JAMES CHESTER’S GOAL AT CARDIFF
Heights of joy
City have had a share of “I was there” moments of late – three trips to Wembley, wins over Premier League opposition, European adventures – but these are obvious and many can lay claim to them. However, the more soulful type of “I was there” moment (and that’s why we’re here) lends itself to specific, idiosyncratic or just brilliant moments, rather than occasions, and if they were witnessed by only a smattering of people, all the better. They can be as ridiculous or as delightful as you see fit, and in the case of James Chester’s goal at Cardiff, it was absolutely a delight.
To many, it will set the benchmark for the great team goal, the type that doesn’t end with a thunderous volley or aerodynamic diving header but still epitomises how beautiful football can be. Chester, settled into the back four of the post-apocalyptic side fashioned by Nigel Pearson, was already evidently a striking example of defensive excellence and style, but his goal at Cardiff’s shiny new stadium in the spring of 2012 gave him extra prestige.
He intercepted a pass in his own half, left the ball to Josh King – and just kept running. King fed Robert Koren, the Slovene then reached the edge of the box before returning it to King who instantly flick-heeled it behind him to an unmarked, unnoticed Chester, and as everyone tried to work out how he got there, he steered it under the keeper and in.
It was a divine team goal, made to look easy from start to finish and sandwiched two further strikes to give City a 3-0 away win that was the most impressive performance of a season that nearly, under Nick Barmby, resulted in a play-off place. City ran out of puff in the end – the same month saw eight more games squeezed in – but Chester’s name, a name that endured after Barmby and into the Steve Bruce era of promotion, Premier League returns, the FA Cup final and Europe, was made with fans that night.