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December 29, 2017
by Frontsmother
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Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius: The conundrum surrounding Liverpool’s goalkeeping woes

Jamie Vardy had absolutely smashed the ball through the middle, but a golden-haired Belgian was equal to it. Diving, to his right, he pushed it away, fists pumped and a sigh of relief spreading across his face as he shouted at his defense to organize themselves. Now rewind back 3 minutes, Jaime Vardy had haired on to another through ball, splitting the Liverpool defense in half, with Simon Mignolet the last man standing between him and goal. He nudged it beyond the keeper before being taken out for a clear penalty. The Belgian had an absolute shocker. He was so flustered by the mere presence of Vardy that he completely miskicked the ball, sending the English forward flying instead.

Two incidents in a matter of minutes perfectly describe the enigma that is Simon Mignolet. A decent shot stopper with an incredible penalty saving record, he can go from being a fortress between the sticks to an exasperation, as the kop has been experiencing over the years. There is an eerie resemblance between the Merseyside club’s performance and that of their number-one shot-stopper. Brilliant and exhilarating at their best, falling apart like a pack of cards at their worst. Dejan Lovren might bear the brunt for the drubbing at the hands of Tottenham on Sunday, but Mignolet wasn’t far behind. He was directly responsible for Kane’s third as well, having played a crucial part in the Spur’s forwards opener.
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Manchester City, Crystal Palace, Stoke City, Aston Villa, Ludogorets; the teams that pop up in our mind if we travel back in time. The common point of reference? “Simon Mignolet’s howler”. A striking lack of command in the 6-yard box, particularly on crosses, his propensity to produce crucial errors are countless. But here lies the paradox, is Simon Mignolet a really bad goalkeeper, as he is portrayed? Let’s consider the Manchester City game in the Capital One cup final. Manchester City ran out worthy winners, but they were indebted to the Belgian for the only goal they scored when Mignolet let the ball slide under him. Ironically, the same man was instrumental in taking Liverpool to extra time, having foiled Sergio Agüero’s effort impressively in the first half, and also denying Fernando and Yaya Touré from close range in the final moments of normal time. He pulled off one better in extra time, a crucial reflex save from Agüero, after the Argentina international had been slipped through on goal and looked destined to score. There lies the agonizing performance curve of a brilliant shot-stopper, who sometimes is boiled down to resembling a cat chasing his tails. For every spectacular save, there seems to be a howler down the line. 4 years have passed since he arrived on a fateful summer of 2013 from Sunderland, a promising young goalkeeper deemed to be the Red’s future for the decade to come. These days, it seems like he has been reduced to a figure of disillusionment for both his manager, Jurgen Klopp as well as the Kop. There seems to be a palpable frustration underlying, which isn’t far from reaching its boiling point.
Over the years, the Premier League has experienced both the highs and lows of the Belgian goalkeeper in microcosm. Mignolet is far from a bad goalkeeper, but he has not reached the desired level required to bring Glory days back to Merseyside. He hasn’t been helped by a porous defense in front of him and has often looked exposed since he got here. A midfield that tends to leave large, open spaces for oppositions to exploit along with a malfunctioning defense that plays a high-line, it doesn’t exactly sound like the perfect setup to have if you look to win silverware on a consistent basis.
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Jurgen Klopp rightly bought Loris Karius at the start of last season to provide competition to the Belgian, but even the German has flattered to deceive. At one time, he had even emerged as a favorite under Klopp, despite his early struggles, replacing the often derided Mignolet at the start of the season. The Liverpool manager seemed to back his own judgement of the young keeper he had brought to Anfield from his old club Mainz. But following some lackluster performances he was eventually replaced again by the Belgian, who went on to provide some solid displays, making the number one spot his own till the end of the season. Let’s be brutally honest here, Karius is a promising prospect but needs to hone his skills better if he ever wants to make the number one spot at Anfield his very own. At this time, he isn’t even at par with Mignolet and shares almost the same deficiencies as his Belgian counterpart.
These days, if you have an off-day like Mignolet has over the years, you will get absolutely buried by not only the pundits but also by the vast population of the keyboard warriors in social media. He will continue making the unkindly headlines along with the likes of Lovren. However, Liverpool’s goalkeeping conundrum is a collective phenomenon, just like its defensive shortcomings. They share an unfortunate case of shared strength as well as weakness.
Mignolet may be error prone, but he isn’t the sole reason behind Liverpool’s woes. He is a decent goalkeeper, who just isn’t world-class, but neither are Liverpool barring a certain Philippe Coutinho. It’s time Jürgen Klopp identified the real problem. For his team to shine, he requires more world class players to accompany the Little magician from Brazil. And for too long has Liverpool dwindled with mediocre players for a club of their stature. It’s time to make some big decisions next summer.

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October 23, 2017
by Frontsmother
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Premier league: Top 5 Goalkeepers in August 2017

The Premier League season is up and running. “The biggest box office drama in world football”, as the purists would ironically point out. And as the first 4 game weeks suggest, August was not deprived of its usual spectacles. New heroes arrived, while the established stars reminded everyone of their worth. Goals galore, with 98 finding the back of the net. Keeping that in mind, let’s delve into the unlikely heroes who position themselves between the sticks every week as the last line of defense. Here, we look at the performances of the top 5 goalkeepers in the Premier League for the month of August 2017.

1. Jonas Lössl (Huddersfield Town A.F.C)
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David Wagner’s Yorkshire boys have been a breath of fresh air, and the summer signing from Mainz has adapted to the foils of the Premier League like a fish to water. He was stellar in the opening weekend against Crystal Palace, pulling off some important stops, especially one important fingertip-save off a dangerous Wilfried Zaha shot. Against Newcastle, he pulled off the stop of the match, a brilliant diving save to keep out Matt Ritchie’s effort. In the first-half, he pulled off an equally outstanding one from Ritchie himself, using his fingers to intervene a shot that was destined for the bottom corner. He was solid against both Southampton and West Ham, as Huddersfield’s unbeaten run came to a halt against the latter. Overall, the Dane has proved himself to be a capable shot-stopper, and will surely top this list on basis of performance alone. His form is going to be vital if Huddersfield is to survive the drop.

