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Head Off The Line – Learning English Through Football Podcast: 2021 Champions League Man City vs PSG

In this football language podcast for learners of English who love the beautiful game, we look at some of the words and phrases from the Champions League group game between Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain and we use a report from the Guardian newspaper to do this. You can read a transcript for this podcast below, while you can also check out our glossary of footballing phrases here and visit our site to access all our previous posts and podcasts. If you have any suggestions or questions then you can contact us at

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Head off the line – Learning English Through Football Podcast: 2021 Champions League Man City vs PSG

DF: Hello everyone, this is Damian from the team here in a rather cold London Рwe might even have snow this weekend! I hope you are all doing well and that you enjoyed the football this week. The fifth set of fixtures in the Champions League took place and there were some big results, including AC Milan winning away at Atl̩tico Madrid, former West Ham striker S̩bastien Haller scoring his ninth Champions League goal of the season as Ajax won their fifth straight game; something that Liverpool also did after defeating Porto 2-0 Рno doubt Damon will be happy with that result. He of course is in Tokyo РI wonder did he get up in the middle of the night to watch the game live?

OK, on this podcast we take a look at another one of the big games from the Champions League, perhaps the biggest in fact, as beaten finalists Manchester City took on Paris Saint Germain to see which side would top the group. We use a Guardian newspaper match report to help us look at some of the language used to describe the win for the Manchester side.

Stinger: You are listening to (in Thai).

Head off the line & Goal line clearance

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Cutting inside, he shaped a curler past Keylor Navas only for Achraf Hakimi to head off the line (, Nov 25 2021)
Manchester City started the game well and created some early chances and in this description, the reporter describes how their winger Riyad Mahrez tried to curl or bend the ball around the PSG goalkeeper Navas. He did this by cutting inside a defender which means he moved infield from the side in order to create space – a move that former Dutch international Arjen Robben used to do quite a lot; in fact we could could call the cut inside and shot a trademark Robben move.

Mahrez’ shot went past the keeper but the Paris defender Hakimi stopped the ball from going into the net by heading clear – he headed the ball off the line. This kind of block by a defender is also known as a goal line clearance because the defender prevents the ball from crossing the line. Hakimi’s header off the line (‘off’ of course means to send the ball away from the line) was the second goalline clearance as another defender, Presnel Kimpembe, ‘was in the right place to head away, with Navas beaten’ earlier on in the game. Head away here means to head off the line – two goal line clearances early on in the first half showed which team was piling on the pressure (City) and which team was under the cosh (PSG).

Cut back/Ram home

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When he cut it back, it deflected off Kyle Walker and there was Mbappé to ram the ball underneath Ederson. (, Sep 28 2021)
But as we know, the PSG forward line is always dangerous and they suprisingly opened the scoring against the run of play when French forward Mbappé hit the ball hard and low under the Manchester City keeper Ederson. To ram home the ball means to hit it like this – really hard and low so it is difficult for the keeper or the defenders to react. To ram it home also suggests that the attacker was quite near the goal – I don’t think we would say that the forward rammed the ball home from 25 yards? The report uses two expressions to describe how the ball reached Mbappé: cut back and deflected off. If a player cuts the ball back it means that they have crossed the ball into the penalty area from somewhere near the end line – a cross that is realy difficult to defend. The ball was cut back and then deflected off the defender Walker and this means it hit Walker and bounced into (or moved into) the path of Mbappé – a deflection means that the ball hits a player and as they have no control the ball can go anywhere.

Ice cool finish

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Mahrez accepted a pass from Ilkay Gündogan and, when he crossed to the far post, Silva was in yards of space. Silva’s touch back to Jesus was coated in velvet. The finish was ice cool. (, Sep 28 2021)
So reported the Guardian. This describes the winning goal scored by City sub Gabriel Jesus. The attacking move was a wonderful one as City played a long crossfield ball to Bernardo Silva who cushioned a wonderful pass to his team mate Jesus to score. A cushioned pass means to take the power off the ball and pass it gently to a team mate and in the article it is described as a pass (a touch back) coated or covered in velvet as it was a really soft pass that perfectly found his striker. Some strikers panic in the box when they receive the ball, especially in high-pressure matches, but Jesus was cool as he placed the ball past the keeper and the defenders trying to make a goal line clearance into the net. His finish was ‘ice cool‘.

Stinger: You are listening to (in Irish).

Good Bye

DF: Yes, you are listening to – that message was in Irish. Don’t forget that there’s a transcript to this podcast and lots of vocabulary support which you can access by coming along to our site. We also have a football language forum where fans of the beautiful game can ask and answer questions on all kinds of football language – come along and join in the football language discussion.

OK, that’s it for this week’s podcast in which we looked at the phrases ‘ice cool finish‘, ‘cushioned pass‘, ‘cut back‘ and ‘ram home‘ from Manchester City’s win over PSG in the Champions League. Don’t forget you can also come and find lots more football language on our site here at, including our football glossary and of course over ten seasons of podcasts too! Enjoy all the football this week and we’ll see you again soon. Bye.

Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

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