I think the verb "claw means to score. But why does the writer use "claw" instead of "score?" What does it suggest?

Mohamed Salah clawed one back for Liverpool in the 81st minute to produce a nervy finish for Red Devils fans

  • 1
    Note the 'back'. You can claw something back, but you can't score something back. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 8:34
  • If so, what does "claw" exactly mean in that context?
    – Jembot
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 8:37

1 Answer 1


This is actually a phrasal verb claw back, which the Cambridge Dictionary defines as:

to get possession of something again with difficulty

It's actually an incorrect usage of claw back since it should only really apply to regaining something that you have lost, and a goal is something that you never had in the first place.

It is often used in sports to describe regaining a favourable position- either in the course of a game (for example going from winning to losing to winning again), or a position in a league table (dropping in the table and then climbing again).

It was written by a sports commentator, so you cannot expect it to make complete sense.

  • Thank you. Is it common to use this phrase for sports like football?
    – Jembot
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 8:44
  • What they had lost was either the lead (if they had been ahead earlier in the game) or the equal/drawn status they had at the start of the game. Scoring a goal could be said to be part of "clawing back" that status, which is probably what the commentator was thinking of. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 10:31
  • 1
    @Jembot yes, it is widely used in sports, but generally about clawing back some former position rather than clawing back a goal.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 10:33

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