2. David de Gea (Manchester United)
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The Spaniard has continued his splendid form from last season, as Manchester United sit at the top of the table, still unbeaten. He had relatively easy outings against West Ham United and Swansea, before reminding everyone of his worth against Leicester and Stoke City. He was solid against the foxes, commanding the box and dealing with any little threats that Leicester popped up with. As the final whistle blew at the Bet 365 stadium at Stoke, Jose Mourinho must have been thanking his lucky stars that the fax machine saga went in favor of Manchester club. And with each passing day, the Spanish number 1 is proving that Madrid’s loss is United’s gain. In the 63rd minute, Jese Rodriguez met an Erik Pieter’s cross, flashing a shot that should have gone in. But Dave somehow fingertipped it over. Such reflexes ooze World class. With 3 clean sheets of the first 4 games, his record speaks for itself.

3. Fraser Forster (Southampton)
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The England international began the summer with much criticism, with pundits doubting his progress from a poor 2016/17 season. After 360 minutes and a man of the match performance against Huddersfield Town, he reminded everyone of the promise that prompted Ronald Koeman to part with £10m in 2014 to prise him away from Celtic. He did fumble an over-hit cross into the path of Elias Kachunga but atoned for his mistakes at that very moment, saving the second effort with his feet. He made 12 saves in 2 games against Huddersfield and West Ham, with one world-class stop off Diafra Sakho, though he was helpless to stop Chicharito to steer the rebound home. If he can continue this form, he will be back in the national setup soon enough, after being dropped in favor of the rising Jordan Pickford.

4. Jack Butland (Stoke City)
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Looks assured and England quality. He needed to be, particularly against Arsenal, making numerous one-to-one saves as the Gunners upped the pressure after trailing throughout. He made a total of 17 saves, the highest among the 5 in this list. Even in the defeat against West Brom, he claimed several good crosses throughout the match. Last week against Manchester United, he matched David de Gea, pulling off a stunning one hand stop to block Kurt Zouma from inadvertently deflecting one into his own net. He has come a long way since sitting out a year due to an ankle injury and looks primed to replace Joe Hart as the England number one.

5. Heurelho Gomes (Watford)
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The veteran Brazilian completes the list, being instrumental in Watford’s high position as we enter the second month of the Premier League season. There were ups and downs in the opening weekend, as he gifted Liverpool a penalty by rushing out and catching Mo Salah, but also made two significant stops to prevent Liverpool from running away with the game. Against Bournemouth, he made two vital saves off Benik Afobe, parrying one and punching another away. He performed admirably against Brighton, as his team held on with 10 men, as the Watford captain was up to the task whenever called upon and led from the back admirably.

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August 25, 2017
by Frontsmother
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Tottenham vs Chelsea: Goalkeeper Ratings

Not even 4 months have passed since Antonio Conte’s men had stream rolled to the title. But as the players embarked from the tunnel at Wembley, there was a stark contrast between the Champions and runner’s up of the Premier league 2016/17. Chelsea had to withstand a lot of scrutiny since stumbling to an underwhelming defeat at home to Burnley on opening day, while Spurs looked composed and confident, brushing aside Newcastle. It was the first home game away from White Hart Lane for Mauricio Pochettino’s exciting young side, and an opportunity to put aside their Wembley blues than conquering the below par Champions.
At the end of the day, Chelsea reminded every one of the qualities that elevated them to the Premier League title last season, while Spurs yet again stumbled at Wembley, despite dominating possession and controlling the match for long periods. Marcos Alonso was at the lead of this opera, creating a moment of magic, while another moment of fortune ensured Chelsea prevailed 2-1. Here we evaluate the performances of the men behind the sticks of both sides, who played an important role in the proceedings.

Goalkeeper Ratings (Out of10)

Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)                            4

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It was an afternoon to forget for the Frenchman. First, he watched despairingly as Marcos Alonso produced a moment of absolute brilliance, curling a free kick beyond his reach from 25 yards out into the top corner. Then, he was culpable for the second one Alonso scored at the death to win the game. It all started with a hasty throw from the Spur’s captain towards Victor Wanyama midway inside his own half, who was subsequently robbed of possession by David Luiz. The ball was played through to a rampaging Alonso through Pedro, and his powerful low drive squirmed underneath Lloris, who could haplessly watch as the Chelsea players wheeled away in rapturous celebrations. He should consider himself lucky for not conceding another, as Alvaro Morata embarrassed himself missing from 6 yards out with only Lloris to beat in the 5th minute, while Willian also crammed a shot against the bar from outside the box deep into the 2nd half.
This invoked not so distant memories of the French shot stopper gifting 2 goals to Manchester City in January. Considered one of the best in the world, Mauricio Pochettino must be hoping his captain doesn’t make it a habit of conceding soft goals.
Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)                                           7

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The Belgian barely put a foot wrong in the game, making some important interventions as the champions put up a dogged display and held on for a euphoric win. He did spill a low hard shot from Harry Kane early in the game, but fortunately for him, no spur’s shirt was there to capitalize. He made noteworthy saves, first denying Kane by making himself big and then tipping over a Moussa Dembele drive over the bar. He could do nothing to stop Michy Batshuayi’s own goal to fly past him. Between that and Kane striking the foot of the post, one cannot help but think that the Chelsea keeper deserved a clean sheet.

during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on October 31, 2015 in London, England.

July 19, 2017
by Frontsmother
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Premier League Goalkeeper Preview 2017/18

As the new season beckons on the 12th of August, we take a look at the men between the sticks of all 20 teams.

1. A.F.C. Bournemouth

Artur Boruc
Age: 37 years
Height: 193cm
Weight: 87kg
Nationality: Poland
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The Polish journeyman is still going strong for The Cherries at the age of 36. Once linked with a string of top clubs like FC Barcelona and Arsenal at the peak of his career, he was outstanding for Poland at the World cup 2006 and Euro 2008. He has been a solid presence between the sticks for the last 3 seasons and may feel hard done by the recent arrival of Begovic from Chelsea, which implies he may have to play second fiddle in the upcoming season.

