Clean Sheet – A-League’s best put on a show

by James Clark

Mat Ryan MarinersWelcome to ‘Clean Sheet’, an inside look at the ‘Number 1’ position in world football… “Goalkeeper”.

Well these are the weekends I love to watch football. Goalkeepers were the talk of the town this week with outstanding goalkeeping on show and a frightfully difficult decision for save of the week.

Michael Theo’s Brisbane Roar endured the long road trip west to Perth and recorded only their second win away from home this season. Theo looked to be making a late career change as a defensive midfielder when his rush of blood from the box almost allowed Perth an equaliser if not for Perth’s midfielder Nick Ward spraying his shot over the bar. His lunging right foot save from another sharp chance again from Ward helped lift his side to within one point of the top six. The Roar now return to Brisbane for Friday night’s battle with ladder leaders and staunch rivals Central Coast Mariners.

The game of the round in my opinion was the clash between Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Heart. The Wanderland faithful again proved why they’re the envy of the league with a healthy crowd of 14,624 turning up to get their team a few points closer to securing a home final in their maiden season. Wanderers keeper Ante Covic was the hero of the night by pulling off one of the saves of the season and chalking up his fourth clean sheet in the process. Covic’s first half penalty save was matched by a ever improving Heart keeper Andrew Redmayne who according to the stats pulled off 10 saves and went along way in keeping his side in the match. Redmayne’s aerial effort denied a certain goal for Labinot Haliti and only went down in a narrow points decision to Ante Covic for my save of the week. For coach John Aloisi it was another game of missed chances as his side sits precariously in sixth spot as they struggle to maintain their intensity on the pitch for the full 90 minutes.

To wrap up the A-League focus, an interesting statistic worth noting is the average goals conceded by keepers in minutes played. It’s no surprise that Mat Ryan and current clean sheet tally leader only concedes a goal for his side in every 130.9 minutes of park time. To put this stat into some perspective, Adelaide’s Eugene Galekovic with equal minutes played averages a goal every 72 minutes played. It must be said that the Mariners do boast the best defensive record in the league and Ryan would be the first to admit that his back four contribute in part to his great record, but it is a great stat nonetheless.

To the EPL and this morning’s fixtures rounded off a tough week of tipping as Round 24 of the competition drew to a close.  Joe Hart continues to give his team every chance of chasing down their Manchester rivals and retain their league title from last year with another clean sheet against QPR. The only problem is that QPR’s Julio Cesar stood in the way of a much needed victory to help gain ground on a United side brimming with confidence despite their goalkeeping woes.

David De Gea again earned the wrath of the United supporters and English press after leaking an early goal against Southampton.  For an outfit that is seven points clear at the top of the league, De Gea is never far from transfer market speculation and his effort certainly did nothing to quell talk of him leaving Old Trafford over the summer. His skill level is hard to question but on this occasion his courage at the contest was as soft as a freshly made sponge cake. De Gea only needs to view a highlights reel with the likes of Pepe Reina, Petr Cech, Mark Schwarzer or our very own Andrew Redmayne to show that going in hard in a one on one contest is what’s required to keep goal any top flight league. What many articles won’t report is that De Gea also saved his side from sharing the points with an extraordinary save from a Southampton set piece late in the match.

At the opposite end, Polish international keeper Artur Boruc pulled off one of the saves of the week by denying Robin van Persie United’s third goal from point blank range. It is well worth seeing a replay to catch the look of surprise on Robin van Persie’s face. A solid barrel chested customer, Boruc is a keeper that tends to fly under the radar given his side’s position on the ladder, but is one to watch after only starting in seven games this season and recording two clean sheets thus far. He also denied Wayne Rooney a hat trick after the two met heavily in the box, with Boruc winning the race to clear the ball.

At that point I almost choked on my porridge after I hearing co-commentator and ‘football analyst’ Chris Kamara say, “You look around in world football and there’s not many great goal keepers around”…  Sorry he must be watching a different game to me… What the?  Hart, Buffon, Reina, Cech, Begovic, Casillas, Valdez, Neuer, Schwarzer, Lloris, César….Should I stop?

The only other clean sheet recorded this round was in the scoreless draw between Swansea and Sunderland. This lifted the Black Cats’ Simon Mignolet into equal second behind Joe Hart on the clean sheet honour board with nine with Swans’ Gerhard Tremmel notching up his third.

The pick of the games this weekend is Liverpool travelling to The Etihad to take on Manchester City in what promises to be a game where the referee will be kept on his toes.

Until next week…

Football Quote of the Week:

The game was crazy. Bayern Munich scored on about 80 minutes, and with the last corner, our only one, Didier [Drogba] scored. After my penalty was saved I still believed in Petr Cech. He was like an angel and saved the important ones. It was an explosion of feelings when Didier scored that [winning] penalty. It was destiny.

– Juan Mata

Yours in football

Big Fella (James Clark)

Twitter: @clarkies2340

Blog: http://cleansheetfootball.blogspot.com.au/

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