Off The Ball

Cometh the hour, cometh the keeper

When you spend the game 100 metres from your opponent's goal, getting on the scoresheet for your side is a tall order. Most keepers therefore accept their lot and focus exclusively on trying to keep their opponents at bay, but football being football, there are several examples where the last line of defence has shown his team-mates the way to the opponents' goal.

Some, like  Rogerio Ceni  or  Jose Luis Chilavert , developed such a taste for the thrill of scoring that they went on to become specialists, clocking up goal ratios that compared favourably with many an outfield player. The Mexican Jorge Campos even went as far as to play as a striker for several seasons. takes a look back at some of the principal offensive exploits of the men habitually in the firing line who have managed to turn the tables on their tormentors.

It will come as no great surprise that the earliest examples of goal-scoring keepers originate from the birthplace of football, the British Isles. The first such feat is credited to one Charlie Williams of Manchester City who, in April 1900, dispatched a clearance directly into Sunderland's goal. Ten years later, the goalkeepers of Scottish outfits Third Lanark and Motherwell offered an original variation by contributing a goal apiece in the same game. 

It should be pointed out that, back then, goalkeepers were permitted to pick the ball up anywhere on the field, a rule which these two protagonists made full use of. In the light of this encounter, the football authorities of the day amended the rules the following year, thereafter prohibiting goalkeepers from handling the ball outside their penalty area.

But rather than renouncing their goalscoring ways, keepers began to find ways of contributing goals without leaving the box. During the 1967 English Charity Shield, the legendary Tottenham Hotspur keeper Pat Jennings surely never imagined that, when he cleared the ball upfield from the edge of his area, it would wind up in the back of the opposition net without being touched by another player. Courtesy of a favourable wind and a deceptive bounce right in front of his opposite number, Manchester United's Alex Stepney, the Northern Irish number one became the first goalkeeper to score with a kick from his hands. For the mortified Stepney, however, redemption would come six years later, when he himself scored two penalties.  

A South American speciality?

Indeed, it is from the penalty spot that the majority of goalkeepers have made the opponents' net billow. And while the European benchmark is provided by the German Hans-Jorg Butt with 26 goals for Hamburg and then Bayer Leverkusen, it is in South America the finest exponents of this art can be found.

The eccentric Colombian keeper Rene Higuita got on the score sheet no less than 41 times (37 penalties and 4 free kicks). While playing for Atletico Medellin in the semi-final of the 1995 Copa Libertadores, El Loco (The Crazy One), as he was known, succeeded in snatching an equaliser with a free kick against River Plate, before proceeding to convert the winning penalty that sent his team into the final.

But even Higuita's impressive statistics were insufficient to earn him a place in the record books, as during the same era, a certain Jose Luis Chilavert was also banging them in regularly, finding the back with even greater frequency. Over the course of a long club and international career, the Paraguayan left his opposite numbers flailing an incredible 62 times. His goalscoring talents were a major factor in Velez Sarsfield winning three Argentine championships, a Copa Libertadores in 1994 and the Intercontinental (Toyota) Cup the same year. Playing against Ferro Carril in 1999, he even became the first goalkeeper to score a hat trick. After 14 years spent alternating top-class saves with crucial goals, the Albirrojo custodian hung up his gloves (and shooting boots) in 2004, understandably proud to hold the record for the most goals scored by a goalkeeper.

But records are there to be broken and the Brazilian Rogerio Ceni had no qualms about relieving the Paraguayan idol of his mantle. Last August, the Sao Paulo shot-stopper went down in history when his direct free kick flew into Cruzeiro's goal. This 63rd successful strike was followed a few minutes later by a 64th from a penalty and, just to show that he had not forgotten his main job, Ceni even saved a penalty at the other end in the same game.

The Brazilian international has now reached the 70-goal threshold, but would perhaps have never opened his account back in February 1997 if it had not been for the faith shown in him by his coach at Sao Paulo, Muricy Ramalho. "He was brave enough to let me take the free-kicks. If I'd been coach, I don't know if I'd have had the courage to do the same," admits the captain of the Brazilian giants. But it was through need rather than choice that the Auriverde keeper took on the task. "At the time, our team just wasn't scoring from free-kicks and no one was working on them in training," Ramalho confirms. "So I told my players I was going to give the job to the only person who was practising them." An inspired decision if ever there were one… 

Goals worth their weight in gold

He only scored once in his career, but the Italian Michelangelo Rampulla will always be remembered as the first goalkeeper to have scored from open play. With his Cremonese side trailing 1-0 to Atalanta in a Serie A match in February 1992, the Cremonese keeper joined his team-mates in the opposition's box for a last-minute corner.

With a thumping header, Rampulla scored the winning goal and, while it was ultimately insufficient to prevent Cremonese being relegated to Serie B, it did earn him a transfer to Juventus a few weeks later. His achievement was subsequently emulated by the likes of Massimo Taibi, Francesco Toldo, Jens Lehmann, Peter Schmeichel, Brad Friedel and more recently Marco Amelia, all of whom got their names on the score sheet by snatching last-minute equalisers. 

The most recent example was supplied by FC Sevilla, winners of the 2006 UEFA Cup, who had their portero to thank for getting them through the Round of 16 of the 2007 tournament and keeping alive their hopes of retaining their title. Trailing 2-1 to Shakhtar Donetsk at the end of normal time after a 2-2 draw in Seville, the Andalusians were rescued by a winning header from Andres Palop in injury time. The Seville keeper's goal took the tie to extra time, whereupon the winning goal (3-2) came from a more usual source in Uruguayan striker Ernesto Chevanton. In a curious coincidence, the quarter-final draw then paired the Spaniards with Tottenham Hotspur, whose current keeper Paul Robinson had  scored with a free-kick from almost 80 metres  against Watford the week before.

However, arguably the most dramatic and famous goalkeeping goal of all came from a lesser-known Englishman: Jimmy Glass. On the final day of the 1998/99 season, Carlisle United needed a victory at home to Plymouth to avoid dropping out of the Football League for the first time in 71 years. With four minutes of injury time played and the score tied at 1-1, the Cumbrians won a corner. Glass, who was on loan from Swindon, ran the length of Brunton Park and, with just a second to spare, blasted home from close range following a fortuitous ricochet. Carlisle were saved and Glass, who retired from the game soon after aged just 27, is still renowned throughout football for this historic intervention.

From heroes for a day to legends of the beautiful game, many goalkeepers have now ventured far from their natural station to sample the joy of scoring. But for the most ambitious custodians, there remains one great feat still to aim for: no keeper has ever scored at a FIFA World Cup™. Jose Luis Chilavert did his level best in 1998, but his free kick was repelled in splendid style by his Bulgarian counterpart Zdravko Zdravkov.

The next chance to do it will come in  South Africa in 2010 , so goalkeepers of the world take note: a permanent place in the history books is there for the taking.

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