Asmir Begovic
Age: 30 years
Height: 199cm
Weight: 101kg
Nationality: Bosnia-Herzegovina
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The Bosnian has returned to AFC Bournemouth after 10 years since he joined them on a short loan spell in League One. A proven Premier League performer, his world class performances for Stoke City shot him to into the spotlight and led to his transfer to Chelsea. But, after being the second choice behind Thibaut Courtois for the last 2 seasons, he will be looking forward to making the position his very own at the Vitality Stadium.

2. Arsenal

Petr Cech
Age: 35 years
Height: 196cm
Weight: 90kg
Nationality: Czech Republic
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Since joining Chelsea from Rennes is 2004, Cech has been considered as one of the greatest and most respected goalkeepers of his generation. With 4 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, 1 UCL and UEL, he is currently the most decorated Keeper in the League. His move to city rivals Arsenal raised quite a few eyebrows, though his Legend status at West London still remains intact. He has consistently performed for the Gunners for the last 2 seasons and looks to hold on to the number one status for years to come.

David Ospina
Age: 28 years
Height: 183cm
Weight: 80kg
Nationality: Colombia
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The Colombian has mainly played the role of an understudy to Cech since the time he visited North London. He has been solid when called upon and was even preferred over Cech for the 2016/17 FA Cup Final, in which he came out triumphant. He was an important member of the Colombia side that captured everyone’s imagination and advanced to the Quarter final of the 2014 FIFA World cup.

3. Brighton & Hove Albion

Mathew Ryan
Age: 25 years
Height: 184 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Nationality: Australia
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The Socceroo goalie is well travelled, having played in the top divisions in Australia, Belgium and Spain. He has also competed in European competition, settling down as the first choice for his nation. Ryan has previously won the Belgian Cup and was chosen as the Belgian Pro League Goalkeeper of the Year in both 2014 and 2015. With David Stockdale’s departure to Birmingham City, he will be taking over the number one spot after joining from Valencia in a club record deal.

4. Burnley

Tom Heaton
Age: 31 years
Height: 188cm
Weight: 85kg
Nationality: England
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The former United youth product stopper has finally come of age as a Premier League goalkeeper. He is relatively flourishing with all the added strain of being constantly bombarded, especially away from Turf Moor. Last October, he made an extraordinary 12 stops against his former employers. He made a world class stop of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which he claimed almost broke his arm. He has also staked his claim at the number 3 spot for England. He was one of the main forces behind Burnley’s amazing home record last season and will look to further improve his reputation this time.

5. Chelsea

Thibaut Courtois

Age: 25 years
Height: 199cm
Weight: 94kg
Nationality: Belgium
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A world-class goalkeeper who looks back to his best after the mysterious dip in form in 2015/16, which culminated the defending champions to finish an embarrassing 10th. His size allows him to dominate aerial battles and he has really improved his distribution a lot. Add with that a tremendous handling and shot stopping abilities, he seems unflappable. His fingertip save against Sunderland was considered a turning point in the title race as it made sure Chelsea continued their winning run. The Blues duly became champions and Courtois capped off another successful season with the Golden Glove award.

Willy Caballero
Age: 35 years
Height: 186cm
Weight: 80kg
Nationality: Argentina

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The Argentine has joined the champions from Manchester City on a free transfer, replacing the outgoing Asmir Begovic. The veteran goalie enjoyed a mixed season last year, playing a pivotal role in the Capital One Cup Final triumph against Liverpool. Confined to the bench with most part of the season, he finally replaced an error prone Claudio Bravo and held his place under Guardiola. He will look to provide competition to Courtois for the number one spot.
6. Crystal Palace

Wayne Hennessey
Age: 30 years
Height: 198cm
Weight: 90kg
Nationality: Wales

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The Eagles keeper had a brilliant start to 2016, delivering eye catching performances for Wales in the UEFA Euro. But he failed to continue that success, being benched by Alan Pardew for the Frenchman Steve Mandanda. He regained his place when Mandanda was injured but endured a poor season with Palace Scraping at the bottom, barely saving relegation. With new manager Frank De Boer looking to bring in Jasper Cillessen from Barcelona, the Welshman has his task cut out.

7. Everton

Jordan Pickford
Age: 23 years
Height: 185cm
Weight: 77kg
Nationality: England

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Pickford has become the most expensive British keeper in history after Everton paid £25m plus add-ons, which might rise to a club record £30m to sign him from Sunderland. Though Sunderland was relegated, the failure was certainly not the fault of the 23-year-old Englishman, whose excellence earned him a place on the shortlist for the PFA young player of the year award. He continued his strong performance for England at the U-21 Euros and will look to play a pivotal role under Ronald Koeman as Everton look to challenge for a top 4 place.
8. Huddersfield Town

Jonas Lössl
Age: 28 years
Height: 195cm
Weight: 89kg
Nationality: Denmark

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Following the departure of Danny Ward after his loan spell, Huddersfield Town has recently opted for Danish international goalkeeper Jonas Lossl, who signed on a season-long loan from Bundesliga club 1. FSV Mainz 05. Lössl arrives at the John Smith’s Stadium with over 250 top flight appearances under his belt and will aim to help The Terriers bid to stay in the Premier League.
9. Leicester City

Kasper Schmeichel
Age: 30 years
Height: 185cm
Weight: 76kg
Nationality: Denmark

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From winning the Premier League in his debut season to advancing to the quarters of the UEFA Champions League on his debut campaign, the son of the legendary Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel has come a long way. His display against Atletico in the quarters of UCL confirms his rise to the elite class. Like his father, he retains the quality of thriving under pressure and his rising reputation has fueled links to both Liverpool and Manchester United. Under new manager Shakespeare, the Dane will be looking to improve further and elongate Leicester’s stay at the top tier of English football.

