Sound and aesthetic add to the spectacular
15 October ~ During his side's Euro 2016 defeat on Saturday, Germany striker Lukas Podolski volleyed one off Poland's crossbar from just inside the box. ITV co-commentator Clarke Carlisle raved about Podolski's accuracy, technique and, most of all, the power he imparted. Essentially he missed and Germany didn't score in Warsaw. But replays showed the crossbar visibly reverberating after Podolski's strike. Bending the biggest piece of the goal frame is a more spectacular indicator of impact than any ruffled net. Wherever the ball ends up in the immediate aftermath, connecting with the bar is frequently more dramatic than scoring.
Enner Valencia's 25-yarder for West Ham, at Hull, and Phil Jagielka's 30-yard equaliser for Everton at Liverpool were shortlisted for Match of the Day's September Goal of the Month. But the final aesthetic ingredient of both goals was the ball clipping the underside of the bar en route. Just before each shot completed its inevitable path into the rigging, a last touch off the goal frame gave it an extra kick of velocity, a final change of direction and instant proof of pin-point accuracy. Whether watching from the stands or via TV, there's theatricality in seeing the bar struck.
And hearing it struck. You can hit the post gently, but striking a cylindrical tube eight feet off the ground usually requires the force which produces that distinctively dull, atonal "thud". Even when the bar prevents a goal, pitch-side microphones pick up this signature sound and the equally unique audience reaction. A crowd of 40,000 emitted the guttural "ooh!" when Roma's Maicon smacked Manchester City's bar in last month's Champions League encounter – but the visceral thud of ball on metal was still plainly audible.
Hitting the bar is often the moment a team comes closest to scoring without actually doing so. It's a plot point in the narrative of a game. Sky's Tony Gale felt the crossbar "came to Joe Hart's rescue" when the City keeper watched Maicon's shot rebound safely. But this happened 90 seconds after City scored the opener, signalling the intent which saw Roma equalise quarter of an hour later. In Moscow on the same night, in the same group, CSKA's Roman Eremenko floating one onto Manuel Neuer's bar was the closest Bayern Munich came to losing their 1-0 lead. As such it's the losers' moment of high pathos.
Or it's a harbinger to be ignored at your peril. Demba Ba had Hugo Lloris flapping when hitting the Tottenham keeper's bar after just 12 minutes in the Europa League last month. It was a high point of early Besiktas pressure at White Hart Lane. Spurs scored the opener 15 minutes later, earning a point as Ba did eventually score, from a penalty, in the last minute. But at Stamford Bridge last season Arda Turan of Atlético Madrid scored precisely one second after heading a cross onto Chelsea's bar.
He ran towards his own rebound and, after a brilliant move capping a terrific team performance, put his side into the Champions League final. Gary Neville declared him "fortunate to have the ball come back to him". But Turan embodied a team who didn't hang about waiting for plaudits and who were pragmatic enough to use the crossbar as a team-mate.
My favourite "crossbar inclusive" goal is West Germany's opener in the 1972 European Championships final. Amid a pounding of the Soviet defence it's Günter Netzer striking the face of the Heysel Stadium's square crossbar – "woodwork" wasn't always a euphemism – which epitomised that team's exciting combination of artistry and relentlessness.
Netzer's acrobatic volley leads to a vicious Jupp Heynckes shot and Gerd Müller's clinical poaching of the rebound. And, six years after Geoff Hurst and that Azerbaijani linesman, it epitomised a country who refused to fall out with crossbars. Alex Anderson