Deflection vs Own Goal

Deflection vs Own Goal – How Is It Determined?

Last updated on November 9th, 2022

You may have seen a shot that is deflected by a defender and it goes in. In some cases, it will be awarded as an own goal.

However, there are other times when the goal is awarded to the shooter as it was considered to be a deflected shot!

So who decides whether the goal is considered a deflection or an own goal?

The difference between a deflection and an own goal

If the shot was already on target, but it hits a player from the opposing team and goes in, it may be considered to be a deflected shot. If there was a deliberate intervention by the defending player that leads to a goal, it will be awarded as an own goal to the defender.

There are no official rules to define a deflection or an own goal. Some competitions have a panel to determine who gets credited with the goal.

Is a deflected shot considered as an own goal?

A deflected shot is not considered as an own goal. A deflected shot is defined as a shot that was deemed to be on target by the shooter, but it hit a defender along the way. An own goal is awarded only if the defender makes an intervention which results in the goal being scored, and it was not previously on target.

How are goals attributed?

When a goal is scored, the player who provided the final action which led to the ball entering the net is considered to be the goalscorer.

There are no official rules to determine who is the actual goalscorer!

This is usually credited to the player who last touched the ball. However, if there is a deflection, this may make it hard to credit the player who last touched the ball as the goalscorer.

How is an own goal determined?

An own goal is awarded to the player from the defending team if he was the player that last touched the ball before it went into the net. If a player from the attacking team was the player who last touched the ball, then a goal would be awarded to that player.

If the defender touches the ball just before it crosses the line, then he will be the player who is awarded with an own goal!

Deflected shots are awarded when the shot was originally on target

A player may attempt to shoot on goal, and it is already on target. The ball may have gone into the net if the goalkeeper was unable to make a save.

However, the shot may hit a defender along the way and get deflected into the net. The ball may hit the defender in a way that the ball changes direction very drastically. As such, the goalkeeper will not have time to react to save the ball.

In some cases, the goalkeeper may just seem to stand still instead of making a save.

#1 Karim Benzema vs Mallorca (La Liga 2021/22)

Here is another example, where Karim Benzema scored a goal with this deflected shot.

Although it took a heavy deflection from the defender, Benzema was still awarded the goal.

You can find out more about what is the difference between La Liga and Copa del Rey here.

#2 Curtis Jones vs Brentford (Premier League 2021/22)

In the match between Liverpool and Brentford, Curtis Jones scored a long-shot goal which also took a deflection from the defender.

Since the shot was originally on target, the goal was credited to Jones, instead of it being an own goal.

#3 Rafael Leão vs Bologna (Serie A 2021/22)

Rafael Leão scored this goal which took quite a heavy deflection which put it past the goalkeeper.

Again, he was awarded with the goal.

It can be very hard to determine whether a shot was on target or not before the deflection. If the shot was only going to hit the post, it will not be considered as a shot on target!

As such, the decision to award a goal instead of an own goal can be very contentious.

Own goals are awarded when the defending player deliberately puts the ball into his net

A defender may make a deliberate intervention which results in a goal. This usually occurs when a player tries to clear the ball from a cross into the penalty area. They will try to kick or head the ball out of play to only concede a corner.

However, they may misjudge the situation and they can’t control the ball properly. As a result, they may actually put the ball into his own net!

These situations are usually very clear cut. The ball may already be going out of play, or the shot may be going off target.

However due to the intervention by the defender, the ball will go into the net and a goal is scored. In these scenarios, it will be awarded as an own goal.

This has led to many funny scenarios where the defender puts the ball past his own goalkeeper!

Another example is when Helder Costa deflected this cross into his own net.

He was subsequently awarded with an own goal during this match.

Own goals are also awarded when the ball rebounds off the goalkeeper

There are times when you may hit the post with your shot. However, it rebounds off the goalkeeper and goes into the goal!

In this case, it will be awarded as an own goal to the goalkeeper. This is because hitting the post does not count as a shot on target!

Since you shot is not on target, it cannot be considered as a deflection. As such, an own goal will be awarded instead.

Here are some examples:

#1 Ilan Meslier vs Wolves (Premier League 2020/21)

In this match, Adama Traore had a shot that hit the post. However, it rebounded off the Leeds’ goalkeeper, Ilan Meslier and entered the net!

Meslier was awarded with an own goal.

#2 Kepa Arrizabalaga vs Ajax (Champions League 2019/20)

For this Champions League match, Hakim Ziyech took a free kick. The ball rebounded off the post and and hit Chelsea’s keeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga in the face!

Kepa was also awarded with the own goal.

This is because Ziyech’s shot was off target when it hit the post. As such, it cannot be awarded as a deflected shot to Ziyech.