10. Liverpool

Simon Mignolet
Age: 29 years
Height: 193cm
Weight: 87kg
Nationality: Belgium

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The Belgian, despite all the promise must have felt hard done by when he was dropped by Jurgen Klopp in favor of the Loris Karius. The German was eventually asked to step aside again after a disappointing home draw with West Ham and Mignolet grasped his chance with both hands. While far from being perfect, the following performances were probably his best in the Liverpool shirt. He made crucial saves at Stoke away (he was responsible for keeping the Reds in the game against Hughes’ men at Anfield too), West Brom away and West Ham. In current form, it’s safe to say that the Kop can trust him for years to come.

Loris Karius
Age: 24 years
Height: 189cm
Weight: 75kg
Nationality: Germany

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The German emerged as a favorite under Klopp, despite his early struggles, replacing the often derided Mignolet at the start of the season. The Liverpool manager seemed to back his own judgement of the young keeper he had brought to Anfield from his old club Mainz. But following some lackluster performances he was eventually replaced again by the Belgian, who went on to provide some solid displays, making the number one spot his own till the end of the season. As we embark on the new season, Karius will hope to win the back the faith of his fellow countryman. Opportunities will arise for sure, as Liverpool will have to cope with the added pressure of the Champions League.
11. Manchester City

Claudio Bravo
Age: 34 years
Height: 184cm
Weight: 80kg
Nationality: Chile

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The Chilean veteran has experienced a nightmare debut season in English Football, conceding a goal with almost 65% of the shots he faced. Amidst this rough patch, he is still the number 1 for his country. Excellent with his feet, he was instrumental for both FC Barcelona and Chile, winning a host of titles, with his recent antics at the Copa America Centenario guiding his nation to victory. With the recent acquisition of Ederson Moraes he will most probably be confined to the bench. Fresh off a successful Confederations Cup campaign he looks back to his best and will be geared to prove his critics wrong and remind everyone of his abilities that influenced Pep Guardiola to bring him to England.
Ederson Moraes
Age: 23 years
Height: 188cm
Weight: 86kg
Nationality: Brazil

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Ederson left Benfica with a bang, keeping his 17th clean sheet of the season in his penultimate match, along with grabbing an assist. Standing at 6ft 2 inches, he has developed into an intimidating keeper with exemplary shot-stopping ability, albeit spending only a season and a half at the top tier of football. He is also adept with both his feet, attributes which have seen him emerge as one of Europe’s promising young goalkeepers. At £34.7m, he already has the added pressure of a record transfer fee over his head. Far from a finished product, only time will tell whether he is the man to solve Guardiola’s goalkeeping problems next season and for years to come?

12. Manchester United

David de Gea
Age: 26 years
Height: 192cm
Weight: 76kg
Nationality: Spain

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When De Gea first arrived from Spain, he was a thin lanky lad with a lot of promise. A shaky start to his United career earned him a lot of flak, especially in the first two seasons. Fast forward to 2017, and nobody seems to have quicker reflexes, with the earlier promise contemplating with his experience of the English game seems to have enhanced his strength of dealing with long balls along with an added confidence. He has had more work to do in the past 3 seasons than most United keepers but continues to shine brightly; no wonder he has been the player of the season at Old Trafford since then. With Real Madrid continuing their interest, retaining his services will be crucial to United’s success in the years to come.
Sergio Romero
Age: 30 years
Height: 192cm
Weight: 87kg
Nationality: Argentina

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There have been only two constants in Romero’s career: The Argentine failing to find a regular starting role at club level despite being untouchable for his national team. He was impeccable in Manchester United’s run to the Europa League final and eventual triumph, but that won’t be enough to displace De Gea. If the Spaniard eventually leaves for Madrid, the 30-year-old might hope to make the spot his very own.
13. Newcastle United

Karl Darlow
Age: 26 years
Height: 185cm
Weight: 79kg
Nationality: England

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Darlow enjoyed a golden season in the Championship, eventually running out winner s and securing a return to the top tier of English football. He made mistakes but atoned them up with numerous saves, dominating his box and providing a vocal presence behind the back four after being recalled to the side in September 2016. He was the last line of defense when the club needed him and was a calming influence on the team. His two penalty saves against his former club Nottingham Forest at the City Ground bore proof to that. Despite that, he faces an uncertain summer ahead as his manager Benitez seems interested in bringing Pepe Reina over from Napoli. It’s going to be an interesting summer at Tyneside.

14. Southampton

Fraser Forster
Age: 29 years
Height: 201cm
Weight: 93kg
Nationality: England

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His improvement seems to have stalled since last season, failing to live up to the promise which prompted the Saints to sign him from Celtic. Despite being a fine shot stopper and a huge presence, his kicking remains erratic as ever and he needs to be more commanding in the air. The new Southampton manager, Mauricio Pellegrino might just be the right man to revive his career. Forster will hope to attain his true potential which put him into the England setup.

15. Stoke City

Jack Butland
Age: 24 years
Height: 196cm
Weight: 95kg
Nationality: England

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Despite only being 24, Butland has had a very successful career so far, stepping up the youth ranks at Birmingham, he won the clubs young player of the year award in 2010, and was given a first team number at the tender age of 18 in 2011. He displayed his talents after a series of loans, eventually becoming the regular goalkeeper at the Bet365 stadium. Immensely talented with eye catching reflexes and a commanding presence in the box, he is touted to be the future number one for England. A recent injury did hamper his progress in 2016. But since his return, he has looked in better shape and is currently the most valuable among English keepers.
16. Swansea City

Lukasz Fabianski
Age: 32 years
Height: 190cm
Weight: 83kg
Nationality: Poland

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Long gone are the days when the Pole was being continuously derided by Arsenal fans for not being good enough, Fabianski has been a symbol of consistency for the Welsh side. Once criticized for his lack of authority, he has vastly improved his concentration level, proving his doubters wrong. He single handedly kept Poland in the game against Switzerland at Euro 2016 and was undoubtedly the player of the match after prompting Granit Xhaka to shoot abysmally wide in the resultant penalty shootout.

