Edwin van der Sar's secret to saving Nicolas Anelka's penalty in 2008 CL final

It’s crazy to think that the 2008 Champions League final was 14 years ago.

On a rainy night in Moscow, Manchester United and Chelsea engaged in battle to get their hands on the biggest prize in club football.

There were a plethora of legends of show, with two of them in Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard finding the back of the net in normal time.

Neither side managed to score a second in extra time, although Didier Drogba‘s red card for slapping Nemanja Vidic made sure it was a hugely eventful additional 30 minutes.

So, the first ever all-English Champions League final went to penalties and to say it was a dramatic shootout would be something of an understatement.

Ronaldo of all people saw his tame spot kick saved by Petr Cech, before Chelsea captain John Terry slipped and sent his penalty crashing into the post.

That unfortunate error sent the shootout to the lottery of sudden death, where Edwin van der Sar won the Champions League for United by thwarting Nicolas Anelka.

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Video: Van der Sar’s save from Anelka’s penalty

It was a wonderful save from one of the greatest goalkeepers to ever represent the Red Devils.

And the match-winning moment from Van der Sar was not down to sheer luck, oh no. It was the result of some exhausting pre-match preparation.

Back in 2017, the United and Ajax legend reminisced about his save from Anelka’s penalty in an interview with FourFourTwo, revealing the secrets behind it in the process.

How Van der Sar saved Anelka’s penalty

Van der Sar explained: “I remember studying a lot of Chelsea’s penalties on DVD before the match.

Edwin van der Sar and his Man Utd teammates celebrate CL final win vs Chelsea
MOSCOW – MAY 21: Edwin Van der Sar of Manchester United lifts the trophy following his team’s 6-5 victory in the penalty shootout during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Manchester United and Chelsea at the Luzhniki Stadium on May 21, 2008 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

“So, for example, I think I probably analysed about 40 that Frank Lampard had taken in the past. I had made plenty of notes and noticed that Nicolas Anelka would almost always take his penalties to the goalkeeper’s right.

“Later on, I heard that Chelsea had also done their homework on me and learned that I usually dived to my right.

So I think their players were told to shoot to my left, which most of them did [they all did, bar Anelka]. I’d anticipated Anelka would shoot to the other side, and thankfully that is what happened.”

Van der Sar didn’t let the pressure get to him one bit and instead calmly relied on his in-depth preparation.

Edwin van der Sar with the Champions League trophy
MOSCOW – MAY 21: Edwin van der Sar of Manchester United celebrates with son Joe a after his team’s victory during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Manchester United and Chelsea at the Luzhniki Stadium on May 21, 2008 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Well played, Edwin.

The 51-year-old went on to enjoy three more marvellous seasons between the posts at United following the team’s success in Moscow.

He set a world record in 2008/09 by not conceding a league goal for 1,311 minutes, which was part of the reason why Sir Alex Ferguson’s side won the Premier League title that season.

Van der Sar went on to lift the trophy again in 2010/11 and that was a fitting final act for one of the best to wear a pair of goalie gloves.

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