Clean Sheet – Young guns shine Down Under

by James Clark

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

This week produced more jostling on the A-League ladder with Sydney FC coming back from the death in the final minutes to record a pivotal win in their otherwise disappointing season. The win will give their management and supporters a glimmer of hope in scraping into the top six and finishing off the season in a better headspace. It has to be said the Melbourne Heart played the more controlling football for the majority of the match, but concentration again let them down when Fred left the pitch. Watching the game, I was certain that Andrew Redmayne would keep his first clean sheet, but a couple of defensive lapses at the back put paid to that stat reaching fruition.

Only two cleans sheets to speak of with the Newcastle Jets putting the sword to the hapless Brisbane Roar at Hunter Stadium. Keeper Mark Birighitti notched up his second clean sheet for the club and has come along way in tightening the Jet’s defensive shortcomings over the first half of the season.  This weekend’s clash wont be easy as they head down the F3 to Gosford for the Derby against ladder leaders Central Coast Mariners. The Mariners will be without Graham Arnold on the sideline after he was handed a one match ban for unsavoury comments made to officials in their one all stalemate against Melbourne Victory in Launceston. Both keepers had outstanding games with Matt Ryan narrowly getting the chocolates over Nathan Coe for save of the week. Coe’s spectacular diving foot block of a Michael McGlinchey shot went along way to sharing the points with the Mariners. His impressive display also earnt him his first point towards the prestigious Alex Tobin Award. Speculation still seems to follow Matt Ryan as he seeks a lucrative contract abroad. I can only see positives for young A-League talent being scouted by European clubs. It increases the exposure of our League, develops our talent further by upping their weekly workloads in some of the toughest leagues. As much as it is a loss to the A-League, the bigger picture the impending transfers only strengthen Australian football for future World Cups.

Moving to the EPL and after some late night viewing over the weekend my high opinion of Stoke City keeper Asmir Begovic is unchanged. Although having to cope with a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea, his performance in the box continues to impress. The fact that Jonathan Waters scored two own goals and missed a penalty should not remove focus off Begovic who managed some very eye-catching saves from the likes of Frank Lampard, Demba Ba and Ashley Cole. If not for Begovic’s heroics this season, Stoke City could certainly have found themselves battling down in the relegation zone. They lead the league statistics with 11 draws this season and with Begovic playing in all 22 fixtures is second only to Joe Hart with goals conceded. Hart, Petr Cech and Begovic stand together at the top of the clean sheet rankings with nine for the year, but it is Chelsea’s Cech who holds a narrow advantage in only leaking 18 goals. Other games deserving of a mention were the Arsenal v Manchester City clash at the Emirates. Until Sunday’s fixture, City hadn’t breached Arsenal’s goal line in the past five meetings or beaten Arsenal at home since October 1975. Wojciech Szczęsny’s bizarre penalty save off Edin Dzeko early in the match gave the Arsenal supporters some hope, but the attacking class and power of City soon shone through to wear down the 10 man outfit and run away with a win and prevent United from all but skipping away with this season’s title. Szczęsny’s form is rarely questioned but the communication lapses between the back four is the biggest concern facing Arsene Wenger as they aim to finish in the top four. Pepe Reina put in a solid effort for Liverpool against Manchester United at Old Trafford and looked set to be replaced by Brad Jones after an ugly collision with Shinji Kagawa in the six-yard box. Reina battled on and showed his usual toughness leaving Brad Jones waiting in the wings for another call up.

This weekend’s round see some appetising encounters starting with the London neighbours Chelsea and Arsenal meeting at Stamford Bridge.  Given that Chelsea play Southampton mid week; their tired legs could give a slight advantage to the Gunners. The highly anticipated game between Spurs and Man United at White Heart Lane will see David De Gea and and Hugo Lloris aiming for clean sheet honours, in what should be a busy game for both keepers. Best of luck with your selections and be sure to always keep one eye on the men in the box.

Random Clean Sheet Trivia Answer:

What keeper has the highest goals conceded tally in the EPL and what is the number?

Ali Al Habsi 39 goals conceded

(As at the end of EPL Round 21)

Football Quote of the Week:

Hart looked very confident with himself, so I thought we had to bring him down a peg or two.

Andrea Pirlo after his chipped penalty in the shoot-out win over England at Euro 2012

Yours in football

Big Fella (James Clark)

Twitter: @clarkies2340

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

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