17. Tottenham Hotspur

Hugo Lloris
Age: 30 years
Height: 188cm
Weight: 78kg
Nationality: France

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An inspirational leader, he is a commanding presence in the six-yard with sound judgement and great organizational skills, which is why he captains both club and country. He has been a mainstay for France for almost a decade now, he was signed by Andre Villas Boas for spurs in 2012 along with Clint Dempsey. Since then the Frenchman has gone on to make 169 appearances and looks set to lead the revolution at White Hart Lane under Mauricio Pochettino, even terming the Argentine as the best manager in the world.
18. Watford

Heurelho Gomes
Age: 36 years
Height: 191cm
Weight: 91kg
Nationality: Brazil

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The renaissance of Gomes for the Hornets may come as a surprise to Hansen, who described him as “one of the worst goalkeepers I have ever seen” and Spurs fans, but it will not shock the hordes of Cruzeiro and PSV Eindhoven supporters who still idolize the Brazilian. His career had been one long trophy parade. until he moved to White Hart Lane, where he failed to live up to the expectations. It seemed quite astonishing, considering the fact that he was a part of the Cruzeiro team that became the first Brazilian side to win the treble before claiming four successive Eredivisie titles with the Dutch side.

19. West Bromwich Albion

Ben Foster
Age: 34 years
Height: 193cm
Weight: 79kg
Nationality: England

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The former United Goalie thrives under pressure, with his recent displays reminding everyone of his Watford days a decade ago. His outstanding performance against Spurs included half a dozen fine saves, including a world class one denying Christian Eriksen. A mainstay of the Baggies backline for some time now, he is an integral part of Tony Pulis’s setup as the Baggies look forward to establishing themselves in the top half of the Premier League table.

20. West Ham United

Adrián
Age: 30 years
Height: 190cm
Weight: 80kg
Nationality: Spain

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Dropped in November 2016 due to a couple of mistakes, the Spanish veteran retained his place in the side after similar howlers by Darren Randolph. Amidst interests from Spain and Portugal West Ham have recently activated a clause in his contract, securing him for a further two years. With over 100 appearances for The Hammers, the Spaniard has been a consistent figure between the frames, and if Slaven Bilić fails to land Rui Patricio or any other targets, Adrian should duly retain his place come August.

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July 4, 2017
by Frontsmother
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The Vindication of Claudio Bravo

BRAVO! BRAVO! ABSOLUTELY SENSATIONAL! It’s “How to save a penalty show by Claudio Bravo” on display here! He guessed right again, diving towards his left to parry Nani’s effort, and Chile are through to the Confederations Cup Final. 

As Claudio Bravo was engulfed by a good old-fashioned bundle by his Chile teammates, he must have felt relieved. All those critics and pundits tearing him down, people betting about when he will be replaced, he had answered them all.

He didn’t need to. He had already displayed his class for Barcelona and Chile. Not many current goalkeepers can match his skillset, nor many can boast of similar achievements. He was instrumental to Chile’s back to back Copa America wins, playing a pivotal role in consecutive penalty shootouts against Argentina in 2015 and 2016. He was an individual at the peak of his career when he responded to Pep Guardiola’s call to join Manchester City.

English football has never really witnessed a goalkeeper like him before. “Sweeper-keeper”, the term used to describe him back at Barcelona was highly unnatural in the rugged English league. And Bravo was considered one of the World’s best in this role along with Manuel Neuer. Either way, it all felt very new for the Premier League and no doubt there are still many people who find it all slightly perplexing.

2Bravo had found his going tough in England ever since his debut when he dropped a simple cross to gift Zlatan Ibrahimovic a goal in City’s 2-1 victory over Manchester United on September 10, 2016.

He had a paltry six clean sheets in 27 appearances before losing his place to understudy Caballero. With an embarrassing statistic of 42.6% goals conceded of the total shots on target faced, the English media was at his throats. City was conceding a goal with every 2.5 shots on target they faced, numbers which are particularly unfavorable for the team’s last line of defense. Guardiola stood behind his keeper, staunchly supporting his decision to sign Bravo.

” He reads when men are free. It is not easy to read that,” he said.

“He gives us the continuity to play. What the fans express, I am not here to judge.”

“He is strong enough,” he continued. “He was nominated with the five best goalkeepers in the world this year.

“I am safe with both goalkeepers I have. I am delighted and so happy he is with us. I know I can count on him.”    

 

3Looking back today, not many can disagree with the bald genius. Yes, Bravo had a torrid first season in the Premier League. Yes, Manchester City has signed Ederson from Benfica to compete and put pressure on Bravo for the number one spot. But the Catalan never doubted his man, he always knew the Chilean was the one who suited the best with his philosophy.

The season ended on a sour note, with an injured Bravo mainly playing second fiddle to his South American Compatriot throughout the second half of the campaign. He even had to sit out the first match in the Confederations Cup against Cameroon.

He was emphatic after his outstanding penalty shootout performance. “It was not just luck,” the 34-year-old said through a translator. “Towards the end we were quite tired but we were still passionate – playing with our head and our heart.”

It might sound ludicrous, but Bravo’s three saves against Portugal equalled the total number he made for City in six Premier League games in 2017.

Germany awaits, which will be the third consecutive international tournament final Chile has progressed to. And Claudio Bravo had been instrumental to all of them. After watching Bravo pointing his fingers towards the sky after saving THREE consecutive penalties, one must be wondering the outcome. Nevertheless, it will surely be an exciting summer ahead, starting this Sunday at Saint Petersburg. Only time will tell us whether his form will continue, whether he can win back Guardiola’s trust, but he sure reminded everyone who the Claudio Bravo really is.

 

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June 22, 2017
by Frontsmother
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Confederations Cup 2017: Goalkeeper Preview

A look at the goalkeepers from the eight teams competing in the Confederations Cup 2017, Russia’s dress rehearsal for the 2018 World Cup.

