The Majestic Sight Of Goalkeepers Going Up For Corners

By Alex Connor

News • Mar 4, 2024

The Majestic Sight Of Goalkeepers Going Up For Corners

An abandonment of all tactical nous or an important emergency maneuver?  

A glance over at the bench. The reluctant nod of the manager. The eager anticipation of every onlooking fan. The sight of a goalkeeper marauding forward for a corner kick in search of a late equaliser or winner is a glorious storyline. 

This desperation, intertwined with the unexpected nature of a goal, is a rare and beautiful utopia in football. This tactic is perhaps the ultimate abandonment of all tactics; last-ditch and intoxicatingly exciting. A licensed and frenzied heat-of-the-moment headrush that we all wholeheartedly support. 

The boisterous and enigmatic Peter Schmeichel was one who frequented the use of the method in English football. With Manchester United chasing the first goal in their Champions League final victory over Bayern Munich at Camp Nou, the imposing Dane flung himself at David Beckham’s corner to stop any defensive header. The ball was eventually recycled toward Teddy Sheringham, who kickstarted the infamous comeback.

Schmeichel was the first goalkeeper to score in Premier League history, when he netted a close-range volley for Aston Villa against Everton in October 2001. Even before he arrived in England, Schmeichel had a habit of being a demon in the opposition penalty box. On 18 September 1982, Gladaxe-Hero was losing 2-1 against Horsholm-Usserod IK when Schmeichel headed in a late leveller to help his side avoid relegation. 

The roots of Schmeichel’s tendency to power forward for corner kicks lie with his father, Antoni “Tolek” Schmeichel. He idolised Polish shot-stopper Jan Tomaszewski. Tomaszewski was catapulted to fame when his eccentric and antagonizing performance denied England qualification for the 1974 World Cup in a 1-1 draw. 

The wind-up merchant, branded as a “clown” by Brian Clough, often senselessly rushed from the six-yard box, was bailed out by a couple of goal-line clearances, but also made a string of mesmeric saves. Poland finished third at the tournament, with Tomaszewski claiming that the key to his country’s success was “cigarettes and wine.”

In October 1979, Beerschot VAC was trailing against RWB Molenbeek when they won a corner in the latter stages. Tomaszewski was on a mission to create history and stampeded up the field toward the opposition’s penalty box. His teammate Stanislaw Gzil was perplexed and questioned his goalkeeper’s decision. Tomaszewksi simply replied: “Confusion.” 

It caused mayhem for the opposition. Defenders doubled up on Tomaszewksi to derail his elaborate plan and Emmanuel Sanon netted the equaliser. This prompted a shift in the narrative and whenever a goalkeeper ventured forward in Belgian football, it was coined as an “exit a la Tomek.”

What do Tomaszewski and Schmeichel have in common? They are both mavericks and don’t shy away from the spotlight. Their bold, brash and unmissable goalkeeping styles encouraged their unorthodox antics. Nowadays, goalkeepers streaming forward for late corners are far more common. It is an irresistibly tempting narrative, employed across the board at all levels. 

It seems this tactic has evolved from the goalkeeper acting as a distracting, bullish target man, to someone who – thanks to the tactical and technical evolution of the game – is a genuine threat, who can read offensive sequences. This was gloriously exemplified by Ivan Provedel in Lazio’s Champions League group stage game against Atletico Madrid in September 2023. 

With I Biancocelesti hunting for an equaliser, the Italian shot-stopper charged forward. The initial corner was cleared, but the ball was filtered out to Luis Alberto, whose inviting cross was met with an emphatic Provedel header to rescue a point. 

Why is this goal so special? Provedel was the only Lazio player who displayed the correct instinct. Everyone else stood without urgency or anticipation, either facing away from the ball or not ready to make an incisive movement. 

Provedel’s run is timed perfectly. In a telepathic and choreographed routine between the playmaker and the man between the sticks, Provedel emerged as the first goalkeeper to score in a Champions League match since Vincent Enyeama for Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2010. 

Provedel’s goal was all about timing. The timing of the run. The timing of the jump. And the timing on the clock. 

In May 2021, Liverpool were craving a winner against West Bromwich Albion to keep themselves in the top-four race. As Alisson Becker arrived in the penalty area ahead of the corner, he was almost disregarded by the defenders. But their blissful ignorance was met with a sumptuous punishment as the Brazilian expertly directed Trent Alexander Arnold’s corner into the net. 

Robbie Fowler was astounded by the technique: “The‌ ‌movement ‌of‌ ‌his‌ ‌whole‌ ‌body‌ ‌and‌ ‌getting‌ ‌his‌ ‌neck‌ ‌muscles‌ ‌around‌ ‌it‌ ‌to‌ ‌fire‌ ‌it‌ ‌into‌ ‌the‌ ‌opposite‌ ‌corner‌ ‌—‌ ‌everything‌ ‌about‌ ‌it‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌textbook‌ ‌header. It‌ ‌was‌ ‌some‌ ‌finish‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌fact‌ ‌that‌ ‌it‌ ‌was ‌a‌ ‌goalkeeper‌ ‌only‌ ‌makes‌ it‌ ‌sweeter.‌” 

For Alisson, timing was the key, but its importance transcended beyond a dramatic act on the pitch. Earlier in that year, his father had unexpectedly passed away in Brazil. 

Weeks later, Alisson became the first goalkeeper in Liverpool history to score a competitive goal for the club. The South American poignantly reflected on the goal: “I’m too emotional. Football is my life. I hope he was here to see it. I hope he is with God on his side and celebrating.” 

Goals from this tactic prompt a different type of joy: it is unbridled and euphoric. In the 96th minute of Orlando Pirates against Baroka FC in South Africa’s top flight in 2016, the latter’s Oscarine Masuluke got the nod to go up for the corner. The goalkeeper lurked on the periphery whilst his teammates crowded the six-yard box. The corner was punched clear by the Pirates’ goalkeeper and the danger was seemingly averted. 

Masuluke pounced on the loose bouncing ball and executed an overhead kick that sailed over the other goalkeeper and three defenders into the net. Masuluke wheeled away to the corner flag in ecstasy as he danced the night away. Substitutes and backroom staff rushed over to join in the buoyant celebrations.

Goalkeepers coming up from corners are now an inevitable tactic when clubs are on a rescue mission. These off the script goals are why we love football. 

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