Midweek Muse: Goalscoring keepers in the Premier League

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Serie A minnows Benevento earned their first-ever point in Serie A on Sunday in an extremely newsworthy fashion, as their goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli planted a diving header beyond Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma in injury time to secure a 2-2 draw. 

While the goal itself is no thing of grace, Brignoli’s fall after contacting the ball with his head would not get him any marks for artistic merit, the goal is undoubtedly already the most famous in Benevento’s history. It also brings into focus that rarest of things, the goalscoring goalkeeper. 

Tom Simmonds looks at the three custodians who have done what they’re not supposed to in the Premier League era.

Paul Robinson

The former Leeds, Spurs and England stopper is, unfortunately for him, chiefly remembered for kicking a divot instead of a Gary Neville backpass during a Euro 2008 in Zagreb in 2006, a mistake which set England on course for a 2-0 defeat which would set the tone for an unsuccessful campaign. What people also remember is that he has scored not one, but two goals in his 424 game domestic career. His first came in a League Cup tie for Leeds against Swindon Town in 2003 and it was not a shabby affair at all.

Robinson did well to lose his marker, attack the space at the near post and, when meeting the cross, planting a firm header inside the far post out of his opposite number Rhys Evans’ reach to level the score at 2-2. Robinson then went on to save the decisive penalty in the shoot-out, which Leeds won 4-3.

Robinson’s second career goal was less aesthetically pleasing, and less decisive, coming as it did in the course of a routine 3-1 win for Tottenham over Watford in March 2007. Robinson’s goal came either side of Jermaine Jenas’ opener and Hossam Ghaly’s clincher, and it was a goal you would expect to see down the park on a Sunday morning rather than in a Premier League game.

Robinson booted a free kick out to the left deep in Spurs’ own half into the mixer. Watford centre-half Danny Shittu left the ball as its trajectory was taking it to the ground by the penalty spot in Ben Foster’s area. However, an unexpected bounce made the ball kick up and travel over Foster’s head into the net. A freak occurrence and Robinson, unlike his first goal, clearly did not mean to score with it. However, I’m sure the big man is glad it happened as it must feel like some kind of payback for his misery caused by a rutted Croatian pitch five months earlier.

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Peter Schmeichel

Robinson’s two goals are dwarfed by the prowess of the Danish legend, who we are far more used to discussing in conversations about all-time great goalkeepers. He arrived at Old Trafford in 1991 as a goalkeeper with a reputation for being able to score goals as well as keep them out, having scored six in one season for Hvidovre in 1985 and two for Brondby in his five seasons there.

His skills in the opposition penalty box became known to a wider audience in September 1995, as he scored an injury-time header for United in the UEFA Cup against the Russian outfit Rotor Volgograd. Schmeichel was unchallenged as he rose to meet a corner with a thumping downward header that the Russian gloveman made a complete hash of gathering and all but threw it into the net as a consequence. The goal was inconsequential, ultimately, as United exited the competition on away goals, but it was a good way for Schmeichel to prove that his common trick of appearing in the opposition box for late corners was not just a gimmick.

An overhead kick against Wimbledon in an FA Cup fourth-round replay which United lost 1-0 was a great feat of athleticism, but was disallowed due to Schmeichel being yards offside after the Dons defence stepped up to play the offside trap to perfection.

His other goal in English football came during the 2001-02 season when he played 29 times for an Aston Villa side who finished eighth after a promising start. The goal came in another ultimately fruitless cause, as Villa went down 3-2 to Everton at Goodison. It did, however, showcase some fine technique on Schmeichel’s part as he, stood on the corner of the six-yard box, watched the ball onto his right foot before volleying it into the net despite the presence of an Everton defender on the back stick.

The irony about Schmeichel’s goalscoring feats is that he is not the top-scoring keeper in United history. That honour belongs to their first European Cup winning keeper Alex Stepney, who lodged two goals in his twelve-year career at Old Trafford and who is also remembered for conceding a goal not dissimilar to Robinson’s vs Watford to Spurs keeper Pat Jennings in the 1967 Charity Shield.

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Asmir Begovic

The last goalkeeper to score a Premier League goal was current Bournemouth number one Asmir Begovic, who presumably spends his working days now reminding his understudy, Artur Boruc, about it. It was Boruc who Begovic beat with an enormous wind-assisted punt after 13 seconds of a Stoke vs Southampton fixture in November 2013. This goal was a crucial one for the Potters, as they needed it to secure a point against a Saints team who were, at that point, flying under Mauricio Pochettino. In fairness to Begovic, he looked thoroughly embarrassed by the whole thing and wanted no part of any celebration. Not quite as embarrassed as Boruc though, who fell indecorously as he scrambled back to try to retrieve a ball which bounced over his head and spun wickedly away from him into the net.

If we look away from these shores, you can find plenty of ‘keepers who are outliers of this tradition that dictates that goalkeepers must stay at home. These are usually to be found in South America. Sao Paolo legend Rogerio Ceni was his team’s dead-ball specialist and ended up scoring 131 times for them between 1990-2015, mostly from free-kicks and penalties. Paraguay’s most famous ever player, Jose Luis Chilavert, scored 67 goals in his distinguished career and remains the only ‘keeper ever to score a hat-trick.

Fellow South American custodians Jorge Campos and Rene Higuita also notched 46 and 41 career goals respectively, but there have also been prolific European keepers. Levski Sofia gloveman Dimitar Ivankov slotted in 42 penalties during a career playing in Bulgaria and Turkey but the most famous European scoring goalkeeper is easily Hans Jorg Butt.

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Butt, who was capped four times by Germany, scored 32 times in a senior career which was spent largely at Hamburg, Leverkusen and Bayern, though he was taken off penalty duty during his 63 appearances for FC Hollywood, so all his scoring was done before he got there in 2012. His 19 goals in 133 games for HSV is an astonishing record which will surely never be eclipsed by any future goalkeeper, particularly now as any manager who lets their keeper take a penalty during the course of a real game will be acutely aware of the relentless stick they’ll cop from all quarters should they miss one.

In one sense, it does make sense for goalkeepers to be used as attackers at times of emergency. Their height and jumping ability can create an added layer of confusion to set-piece situations and, given they kick the ball large distances several times a game, they certainly have a powerful shot if they can get their radar right. For an example of this, check out Kevin Pressman taking a penalty against Wolves in the FA Cup. However, the fact that goalscoring is not generally something that will ever be expected of goalkeepers, events such as those propagated by Brignoli this weekend will continue to be newsworthy because they will continue to be so rare.

Follow Tom on Twitter at @tallulahonearth

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