 

Mexico

Guillermo Ochoa
Age: 31 years
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 78 kg
Club: Free Agent

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The frizzy haired goalkeeper shot to fame after his heroic exploits against Brazil in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A decent shot stopper with a penalty saving trait, he is the first-choice goalkeeper for Mexico. Coming off a disappointing season with Granada, where he broke the record for most goals conceded in a single La Liga season (82), which ultimately led to relegation. However, he displayed his reflex abilities by recording the most saves in across the top 5 leagues in Europe in the 2016/17 season. The CONCACAF Gold champions will be depending heavily on this proven shot-stopper.

 

New Zealand

Stefan Marinovic
Age: 25 years
Height: 192 cm
Weight: 96 kg
Club: SpVgg Unterhaching

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The Auckland resident plays for German 4th division club SpVgg Unterhaching. A decent presence between the sticks, he helped his team achieve promotion to the third tier in the 2016/17 season. A regular for the “All Whites”, he was outstanding in New Zealand’s triumph at the OFC Nations Cup 2016, winning the Golden Gloves Award.

 

Portugal

Rui Patricio
Age: 29 years
Height: 190 cm
Weight: 84 kg
Club: Sporting Clube de Portugal

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Patricio was a standout performer for Portugal as they won Euro 2016, and was named in the team of the tournament. The Portuguese keeper has been capped 57 times for his country while clocking up almost 400 appearances for the Primeira Liga side since graduating from their youth academy in 2006. He may not receive the same adulation as his national captain, Cristiano Ronaldo, but Portugal’s strive at yet another cup will depend a lot on how he performs.

 

Russia

Igor Akinfeev
Age: 31 years
Height: 186 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Club: PFC CSKA Moscow

5

Igor Akinfeev has been the number one keeper for CSKA Moscow since 2003 where he debuted as a 17-year-old. A real stalwart for CSKA and Russia, he also holds the unwanted record of having not earned a single clean sheet in the UEFA Champions League, i.e. 39 Champions League matches (43 if you include qualifying rounds). An experienced head between the sticks, the club, and national team captain will be leading from the front, hoping to win his first international crown.

 

Australia

Mathew Ryan
Age: 25 years
Height: 184 cm
Weight: 82 kg
Club: Brighton & Hove Albion F.C

6

The Socceroo goalie is well traveled, having played in the top divisions in Australia, Belgium and Spain. He has also competed in European competition, settling down as the first choice for his nation. Ryan has previously won the Belgian Cup and was chosen as the Belgian Pro League Goalkeeper of the Year in both 2014 and 2015. Premier League new boys Brighton & Hove Albion recently agreed on a club-record deal to sign him from Valencia. Approaching his prime, he will be determined to leave an impression on the big stage.

 

Cameroon

Fabrice Ondoa
Age: 21 years
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Club: Sevilla Atletico

7

First coached at Fundesport, the foundation created by Samuel Eto’o back in Cameroon, his football education continued at Barcelona’s prestigious La Masia academy. Loaned out to Sevilla, Ondoa has not enjoyed the spell as he would have wanted, spending the season as an understudy in the club’s B team, Sevilla Atletico. His fortunes may be about to change, however, with the Andalusian club having just signed him on a deal that will run to 2020. His brilliant performance at the Nations Cup, which the Indomitable Lions won, justifies his tag as first-choice for his country.

 

Chile

Claudio Bravo
Age: 34 years
Height: 184 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Club: Manchester City

8

The Chilean veteran has experienced a nightmare debut season in English Football, conceding a goal with almost 65% of the shots he faced. Amidst this rough patch, he is still the number 1 for his country. Excellent with his feet, he was instrumental for both FC Barcelona and Chile, winning a host of titles, with his recent antics at the Copa America Centenario guiding his nation to victory. He will be geared up at this tournament to prove his critics wrong and remind everyone of his abilities that influenced Pep Guardiola to bring him to England.

 

Germany

Marc-André ter Stegen
Age: 25 years
Height: 187 cm
Weight: 85 kg
Club: FC Barcelona

9

Many doubted his abilities when he Joined FC Barcelona in 2014, but the young German has since won his duel against Claudio Bravo, successfully jotting down a permanent first team slot which eventually led to Bravo’s departure. Adept with both his hands and feet, he is probably the most talented of all the goalkeepers in action at the Confederations Cup. Coming off a strong season with the Catalans, he will be determined to put up a quality performance in Manuel Neuer’s absence, pushing his claim for the number one spot.

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June 8, 2017
by Frontsmother
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Gianluigi Buffon: An Ode to Football’s Eternal Youngster

2nd

Gigi Buffon appeared seriously disgruntled, head down, hands on his hips, contemplating the futility with a shake of his head, before reluctantly advancing to pick up the ball from the back of the net. Behind him, the Real Madrid supporters erupted, raucously celebrating their team scoring twice in the space of 3 minutes. The veteran stared into the distance with a straight face, hands on his hips, for what felt like an eternity. He has been here before, two years ago he had watched haplessly as Neymar Jr had wheeled away in celebration, ending his dream of winning the UEFA Champions League. This time it was Casemiro, another Brazilian, via a cruel deflection of Sami Khedira, flooring Juventus and leaving Buffon looking like a man who knew the dream was over.
It was a stark reality from the enthusiastic tone the veteran possessed 24 hours ago, chatting up about his dream finale. He had expressed hope about finally getting his hand on the one trophy that has eluded his distinguished career spanning three decades. 8 Serie A titles, 164 Italy Caps and a World Cup later, there isn’t a Champions League winners medal in his trophy cabinet, realistically, probably never will.

He must have felt it all back in 2003, wondering what it might take to finally win it. His first Champions League final against fellow country rival AC Milan, a young Buffon rose to the occasion, saving two penalties off Seedorf and Kaladze in the shootout, only to eventually lose when 3 Juventus players fluffed their lines from the spot.
Exactly 22 years ago, Nevio Scala had made the most important call of his coaching career. On the 19th of November 1995, he had handed a 17-year-old rookie his Serie A debut against the mighty AC Milan of Fabio Capello. The Parma first team goalkeeper was injured and Buffon was added to the senior squad.

