Clean Sheet – Covic a mainstay as Wanderers finish top

by James Clark

Ante CovicWelcome to ‘Clean Sheet’, an inside look at the ‘Number 1’ position in world football… “Goalkeeper”

With the International duties done and dusted for the time being, it was back to the A-League final round, EPL and an FA Cup replay. As good as the battle for World Cup qualification is on the football calendar, the week in week out battle for the top four or to avoid relegation is far more entertaining in my humble opinion.  

Turning to the A-League for a moment, and the sun has set on the regular season. Despite the tabloid papers continuing with their negative stories on crowd behaviour and the like the game has grown in popularity with the likes of marque signings Alessandro Del Perio, Shinji Ono, Lucas Neil and Emile Heskey arriving on our shores from abroad. But what has impressed me is how the young local players have cut their teeth and are becoming household names both here and abroad in a market otherwise dominated by rugby league, union and AFL. All codes strive to claim the crown of the “greatest game in the world”, but to be honest they can all happily co-exist and work together by scheduling games so that each sport grows or even cross pollinates with every summer or winter.

Here are some interesting statistics for the lovers/admirers of the men in the six-yard box. Being in the unashamedly former category, I marvel at the talents of the often lonely and much maligned figure so the figures don’t tend to surprise as much as raise my admiration of the hours of work put in plying their craft. A total of 20 keepers took to the pitch for over 24,208 minutes, making a combined 866 saves, conceding 369 goals while 14 of them managed 65 clean sheets between them. Most impressive stats however if you asked most keepers they would tell you it can always be improved on.

Ante Covic has been one of the standout keepers this season after heading back to the Western suburbs of Sydney to be part of history with the Wanderers winning the Premiers’ Plate in their inaugural year. Covic played every minute of every match this season and finished equal on top with 10 clean sheets with Central Coast Mariners Matthew Ryan. As I mentioned in an earlier edition of Clean Sheet if the tally was tied at the end of the regular season then the prize will be awarded to the goalkeeper who has had the fewest goals conceded for the year. In retrospect given that Covic played four more games than Ryan I will be awarding him a consolation prize for his service to the #keepersunion. Congratulations to both keepers and I look forward to getting in contact to award your prizes. The winner Mathew Ryan will proudly receive a quality set of Manchester with the highest of thread counts. Look forward to posting a happy snap with Maty in receipt of one of the highest goal keeping honours in world football!

Good luck to the teams competing in the first week of the finals with the Melbourne Victory hosting the Perth Glory in the first of the elimination finals at Etihad Stadium. Perth’s momentum has been steady of late and their recent win over the Victory only a fortnight ago will give them plenty of confidence in causing an upset.

In the other clash Adelaide United takes on Brisbane Roar at Hindmarsh Stadium. The two teams met back in early March and it was the Roar who ran away with the points after a late Ben Halloran strike. The worrying sign for the Reds is that they have only won one of their last five matches while the Roar have only least once. I know I’m biased but momentum is a big card to carry into the finals and the experience of Roar is well documented and will be the difference. The Wanderers and Mariners both earn a week off but both sides will be keen spectators to analyse their potential opponents for the following weekend.

A quick look at the EPL and I managed to get up early to watch one of Australia’s living legends, Mark Schwarzer play a massive role in putting the sword to relegation favourites QPR. His penalty save off Loic Remy was vintage Schwarzer as well as was his “Inspector Gadget” later in the match.  Chelsea keeper Petr Cech’s amazing form continued in the FA Cup reply with one of the saves of the year. His giant hand helped his side to move one match closer from a return to Wembley.  David De Gea recorded his ninth clean sheet in Manchester United’s win over Sunderland, while City’s Joe Hart streaked ahead of the competition with his 14th in 30 games. 

That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll look at the Champions League keepers and how the cream is rising to the top, A-League finals and then round it out with all the keeping news in the English Premier League.

Football Quote of the Week

I couldn’t settle in Italy – it was like living in a foreign country.

Ian Rush, (ex-Liverpool) when asked how he enjoyed his time at Juventus

Poor Ian could really have used Google Maps back then!

Yours in football and “KEEPING it real”.

Big Fella (James Clark)

Twitter: @clarkies2340

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

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