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The Top 10 Goalkeeping Games Ever
By: Jake Lofgren
On Europe's biggest stage, Thibaut Courtois had one of the greatest games ever seen in a position deemed by many to be the hardest in sports. Whether goalkeeping is the hardest can be up for debate, but it definitely is one of the loneliest positions in all of sports. I mean, we have seen this before, right? A goalkeeper has a bad game in the Champions League final, and becomes a villain to his fans, but a goalkeeper has a great game and becomes a legend for years to come. The goalie is the only player that can use their hands and is the only player that is separated from their team by a large distance. It is a specialist position, which is why we can see a player who usually plays right back operate in midfield, but never see a goalkeeper that can also play up front (shoutout Jorge Campos).
So if goalkeeper is such a special position, then why do goalkeepers have to have games like Courtois to win man of the match? Why do goalkeepers often get underrated in Ballon d'Or voting or player of the month/year voting? Maybe that is a question for another time, but this article is dedicated to my list of the best goalkeeping performances that we have ever seen in the beautiful game.
10. Keylor Navas vs. Barcelona (2021 Champions League Round of 16)
Perhaps the most underrated goalkeeper in football history, Keylor Navas had one of his most spectacular games in the 2021 Champions League. Down 4-1 on aggregate, Barcelona took the game to PSG for the second leg. They tested PSG for everything they were worth, having 73% possession and winning the shot battle 21-7. To keep Barcelona at one goal while saving 10 shots and a penalty kick from Lionel Messi, this was a game for the history books.
9. Keylor Navas vs. Greece (2014 World Cup Round of 16)
We aren't done with him quite yet. Keylor Navas's monster game against Greece helped elevate them to their best finish in World Cup history. Keylor Navas saved seven shots and only let in one goal while Costa Rica was down to ten men for the last 24 minutes of the game. Navas helped carry Costa Rica through extra time and came up as the hero in the penalty shootout, saving the game-winning penalty.
8. Edwin van der Sar vs. Arsenal (2003 Premier League Match)
One of the greatest goalkeepers the game has ever seen in van der Sar had potentially his best performance of all time before even joining Manchester United. Before joining the Sir Alex footballing powerhouse, he was Fulham's number one. For years, van der Sar had the record for most saves in a Premier League game thanks to this performance. van der Sar made 12 saves against the Arsenal side that went on to be invincibles back in 2003/04. Breaking a record against one of the greatest sides of all-time lands you on this list.
7. Alisson vs. Tottenham (2019 Champions League Final)
After Courtois' most recent performance, Jurgen Klopp came out and said, "When the goalkeeper is Man of the Match, then something is wrong for the other team." Well, Klopp is lucky that Virgil Van Dijk was the winner of the 2019 Champions League final Man of the Match because if not for him, it would have been Alisson. For some reason, this final has gone down in history as a snooze fest that saw Tottenham have no chances. This is not the case because Alisson was forced into action by making eight saves over the 90 minutes.
6. De Gea vs. Arsenal (2017 Premier League Match)
De Gea and Tim Krul are deadlocked for most saves in a Premier League match with 14. De Gea came up with one of the best goalkeeping performances the world has ever seen in this matchup against Arsenal . In a game where Arsenal had 76% possession, 33 shots to United's 8, and were even down to 10 men due to Pogba's red card in the 74th minute. United in no way, shape, or form deserved three points, but having one of the greatest goalkeepers in the midst of one of the greatest individual goalkeeping seasons ever can buy you three points.
5. Wayne Hennessey vs. Ukraine (2022 World Cup Qualifier)
Thibaut Courtois may have stolen all the clout in the Champions League final, but Hennessy quietly matched Courtois's performance only a week later. Wales and Ukraine played for a spot at this year's World Cup in Qatar, and Ukraine dominated the game. Hennessey was forced to save nine shots against Ukraine in tough and rainy conditions. Hennessey has become a legend for the national team, helping Wales make their first World Cup since 1958.
4. Tim Howard vs. Belgium (2014 World Cup Round of 16)
Football may not be the United States' favorite sport, but Tim Howard became a household name worldwide after his performance against Belgium in 2014. The 35-year-old had the best goalkeeping performance the World Cup has ever seen, saving a record-breaking 16 shots. Howard did all he could to give the US every chance to win. Eventually, Belgium would score twice in extra time and knock the US out.
3. Thibaut Courtois vs. Liverpool (2022 Champions League Final)
Courtois had already been the best goalkeeper in the world during the 2021/22 campaign, but this game probably etched his name in stone for the FIFPro Goalkeeper of the Year by saving 9 shots and keeping 2.19 xG worth of chances out of the net. Courtois has had a number of great performances and even came out and said that the media in England never respected him as they should, but the respect he deserves is now attached to him.
2. Tim Krul vs. Tottenham (2013 Premier League Match)
One of the most heroic and underrated keepers in football history, Tim Krul comes second on the list for his record-breaking performance against Tottenham. Krul has had several iconic performances, whether it is coming on for a penalty shootout and winning his team the match or having games of incredible shot-stopping. Tim Krul versus Tottenham has the record for most saves in a Premier League game while also keeping a clean sheet with 14 saves.
1. Petr Cech vs. Bayern Munich (2012 Champions League Final)
Chelsea were nowhere near the better team in this 2012 final, but Cech's performance was enough of a difference to win them the match anyway. Petr Cech conceded one goal while making six saves to keep Chelsea in the game. Cech was already great in the semi-finals against Barcelona and was even better in the final, saving one penalty in extra time, then saving two more in the shootout. Petr Cech has earned his spot at the top of the list by carrying his club to their first ever Champions League victory against Bayern while also in Munich.
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