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“He started training with us on a Tuesday. He stood in goal and did extraordinary things – yet they seemed perfectly normal for him. Then, we started doing some drills with the forwards and nobody managed to score against him.
“I turned to my goalkeeper coach, Vincezo Di Palma, and I asked him if he could see what I was seeing. ‘This guy is a phenomenon,’ he replied. Both of us were speechless.” – Nevio Scala.
He spent the remainder of the week mesmerized by the talented youngster, unsure whether to play him. A visit to the dressing room on the eve of the game proved decisive.

“I decided to go to speak with Gigi,” he continues. “I didn’t give him any time to think about why I was there and I said this exact sentence to him: ‘And if I make you play tomorrow?’ His response? ‘No problem, coach.”

His faith was fully repaid as Buffon turned in one of the most memorable debuts in the history of Serie A, making incredible saves from Roberto Baggio and George Weah, with one world-class stop from Marco Simeone.
A star was born that day. A star so bright that it prompted the Old Lady to part with €53 million which, in today’s climate of excessive transfer fees remains the world record for any goalkeeper.

As legendary Italian Goalkeeper Dino Zoff would later recall: “I’ve never seen a debut like his for the personality and quality he showed.”
Gigi though was largely unfazed: “Juventus came to see me, thought ‘this Buffon really is something’ and paid a lot of money. I really never had any problem with that.”
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This self-confidence and composure- crucial traits that built his intimidating and assertive image on the field. It created the aura that he is almost untouchable, even today.
It also helped him fight his own personal battle- depression. At the age of 26, he suffered from certain mental problems but was adamant not to take medication.
“I make the rules, without depending on drugs I carved my own destiny”.
This wasn’t the only adversity that he faced. Prior to the World Cup, the “Calciopoli” scandal unearthed. Buffon was also accused of taking part in illegal betting in various Serie A matches, though he was cleared of all charges a year later.
The blow was devastating on other accounts. Juventus were demoted to the Serie B and stripped of their two previous scudetti. Chaos reigned supreme. Several big names left the club, namely Fabio Cannavaro, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Patrick Vieira, Lilian Thuram along with their star manager Fabio Capello.
Few could have blamed Buffon if he jumped ship at that time as Barcelona came calling. But Gigi, along with David Trezeguet, Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved chose to stay and fight, eventually restoring the honor of a tainted club. He even received the first red card of his career at this point, as life in the second tier proved to be harsh. He described the experience as “difficult, but not enjoyable”.

4th
The old lady was left to rebuild and re-emerge, a journey back to prominence and eventual dominance of recent times. Buffon was there, standing tall, even to this day. This period demonstrated his endurance, an undying allegiance towards his club. More of a realist, his dedication and mental strength has embodied his hunger for success.
“Everyone had to make their own decisions,” Buffon said. “It seemed right to stay with the club as a sign of respect for the way they treated me.”
The FIFA World Cup 2006 arrived. And Buffon, along with his azzurri teammates duly responded. They were crowned champions with Gigi playing a huge role in the penalty shootout victory against France in Berlin. To-date, he is still the most capped Italian player with 167 appearances. No other goalkeeper has appeared in as many matches at the UEFA European Championship (17).

5th

In a country which can be overtly critical of goalkeepers, his willingness and tactical adaptability to embrace the transition to a more technical, footwork based goalkeeping game commands instant respect. It indicates how long Buffon has been around at the top level, displaying consistency, grit helping him to evolve- always a step further. It’s astonishing that even today, he remains irreplaceable.
Buffon, for all his achievements, is far from egoistic. He is simply a humble intelligent man who eyes his stardom from a very different angle than most superstars. He declares “luck and professionalism” as the secret to his consistency and prolific appearance rate. He jokingly stated that he wants to continue until the age of 65, which, to some extent doesn’t sound far-fetched when you consider the guy.

6th

This is a man who has taken goalkeeping to a whole different level. A role model and motivator on and off the pitch, he is more than a legend in Turin. He represents Juventus, everything the club stands for. Throughout its journey from stardom to darkness and back to the very top, one name remained constant, Gianluigi Buffon. The coveted Champions League might not arrive, but this 39-year-old youngster will continue striving towards it. He will surely end his Journey at Juventus.
There are various contenders for the title of the best goalkeeper of his generation- Iker Casillas, Petr Cech, Edwin van der Sar being worthy contestants, but it’s hard to bet against the Italian. A new generation of exciting goalkeeping has emerged from then; Manuel Neuer, Thibaut Courtois and David De Gea leading the way, but Buffon remains the godfather between the sticks.
Write him off at your own peril.

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June 7, 2017
by Frontsmother
0 comments

UEFA Champions League Final 2016/17

Goalkeeper Ratings (out of 10)

 

1st

 

Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)                      6

 

 2nd

 

Should consider himself unlucky for conceding 2 goals via deflections, he was powerless to prevent the other two. Without any noteworthy saves, it was a night to forget for the legendary goalkeeper.

In the 20th minute, Cristiano Ronaldo was left in acres of space inside the box to place his right-footed drive for the first one, a precarious deflection off Leonardo Bonucci’s foot taking the ball away from the outstretched hands of Buffon. Lighting struck twice in the 2nd half when Casemiro’s swerving, dipping effort from distance took a wicked deflection off Sami Khedira as Buffon haplessly flapped at the ball, unable to prevent it from creeping in. The whole Juventus defense stood still as Luka Modric pulled the ball back for CR7 to convert the 3rd at the near post as Asensio provided the final nail in the coffin at the 90th min from 12 yards.

Buffon might feel let down by his defense which had successfully implemented 8 shutouts prior to the final. This was also his 3rd defeat in as many finals and realistically might bring the curtain down on an illustrious career which is still bereaved of an elusive UCL.

 

Keylor Navas (Real Madrid)                       7

 

 3rd

 

Made 3 early saves including a fine one-handed stop early on. Beaten by a wonder goal from Mandzukic, he was rarely troubled after that.

