Crucial penalty saves

Eleven metres. That’s the distance between the ball and the goal line when a referee decides to give a penalty. If the shot is perfect, as shown by Dr. Ken Bray, physicist at University of Bath, the goalkeeper has practically no chance to make the save. But pressure, the environment, what’s at stake and the situation of the game have great effect on the taker’s performance. Sometimes, the keeper simply shows the extent of his skill. Following Evan Bush's impressive performances in recent games, Impact Media offers a list of 10 spot kicks saved at a crucial moment.

Evan Bush v. Kei Kamara
Montreal Impact v. Columbus Crew SC
Eastern Conference semi-final return leg, 2015

This save preserving Montreal’s aggregate lead in the Conference semi-final last year shows the importance for a ‘keeper to anticipate where the ball will go. Even if Crew SC ended up tying the score some 10 minutes later and bring both clubs in overtime, Evan Bush allows the Impact defence to breathe for a moment.

Fabien Barthez v. David Beckham
France v. England
Group stage, Euro 2004

With a 1-0 lead, England thinks it has the opportunity to build an almost insuperable lead in this Euro 2004 opening group stage game. A young Rooney, still at Everton, gets fouled by Sylvestre in the French box. David Beckham steps forward to take the penalty, facing his former Man United teammate in Les Bleus’ goal. Barthez dives the right way and two solid hands block the ball. Zidane will then change the English’s disappointment into agony by scoring on a free kick and on a penalty kick in added time, snatching three points from the Three Lions’ claws. Becks, on his side, will not recover from this missed penalty and will become Europe’s laughing stock in the quarterfinals against Portugal.

Claudio Bravo v. Lucas Biglia
Chile v. Argentina
Final, Copa América Centenario, 2016

Holders Chile are in a familiar position in this final, facing Argentina in a shootout: this exact same scenario occurred twelve months before on home soil, ending favourably for Vidal, Sanchez and co. With a 3-2 lead, Claudio Bravo gets both hands on Biglia’s penalty and sets up Francisco Silva to finish the job; he will not falter. Chile lifts the Copa América for the second time in two summers.

Petr Cech v. Arjen Robben
Chelsea v. Bayern Munich
Final, UEFA Champions League, 2012

After Thomas Müller and Didier Drogba trade near post headed goals in the last ten minutes to bring this final to overtime, the latter fouls Ribery in Chelsea’s box at the start of extra-time. Robben takes the penalty, shooting low and with power, but the tall Cech stands up – or stretches out – to the task, making the save and swallowing up the rebound. Drogba will repent in the shootout, scoring the winning penalty to give the Blues their first Champions League win in history.

Jens Lehmann v. Juan Roman Riquelme
Arsenal v. Villarreal
Semi-final return leg, UEFA Champions League, 2006

The Gunners can already smell their very first Champions League final, but with only two minutes to go in normal time, the Yellow Submarine gets a chance to score from the penalty spot and bring this tie to overtime. Argentine maestro Riquelme faces Germany’s Lehmann. The duel will end up well for Mad Jens, but his personality will get the better of him in the final: he gets sent off 18 minutes after kickoff for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity.

Manuel Almunia v. Anthony Knockaert
Watford v. Leicester City
Semi-final return leg, English Championship playoffs, 2013

Granted, we’ve spoken of this event before in this column, but it’s so good we can watch it again. And again. And again. After keeper Almunia makes a double save following a penalty, Watford counter with electrical speed and score the qualifying goal, securing their tickets to Wembley in the process. How to turn the tide 101.

Evan Bush v. Chris Wondolowski
Montreal Impact v. San Jose Earthquakes
MLS regular season, 2016



It was not the first time Evan Bush saved an Earthquakes penalty on Wednesday. This time, it could represent a turning point in the Impact’s 2016 campaign, allowing the Bleu-blanc-noir to claim a crucial win at home – and reinvigorating Stade Saputo in the process.

Peter Schmeichel v. Dennis Bergkamp
Manchester United v. Arsenal
FA Cup semi-final replay, 1999


Manchester United’s class of 92 showed what they were made of in 1999, winning the treble (league, national cup, European cup). But history could very well have been different: in the semi-final, the Red Devils have Arsenal, which won the double (league and national cup) in the previous season, in their way. With the score tied at 1-1, Dennis Bergkamp, who has already scored during the game, goes to take the penalty after Phil Neville fouled Ray Parlour in the box. Schmeichel dives the right way, makes a solid save and Ryan Giggs later scores one of the greatest goals in FA Cup history to propel United to the final.

Maxime Crépeau v. Jason Yeisley
FC Montreal v. Richmond Kickers
USL regular season, 2016

Still looking for its first win of the season, FC Montreal leads 2-0 away, on the Richmond Kickers’ field. An unlucky handball in the area offers the locals a lifeline, but Maxime Crépeau has something to say about it. The young ‘keeper saves the penalty and the rebound, deflecting the ball behind for a corner kick. The reserve team will end up winning that one 2-1 for its first three points of the season.

Nick Rimando v. MLS
Since 2000

A true MLS legend, more specifically at Real Salt Lake, where he spent the last 10 seasons, Nick Rimando might not have the typical frame of a goalkeeper, but his intuition and reflexes largely make up for it. A winner of two MLS Cups, he has been named five times on the All-Star team and has won two Save of the Year awards.