Clean Sheet – Grand Final countdown

by James Clark

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

Well it is down to the last weekend of the A-League and the two best teams have made it through. The Western Sydney Wanderers will host the Central Coast Mariners at Allianz Stadium on Sunday afternoon and it’s also not surprising that the two best keepers in the league go head to head. When you throw the stats out there you will notice just how close these two glove men are in ability and performance on the pitch.

Ryan earned his inaugural “Clean Sheet” linen Manchester package this season although it is obvious that Covic’s gloves were more worn with almost double the amount of saves required. Both teams are deserving of their place in the final after viewing their respective for and against records. A very healthy 41-21 for the WSW compared to 48-22 for the Mariners. A record any manager would be proud of.

Here’s how the two keepers measured up.

Goalkeeper

Team

Minutes Played

YTD Saves

Goals Conceded

Clean Sheets

Ante Covic

WSW

2520

90

21

11

Matthew Ryan

CCM

2160

48

20

11

There has been nothing more than a tally-ho paper between both keepers and their respective teams all season and the Grand Final may ultimately be decided by some brilliance from either Ryan or Covic to claim the coveted “Golden Toilet Seat” trophy. Good luck to both teams and I’m sure it will be a wonderful spectacle with plenty of red and black on show for the Western Sydney Wanderers debut appearance.

The season has showcased just how talented the goalkeeping stocks are in this country and it wont be too long a wait before we see more Aussie flags embroided on gloves throughout Europe and beyond. The likes of Mark Schwarzer, Brad Jones, Adam Federici and Dean Bouzanis must be looking over their shoulders proudly at the healthy pool of talent emerging from our local leagues and competition. Much of the praise should be squarely directed at the many specialist-keeping coaches continuing their great work in lifting the crossbar and widening the goal posts so our talent is always striving to improve their game.

To the EPL and this week I witnessed one of the most clinical performances from a keepers for many seasons. Alex McCarthy was lucky enough to get his first start since an early 1-1 result against relegation rivals QPR back in November.  Liverpool had 13 shots on target and dominated possession with 61% of the ball, but even with the likes of Suarez the Reds were unable to breach McCarthy’s line. His save from a sharp chance from Daniel Sturridge was the highlight of his clean sheet. In a game that showcased the awesomeness of the boys at the back, Pepe Reina was not to be outdone by his opposite number down the other end.  If you can catch the highlight reel of the match you wont see a match dominated more by a keeper than this one. Who says a nil all draw is dull and boring? For me it’s the almost the mecca for a keeper. Even Brendan Rodgers though disappointed with the result was honest in his assessment of the match. “That’s arguably the best goalkeeping performance I’ve ever seen, watching many games and being involved in many games,” Rodgers told Sky Sports. “Not just tipping it around the corner but actually holding onto the ball.”

Very fine praise indeed, and an effort that may draw some interest from other clubs coming into the warmth of an English summer. Although we’re not used to hearing anything negative from Rodgers in his first year at the Reds. Watch this space.

The misery continued for QPR against Everton but it was Tim Howard that shone like a beacon in the Toffees’ 2-0 win over a Championship destined Hoops outfit. Julio Cesar was brave in defeat at the back just couldn’t compete against Everton’s tall timber. Howard’s sharp stop from a Loic Remy bullet was one of my saves of the week.  It was Howard’s sixth clean sheet this season, but it has been Everton’s inability to close out games this season that has let them down. A positive run home could see them challenge for a top four spot but it could come down to the last round where they take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Spurs look to have the April/May wobbles again but can enjoy a small break after their Europa League woes to refocus on their clash with Manchester City at White Heart Lane this weekend. Their London rivals Arsenal have nudged ahead of them on the ladder in the all important Champions League qualification race but can City do the Gunners some favours in providing Arsenal with some mental ammunition for the final rounds.

I’d love to keep rambling on about football and my love of the goalkeeper but the quote of the week awaits. Good luck and fair play to your team’s chances this week.

Football Quote of the Week

 

We must have had 99 percent of the game. It was the other three percent that cost us the match.

Ruud Gullit – Dutch Legend and mathematics honours student

Yours in football and “KEEPING it real”.

Big Fella (James Clark)

Twitter: @clarkies2340

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

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