The Hard Tackle lists five of the most awe inspiring saves from the year gone by, featuring the likes of David De Gea, Jan Oblak and others.
They are the last line of defence for every team, standing between an opposition player and the goal. When all else seems lost, they are the last hopes that often pull off the unthinkable, failing to let the supposedly unstoppable shots get the better of them.
So, as another year passes by, it goes without saying that there was some brilliant footballing action to marvel at. Quite naturally, there were some truly remarkable saves that took our breath away as they pulled off some special moments to remember for years. The Hard Tackle now takes a look at some of the best saves of 2017.
Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid) vs Bayer Leverkusen
Atletico Madrid’s Champions League run last season lasted till the semi-finals, but it really could have ended in the Round of 16 against an inspired Bayer Leverkusen side – one of the few teams that managed to severely test Los Rojiblancos in the competition.
The La Liga heavyweights had a certain Jan Oblak to thank for playing a major role in remaining in Europe’s premier club competition. Midway through the second leg, with the tie evenly poised, the Slovenian shot stopper did the unthinkable to keep the game all square.
Oblak first stopped Julian Brandt in his tracks before parrying away a follow-up attempt from Kevin Volland. Volland was then thwarted for a second time as a sprawling Oblak dove across the face of goal to make a third save. A triple save. Absolutely ridiculous.
No wonder the Slovenian is widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the present moment, with a few clubs trying their luck at prising him away from Atletico Madrid too. A priceless asset for Los Rojiblancos.
Peter Jeffries (Consett) vs South Shields
It’s not all that surprising when the best of the best pull off those breathtaking saves ever so often. But, when goalkeepers in the lower reaches of the sport produce such moments, it is all the more unbelievable for the regular football watchers.
Non-league Consett were up against South Shields in the Durham Challenge Cup semi-final, and their custodian Peter Jeffries produced a moment that made headlines all across the world as he made a point blank save to keep his side in the game.
A scaffolder by day, Jeffries produced one of his finest construction as he astonishingly denied Gavin Cogdon, showcasing an enviable combination of a routine stop, hand-eye coordination and a spin to claw the ball away from the goal line, just as it looked destined to go into the back of the net.
Unfortunately for Jeffries, his heroics weren’t enough to earn Consett a win as South Shields ran out 3-1 winners in the end. But, the save will perhaps remain in the memory of Jeffries and Consett fans for the remainder of their lifetimes.
Robert Zwinkels (ADO Den Haag) vs Sparta Rotterdam
Sparta goalkeeper Roy Hordsmit makes 4 point blank saves in a matter of seconds against ADO Den Haag. pic.twitter.com/KOXycb9svP
— Ball Street (@BallStreet) September 24, 2017
There are moments that make the position of a goalkeeper seem as one that is pretty trivial. But then, ever so often, the most underappreciated players in the game showcase brilliance that can’t be pulled off by your regular footballers. Robert Zwinkels did more of the same against Sparta Rotterdam in September.
The ADO Den Haag goalkeeper inexplicably made four saves on the day to deny the Rotterdam attackers when any of the shots could have landed in the back of the net any other day. All in less than ten seconds.
The first save was nothing more than routine as Zwinkels saved a central shot quite easily. He then got back up in an instant to keep the ball away from the net once again, jumped back up to his feet once again to keep a heavily deflected shot away before Rotterdam were thwarted for the fourth time.
If triple saves leave you flabbergasted then this will leave you rubbing your eyes, not once but four times. In the end, Zwinkels can be given the biggest credit for ADO taking three points from the game, as they prevailed by a slim 1-0 margin.
Alex Cairns (Fleetwood Town) vs Northampton Town
The setting – Fleetwood Town vs Northampton Town at the Sixfields ground in a League One clash on a Saturday afternoon in August. The player – the visitors’ Alex Cairns, who produced one of the early Saves of the Season contenders.
The Cobblers were denied by a fantastic triple save in a matter of two seconds as Cairns dived to his left three times to keep the shocked hosts at bay. The first, a header from six yards out that had him stretching for dear life before keeping the rebound out and then a third shot.
The Northampton players – and fans – had their head in their hands as they could only wonder how on earth their side hadn’t scored in the moment. Fleetwood managed to hang on to a slender win as they climbed up to third in the League One table. Cairns definitely was a major reason why.
David De Gea (Manchester United) vs Arsenal
Here’s a goalkeeper who has built up an unbelievable repertoire of saves that the average shot stopper can only dream of producing in his lifetime. Against Arsenal in December, David De Gea had another to add to his long list, and this time, it was not just one save.
The match itself is memorable for the Spaniard, who made a joint-Premier League record 14 saves in the match to ensure a crucial 3-1 win for Manchester United. And while he made a number of astonishing saves on the night, this one took the cake.
With the Red Devils leading 2-1 at the time, De Gea quickly got down to his right to parry Alexandre Lacazette’s fierce half-volley before reacting in an instant to deny Alexis Sanchez’s close-range shot with his right foot.
The double save ultimately helped De Gea win Manchester United’s Best Save of 2017, and with many other world-class saves in the reckoning, one can safely say that this award had some weight in it. Real Madrid can only wonder how an inexplicable fax machine gaffe helped Manchester United keep their man.