Comoros goalkeeper crisis: 13 times an outfield player was forced to go in goal

Comoros goalkeeper crisis: 13 times an outfield player was forced to go in goal

News broke over the weekend that Comoros will be forced to play without a recognised goalkeeper in their African Cup of Nations last-16 clash with hosts Cameroon on Monday evening.

First-choice shot-stopper Salim Ben Boina is unavailable through injury, while his two understudies are ruled out due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Comoros were handed a brief glimmer of hope on the morning of the game when one of the affected goalkeepers – Ali Ahamada – returned a negative COVID test. However, as CAF rules state that he must now quarantine for five days, it seems he will be unable to take the field with his countrymen.

Despite the nightmare scenario, Comoros are remaining resolute, with assistant manager Daniel Padovanni telling The Guardian: “We’ve already chosen an outfield player who will start as keeper. It’s a player who in training has shown that he can play as a keeper.”

Outfield players being called upon to fill in as makeshift goalkeepers is nothing new in football, although typically it occurs after an injury or sending off during a game, rather than 24 hours before kick-off.

In view of Comoros’ situation, we’ve decided to rank 13 of the most famous examples of players who were asked to don the gloves at short notice. Some of these will fill their supporters with more hope than others.

13. Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur vs Asteras (2014)

The current England captain had already had a successful night in this Europa League encounter, helping himself to a hat-trick against Spurs’ overmatched Greek opponents.

His efforts after replacing the sent off Hugo Lloris in between the sticks for the latter stages of the game, though, were not pretty.

Kane won’t want to relive the sight of him fumbling Jeronimo Barrales’ free-kick into the net too often.

12. Dani Alves – Paris Saint-Germain vs Sochaux (2018)

Any outfield player forced into taking on the role of emergency goalkeeper would probably appreciate doing so in these circumstances.

PSG were 4-1 up heading into the final minute of this French Cup tie when goalkeeper Kevin Trapp was given his marching orders.

Having used all their substitutes, the Parisians passed the gloves to Brazilian right-back Alves, who had absolutely nothing to do for the remaining seconds of the match. 

11. John Terry – Chelsea vs Reading (2006)

Terry had a similarly easy time of it when he was asked to deputise for the injured pair of Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini in the final moments of this Premier League clash.

Called upon only to hoof the ball upfield, a nine-man Blues survived to claim a valuable three points with a 1-0 win.

10. Kyle Walker – Manchester City vs Atalanta (2019)

Another Premier League defender made to don the gloves after his side lost two keepers in one match, Walker’s first act after stepping in for Claudio Bravo was to face a free-kick from Atalanta’s Ruslan Malinovskyi.

Although he needed two bites at the cherry, the England man managed to save a relatively tame effort from the Ukrainian. 

9. Angel Rangel – Swansea vs Cardiff (2013)

The Swans were already trailing 1-0 to their fierce local rivals in added time when keeper Michel Vorm brought Frazier Campbell down while he was clean through on goal.

The Dutchman was dismissed, leaving Swansea with no alternative but to put Spanish right-back Rangel in between the posts for the closing minutes of the match.

Rangel coped well in his brief cameo, leaping well to tip a Peter Whittingham free-kick over the bar. His side still lost the derby, but at least no further damage was done to the scoreline.

8. John O’Shea – Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur (2007)

This entry makes the list almost as much for the reaction of Wayne Rooney from the United bench as it does for O’Shea’s goalkeeping abilities.

That said, the Irish centre-back did well to thwart Spurs’ Robbie Keane with a perfectly-timed challenge as the striker charged towards goal. 

7. Vinnie Jones – Wimbledon vs Newcastle United (1995)

Wimbledon hardman Jones may have shipped three goals in the Dons’ 6-1 defeat to Newcastle after replacing the dismissed Paul Heald minutes into the second half, but his overall effort was a creditable one.

Producing a number of crucial saves, the Magpies’ margin of victory would have been much healthier had it not been for Jones. 

6. Phil Jagielka – Sheffield United vs Arsenal (2006)

With Sheffield United holding a slender 1-0 lead at home to Arsenal, the last thing boss Neil Warnock wanted to see was his first-choice goalkeeper Paddy Kenny going down with an injury, particularly as he didn’t have a replacement on the bench.

For more than 30 minutes, Jagielka – with the help of his defence – kept the Gunners at bay. The highlight of his performance came when he superbly tipped over a close-range effort from Robin van Persie.

The Blades held out, with Warnock telling BBC Sport after the match that he had no regrets about not including a substitute goalkeeper on his team sheet.

“I like having an extra forward on the bench. I didn’t panic when he (Jagielka) went in goal, he doesn’t get worried and neither do I. It’s the only chance he’s got of being Man of the Match,” he joked.

5. Robbie Savage – Derby County vs Reading (2010)

A number of appearances mentioned earlier involved outfield players taking the gloves for a short period of time. Outspoken TV pundit Robbie Savage didn’t have that luxury in 2010 when, as Derby County captain, he went in goal for the Rams for more than 50 minutes.

Having replaced starting goalkeeper Saul Deeney, who was sent off, Savage produced a string of high-class stops, including a magnificent save to tip a free-kick around the post.

Granted, he was eventually beaten twice, but that shouldn’t take away too much from his heroic effort.

4. Jan Koller – Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich (2002)

With 55 goals in 91 appearances for the Czech Republic, giant striker Jan Koller posed a unique threat upfront to every defence he faced.

Turns out he wasn’t a bad goalkeeper, either, as the same attributes that made him a handful in the opposition box also translated well to defending his own with the gloves on. 

After playing as a keeper in his youth, Koller was the man that Dortmund turned to when Jens Lehmann was given his marching orders for dissent against Bayern Munich.

Koller negotiated the final 20 minutes of Dortmund’s 2-1 defeat without any trouble – and looked assured every time he was called into action.

He even ventured forward for a late set-piece as his side pressed for a late equaliser – which they couldn’t find. 

3. Michael Tarnat – Bayern Munich vs Eintracht Frankfurt (1999)

Typically seen on the left side of defence for Bayern in his career, Tarnat showed unbelievable agility to push a deflected effort away from goal after he was called upon to take over keeping duties in the final 10 minutes of this clash with Frankfurt. A sensational save that even a seasoned goalkeeper would be proud of. 

2. Niall Quinn – Manchester City vs Derby County (1991)

Another striker-turned goalkeeper example. However, on this occasion, City frontman Quinn was called upon to face a penalty-kick – and saved it in fine style. The reflexes on show here really were something from the big man.

Quinn had opened the scoring at Maine Road, before being asked to take his place in goal after Tony Coton had been given his marching orders for a foul on Derby striker Dean Saunders just before half-time.

Though Quinn did eventually concede a late goal, the match must rank as one of the more memorable of his career.

1. Cosmin Moti – Ludogorets vs Steaua Bucharest (2014)

As noted above, it’s not unheard of for an outfield player to hold their own in goal when circumstances demand it. Typically, however, this is done with the assistance of a defensive unit to help out.

In a penalty shootout scenario, though, when everything falls on the goalkeeper to prevent the ball going into the net it’s quite a different matter.

Unless that is, you are Ludogorets centre-back Moti. Forced into action as a makeshift shot- stopper, the Romainian somehow pulled off a pair of fantastic saves in the shootout – and even scored one for his own side.

His monumental efforts guaranteed Ludogorets a Champions League group stage spot in the most spectacular fashion. Not a bad evening’s work at all. 

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