or central defender, but do you know of any short player who has done it successfully? Chin Kiat from Singapore asked.

While it should be a matter of fact, there are varying descriptions of the size of the Chinese striker Yang Changpeng, varying from 6' 6.9'' (204cm) to 6' 9.2'' (211cm). It seems he is certainly the biggest outfield player, higher than the 6' 6.9'' (204cm) Norwegian forward Tor Hogne Aaroy.

He may have a rival, however, in the 6' 8.9'' (210cm) goalkeeper, Kristof van Hout from Belgium, another man who can tower over giants like Peter Crouch and Jan Koller. Koller and Zigic, at 6' 6.3'' (202cm), were the tallest to play international football but Manchester City's Romanian goalkeeper, Costel Pantilimon, at 6' 6.9'' (204cm), appears to have claimed that mantle.

Identifying the smallest ever has its difficulties, not least because people tend to be taller nowadays. Aaron Lennon was the shortest at the last World Cup and is, along with Nathan Dyer and Albert Crusat, the shortest in the Premier League this season but, at 5' 4.1'' (165cm), he is taller than Malaga's Diego Buonanotte who stands at 5' 2.8'' (161cm). Recently retired, but a Qatar international was the 5' 0.8'' (155cm) Jafal Rashed. If any readers have definitive knowledge of shorter players, let me know.

As you say, there are some positions where height appears important, but it is not essential. Oscar Perez Rojas won 54 caps in goal for Mexico despite being only 5' 6.1'' (171cm) while there is a very recent example of a 5' 7.1'' (174cm) centre-back winning the Champions League: while he has spent much of his career in midfield, Javier Mascherano has played at the back for Barcelona recently. Fabio Cannavaro, Italy's World Cup-winning captain in 2006, is only 5' 8.1 (177cm) and was a specialist centre-back who proved size isn't everything.

If a player is substituted early in a match, but was somehow able to recover in time for an appearance late in the same match, does this count as a new substitution or not? Siddharth Shankar from Mumbai, India asked.

If a player is substituted, he cannot return to the game, whether because he has recovered from the initial injury, or if the manager wants him back on for tactical reasons. On the other hand, if he simply goes off without being replaced - if, for instance, his side have already made all their allocated substitutions or if the manager is simply delaying while he has treatment - he can return but it doesn't count as a substitution.


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