Couldn’t hold on to a powerful shot from Gonzalo Higuain in the 5th min, but did enough to mop up the troubles. He reminded everyone of his superb reflexes after pulling off an excellent one-handed stop to deny Miralem Pjanic’s wonderful half-volley from 25 yards out. One can ponder over his questionable technique and positioning for Juventus’s equalizer, apart from which he displayed a commanding presence in his box.

With back to back UCL titles, Navas will surely be thanking the “fax machine fiasco” which prevented his imminent transfer to Manchester two summers ago.

Liga Bancomer MX Clausura 2015

May 16, 2017
by Frontsmother
0 comments

El Conjeo Perez: Middle Age Wonder

Veteran goalkeeper Oscar Perez Rojas is the talk of the town in Liga MX, after scoring a header against his parent club Cruz Azul to salvage a 2-2 draw for his loan club C.F. Pachuca last month.

Oscar Perez Rojas 6After more than 400 appearances for the club, Cruz Azul deemed the former Mexico international to be too old to serve as their first choice shot-stopper back in 2008. Yet, almost a decade later, now aged 44, Perez is proving that he can still do a job in the top flight, regardless of his age.Remarkably, Perez has played for six clubs throughout his career. Yet, technically, he has only ever been a Cruz Azul player.

;"The Mexican shot-stopper was brought in following the exit of team keeper Olaf Heredia, who had departed for Santos Laguna, a club that were emerging as real contenders in Liga MX. Yet, he would have to settle for the back-up role, with fellow recruit Robert Siboldi taking the starting spot. Regardless, Perez was given the chance to impress in his inaugural campaign, making his debut against Atlas in August 1993 at the age of 20, before making six more appearances throughout.

The next few years would be up-and-down for Perez, but he was eventually handed the starting spot ahead of the 1997 Invierno (winter) tournament. Cruz Azul went on to lose just twice throughout, eventually lifting the trophy with a 2-1 victory over León in the final. Having conceded the fewest ;"number of goals in the tournament, Perez’s place as the Blue Cross’ number one was secured.

The 1997 season proved to be a remarkable one for the club, as they had already secured the 1996/97 Copa Mexico, before going on to clinch the CONACAF Champions’ Cup for the second year running, making them, at the time, the most successful team in the competition’s history. Despite these early successes, they would be the only trophies that Perez lifted with Cruz Azul, as the club struggled to dominate Mexican football in the years that followed.

After 15 seasons with the Liga MX side, his time between the sticks ;"finally came to an end in 2008. Despite featuring throughout the 2007/08 Apertura and much of the Clausura tournament, the final few months saw him displaced by Yosgart Gutierrez, who had been serving as his back-up since 2003.
Unwilling to sit out the remainder of his career on the bench, but also unwilling to depart the club that he had served throughout his entire career, Perez would begin a series of loan moves that saw him join Liga MX sides Tigres UANL, Chiapas F.C., Club Necaxa, San Luis F.C. and C.F. Pachuca.;"

He has since found a new place to call home with the latter, remaining at the club since 2013. Having helped his new team to win the Liga MX Torneo Clausura in 2016, as well as the 2016/17 CONCACAF Champions League, Perez will leave the game with plenty to look back on when he eventually decides to hang up his boots. Yet, with another 25 appearances under his belt in the 2016/17 campaign, Pachuca’s 44-year-old goalkeeper has shown that he still has plenty to give.

Sarah Bouhaddi-4

May 2, 2017
by Frontsmother
0 comments

Champions League Showdown

Having suffered a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Olympique Lyonnais in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, Manchester City have it all to do if they are to reach their first ever continental final at the expense of the reigning champions.

After powering past the likes of Russian side Zvezda 2005 Perm and Danish duo Brondby IF and Fortuna Hjorring, Nick Cushing’s Manchester City side weren’t prepared for the step up in quality that they faced against Lyon. A goal within two minutes put them on the back foot and they ultimately failed to recover.

Soccer: Women's Friendly-Mexico at USADespite their shortcomings, the club still have a chance to recover this weekend, as the two sides gear up for what is bound to be a thrilling second leg.

Heading into the fixture, much of the talk has focused on Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan — two stars of the United
States women’s national team, who will line up against each other once a
gain on Saturday.

Lloyd is widely regarded as the world’s best player right now, while Morgan isn’t far behind. Given their stature, it comes as little surprise that the battle between them has somewhat overshadowed the clash between two of Europe’s most well constructed teams. Yet, it is between the sticks where the game is most likely to be won or lost.

Guarding the goal for Manchester City will be England number 1 Karen Bardsley, who helped the Three Lions to reach the semi-final stage of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time in their history.

Karen Bardsley-2With a long club career spent playing across Europe and North America, Bardsley has made a name for herself as one of the most reliable keepers in the game. In fact, it was surprising to see Bardsley concede three goals in a single game last week, regardless of Lyon’s quality, given that she conceded just four goals throughout the entirety 2016 Women’s Super League campaign.

The veteran shot-stopper will know all too well that she needs to put in a much better shift in the second leg. However, even if the English shot-stopper can keep the ball out of her net, Manchester City will still have to score three goals down the other end in order to progress.

The likes of Lloyd, Keira Walsh and Toni Duggan will be squaring up against FreCarli Lloyd-3nch international Sarah Bouhaddi, who has been in charge of protecting the Lyon sticks since 2009. Throughout that time, Bouhaddi has made 38 appearances in the Women’s Champions League and has an incredible haul of three winners’ medals to her name.

Despite an ACL injury almost bringing an end to her career in her debut season for the club, Bouhaddi has recovered to stake her claim as one of the world’s best goalkeepers. Having conceded just three goals in the entire tournament so far, scoring past her three times on Saturday is a big ask from Manchester City.

Regardless of the final score, with an abundance of attacking quality in both teams and two experienced goalkeepers with plenty to offer guarding the goals, this game will be a tense and exciting affair for soccer fans.

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