Monday, 10 August 2009

United the latest to pay the penalty as forwards take a step back

The football season is in its infancy and already we are discussing the first penalty shoot-out. After sharing four goals in 90 surprisingly open minutes at Wembley on Sunday, Manchester United and Chelsea were finally separated by seven spot-kicks as the 2009 Community Shield went the way of Londoners. However, United, trailing 3-1 in the shoot-out, sent forward not a seasoned goalscorer (Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen or Paul Scholes, for example) but left-back Patrice Evra - a man with just one goal to his name in almost 100 appearances for the club. While Evra's willingness to step up and be counted is admirable, the fact so many of his more attack-minded colleagues shuffled in the background is a source of puzzlement and mild frustration. And this was by no means the first time the buck has rested with one so unfamiliar from 12 yards.

The boot was firmly on the other foot in Moscow when Blues captain John Terry slipped to concede the Champions League when his crucial kick hit Edwin van der Sar's upright. Few moments have caused me, a Tottenham fan, more pain than Pascal Chimbonda's dismal effort against PSV Eindhoven which bobbled wide to send the Dutch side through to a Uefa Cup quarter-final. Then there was the ludicrous notion that Jamie Carragher had been brought on against Portugal in the 2006 for his penalty-taking prowess. Need I remind you of Carragher's goalscoring record - three strikes for Liverpool since joining the club 13 years ago. Ricardo, of course, saved the defender's effort to 'preserve' England's miserable World Cup record. And the sorest memory of all is Gareth Southgate's Euro 96 failure, when surely Ince, Anderton or McManaman would have been better equipped for the task.

It is better, managers say, to have a defensive player prepared to take a penalty than to force a reluctant forward into action. I disagree - surely players who bang in goals every day at training and notch up 15-20 in a season (be they from close-range or far) are more likely to find the net from 12 yards in a one-off situation. If they miss, fair enough, and no-one should vilify them for doing so. But when you can ask the question 'what if?', then as far as I'm concerned, the wrong man's making the long walk back to the centre circle.

No comments:

Post a Comment