The distinction between an own goal and a deflection is still not very clear

There is still no clear distinction between an own goal and a deflection, which can make this discussion quite contentious.

For example, Charlie Savage made this shot which took a heavy deflection from a defender before going into the net.

Both ESPN and WhoScored deemed the goal as an own goal, instead of awarding the goal to Charlie Savage. However, Savage mentioned on Instagram that he had scored his first goal for the club!

There is still no clear rule that defines under which circumstances should an own goal be awarded, and when should it be counted as a deflection.

FIFA has not given any official clarification

There has been quite a bit of controversy regarding deflections and own goals. However, FIFA has yet to give an official definition of these 2 scenarios.

There has also not been any definitions set out in the Laws of the Game either!

In a post in 1997, FIFA mentions that deciding whether a goal is an own goal or not is part of the referee’s unofficial duties.

Here are the 4 pointers that FIFA believes that should be taken into consideration:

  1. The incident and the flight of the ball
  2. The defender must be deliberately involved in the incident to concede an own goal
  3. A forward must always be assumed to be seeking to score
  4. A forward cannot be registered as the scorer simply by putting a defender under pressure but without touching the ball

This issue was mainly addressed because there are more awards being credited to players with the most goals or assists. As such, there needs to be greater clarity over what is considered to be an own goal or not.

However, in this feature, most referees had different opinions over the same incident! This shows that it is very hard for the referee to decide at that point in time who the goal should be awarded to.

There are many other things that the referee needs to look after. Having this extra responsibility may be very taxing on him.

Since there are many differing opinions, some competitions have set up their own panels to decide once and for all who gets credited with the goal.

Opta has a definition on who should be awarded a goal

Here is what Opta has to say regarding deflections and own goals:

Regarding deflections, normally a goal is awarded if the original attempt is on target. An own goal is usually awarded if the attempt is off target and deflected into the goal by an opponent.

The original attempt has to be deemed as on target first, before a deflected goal is awarded. Otherwise, the own goal will be credited to the opponent.

However, it can be hard to decide whether some shots would be on or off target before it was blocked by a defender!

Premier League has a Goal Accreditation Panel

To prevent any controversy, the Premier League has its own Goal Accreditation Panel. This panel consists of 3 people who will decide who the goal should be awarded to, when the decision seems unclear.

The panel usually consists of one representative of the PGMOL and 2 football experts.

If there are any contentious decisions, the panel will review the video footage to award the goal.

The panel’s decision is final, unless a club appeals against the decision.

Here are some examples of the Goal Accreditation Panel at work:

#1 Leicester vs Manchester United (2020/2021)

In this match, Leicester’s second goal was initially awarded to Jamie Vardy.

However, the Goal Accreditation Panel reviewed the decision and credited it as an own goal instead.

This is pretty interesting as Vardy’s shot looked to be on target for me.

#2 West Ham United vs Wolves (2020/2021)

In another incident, West Ham’s 3rd goal was initially awarded to Tomáš Souček. He seemed to have headed the ball into the net from the corner.

After a review by the panel, it was decided to be a Raúl Jiménez own goal instead. This is because the ball was last touched by Jiménez before it went into the goal.

The EFL has a Dubious Goals Committee

The English Football League has a Dubious Goals Committee as well.

This is similar to how the Goals Accreditation Panel works for the Premier League. The EFL’s website also shows the decisions that have been made by this panel.

The EFL is a different association from the Football Association. This is why there are actually 2 different cups that the Premier League teams play: the FA Cup and the EFL Cup.

UEFA does not have a standardised procedure

Unlike the Premier League and the EFL, UEFA does not seem to have a procedure to determine to who the goal should be credited to.

Deflected goals are still quite common, such as Tyler Adam’s deflected winner against Atletico Madrid in the 2019/20 Champions League.

However, UEFA still has not mentioned how they will decide who the goal should be awarded to, especially for the more contentious goals.

You can find out how UEFA differs from FIFA here.

Other major leagues do not have such a panel either

It is interesting to see that only the English leagues have a fixed system to determine who gets credit for the goal.

Other major leagues like La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A do not seem to have these panels to make a decision either!

This could probably be due to the Premier League’s greater popularity compared to the other leagues.


FIFA believes that the referee should make a decision on who should be awarded a goal. However, the referee may already be overwhelmed with his other duties. As such, he may not be the best person to make this decision.

Some leagues like the Premier League and EFL have a formal panel to decide who the goals should be awarded to. This is not found in other major leagues in Europe as well as UEFA!

In the end, deciding whether a goal is deflected or considered to be an own goal still remains very debatable. If the shot is clearly on target, the decision is rather clear.

However, there are many situations where the decision may not be as clear cut! If there are rules to properly define a deflection and an own goal, perhaps this could help to clear the air.

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