Do defenders get enough credit?
They’re rarely in the running for the Ballon d’Or award and while midfielders and strikers can make headlines with a neat assist or fancy goal, there’s arguably less scope for praise with being a defender.
And yet a solid centre-back or versatile full-back is crucial to any successful team.
Just look at the way Virgil van Dijk transformed Liverpool. Before his arrival in 2018, the Reds were too weak at the back to win a major trophy.
But he brought leadership and exceptional quality to their backline and they’re now one of the best teams in the world, with a Premier League title and another Champions League trophy to shout about.
Greatest piece of defending?
This article isn’t about Van Dijk, though.
It’s about Evgeny Chernov, a Russian defender who went viral in 2019 after producing one of the finest pieces of defending you’re ever likely to see.
Chernov was playing for Rostov in their Russian Premier League game against Lokomotiv Moscow.
In the last minute of the match, with Rostov leading 2-1, Lokomotiv seemed certain to score when Rostov goalkeeper Egor Baburin vacated his goal and left it open.
But Chernov had other ideas. He initially blocked a goalbound header on the line before recovering to throw his body at the ball after it was lashed back towards the goal.
It was a remarkable piece of last-ditch defending. Chernov quite literally put his body on the line to keep the ball out.
There’s an award for the greatest goal of the year. How about an award for greatest piece of defending?
If there was then Chernov would have been the unanimous winner in 2019.