Football Features

What happened next? Seven times goalkeepers were subbed on for penalty shootouts

By Muhammad Butt

goalkeepers brought on for penalty shootouts

Published: 16:31, 28 February 2022

Once a match reaches a penalty shoot-out, there isn’t much a manager can do to tactically influence the outcome.

Sure, they could deliver a rousing speech, inspiring their players to go out and win; but that’s man-management rather than tactics. In fact, with the 120th minute approaching, there’s only one tactical move left for a manager: replacing their goalkeeper.

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Taking off the starting goalkeeper and bringing on a sub is still a roll of the dice. The tactical edge is, of course, that the sub could have been preparing specifically for a shoot-out rather than for the game as a whole. And psychologically, it could terrify the opponents that a specialist has been brought onto the field specifically to counter you.

But is it effective? We took a look at seven such times a “specialist” goalkeeper has come on to face a penalty shoot-out, and what happened when they did.

Kepa Arrizabalaga vs Liverpool

  • Match: Chelsea vs. Liverpool
  • Where: Carabao Cup Final
  • When: 2022
  • Replacing: Edouard Mendy

What happened next? With a breathless, goalless draw coming to an end, Thomas Tuchel had watched Edouard Mendy make several key stops to keep Liverpool from scoring. He also knew Mendy had triumphed in a penalty shoot-out to win Senegal their first-ever Africa Cup of Nations two weeks prior.

Still, on came Kepa the specialist. And, well, Liverpool scored 11 straight penalties, including the cup-winning spot-kick from Liverpool goalie Caoimhin Kelleher, who then watched Kepa blaze his own penalty over the bar. Oh dear. Sometimes one can be too clever, Thomas!

If one Sky Sports pundit gets his way, we won’t need to update this article again.

“I hope it puts to bed the substitutions now of putting goalkeepers on,” former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp said.

“Edouard Mendy is one of the best goalkeepers in the world and you bring on Kepa instead of him, ridiculous.

“I didn’t like his behaviour when the penalties were being taken and then he took one of the worst penalties you’ve ever seen.”

But in fairness, Kepa has made more penalty shoot-out saves than any other goalkeeper in Chelsea’s history with seven stops, four of which came this season. He has also saved three of eight during games and it must be said that the penalties taken by both Chelsea and Liverpool players were all of a high standard.

“There is a method behind it and you also have the psychological side of things, where you bring a keeper on from the bench and how it affects the opposition,” said Jamie Carragher.

“That wasn’t the case and the penalties were fantastic from all players.”

Kepa Arrizabalaga vs. Villarreal

  • Match: Chelsea vs. Villarreal
  • Where: Uefa Super Cup
  • When: 2021
  • Replacing: Edouard Mendy

What happened next? And ultimately, one can’t blame Tuchel for wanting to bet on Kepa’s game-changing abilities as he did just that earlier in the season during the Uefa Super Cup after a 1-1 draw.

Kepa replaced Mendy, and after Kai Havertz missed Chelsea’s first-spot-kick, pulled his team back into it by saving Aissa Mandi’s spot-kick. Later in the shoot-out, he shut out Raul Albiol to win the trophy for the Blues.

Tim Krul vs. Costa Rica

  • Match: Netherlands vs. Costa Rica
  • Where: World Cup Quarter-final
  • When: 2014
  • Replacing: Jasper Cillessen

What happened next? When the Netherlands and Costa Rica couldn’t be separated, Louis van Gaal called for Tim Krul to come off the bench. Knowing that Costa Rica had won a shoot-out in the round of 16 (beating Greece), the Dutchman was trying to get an edge.

Cillessen expressed anger at the decision by kicking a crate of water bottles on the touchline. With Krul in goal, though, the Netherlands took the shoot-out 4-3, with Krul saving Bryan Ruiz’s shot and the deciding spot-kick from Michael Umana. It was a great trick, one Van Gaal declined to repeat for the shoot-out in the semi-final against Argentina. A shoot-out they lost 4-2, with the South Americans burying all four of their strikes.

Dele Aiyenugba vs. Etoile du Sahel

  • Match: Enyimba vs. Etoile du Sahel
  • Where: African Champions League Final
  • When: 2004
  • Replacing: Vincent Enyeama

What happened next? Etoile du Sahel beat Enyimba 2-1 in Tunisia, but Enyimba reversed it and won 2-1 in the second leg back in Nigeria. This led to the inexorable shoot-out, and there Enyimba took off their stalwart shot-stopper Vincent Enyeama and brought on penalty-saving specialist Dele Aiyenugba. And sure enough, in a contest high on tension the Nigerian saved from Saber Ben Frej, delivering the final and a second-straight Champions League for Enyimba.

Dele Aiyenugba vs. Esperance

  • Match: Enyimba vs Esperance
  • Where: African Champions League semi-final
  • When: 2004
  • Replacing: Vincent Enyeama

What happened next? For a man to pull off the penalty-saving routine once in a career is wild.  To do it twice in the same season is downright preposterous. Yet before Dele Aiyenugba had become an instant legend against Etoile du Sahel, in the semi-final against Esperance he came on for the shoot-out after two 1-1 draws and made two saves to take Enyimba to the final he would later star in!

Pietro Spinosa vs. Ascoli

  • Match: Castel di Sangro vs. Ascoli
  • Where: Serie B play-off
  • When: 1996
  • Replacing: Roberto De Juliis

What happened next? Before a fateful penalty shoot-out that would decide if Castel di Sangro would be promoted to Serie B for the first-time in their history, their wild coach Osvaldo Jaconi subbed off Roberto De Juliis, a goalkeeper who had played every minute of the season so far to bring on veteran back-up Pietro Spinosa.

Spinosa started off soft, like Kepa, letting five spot-kicks past him. But unlike Kepa in 2022, Pietro got his act together and saved the sixth spot-kick to hand Castel di Sangro a miracle win and a place in Serie B.

Zeljko Kalac vs Crystal Palace

  • Match: Leicester vs Crystal Palace
  • Where: First Division Play-Off final
  • When: 1996
  • Replacing: Kevin Poole

What happened next? When Martin O’Neill’s Leicester were approaching the final hurdle of their quest for promotion to the Premier League, they faced a gruelling match against Crystal Palace. It ended 1-1 after 90 minutes and as the 120th minute approached, O’Neill brought on the colossal 6’8 goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac in anticipation of the penalty shoot-out.

O’Neill later recalled that some of the Crystal Palace players felt “disturbed” by the substitution and lost some concentration, which was enough for Leicester to knock a free-kick down to the edge of the area where Steve Claridge was able to race onto it, unmarked, and smash a half-volley into the back of the net and win it without Kalac ever having to face a spot-kick!