April was a month where much was brought to light, including the settling of the German, English, Italian and Spanish leagues to a large extent. That was possible because of the endeavours of the men between the goalposts. Here are the nominees for the Goalkeeper of the Month of April:
1.) Jose Reina Paez, Liverpool FC and Spain
With most of the spotlight on Manchester United for the month of April, it doesn’t augur well for Reina that this month’s hullabaloo will also be around the Red Devils largely because of the decision of Sir Alex Ferguson to step down at the end of the season. Reina was however excellent last month, keeping three clean-sheets in four games for the Reds.
He kept two clean sheets in as many games as goalless draw followed goalless draw against West Ham at Anfield and Reading on the road. Although his team failed to score, he had to be alert to keep out the opposition on several occasions in both games. Brendan Rodgers’ men picked up their third straight draw when they drew 2-2 at Chelsea, a game which gave many something to chew on. Although Reina hadn’t helped his team to a victory after three games, vindication came in the form of a 6-0 humiliation of a relegation threatened Newcastle United, just desserts for both defenders and attackers of the Reds.
2.) Diego Lopez, Real Madrid CF
For a long time now, Real Madrid have had a ‘you score one we’ll score two’ strategy, employing a system wherein offence is better than defence: a case that has not helped the case of Diego Lopez. Although he kept only three clean sheets in eight games, had he not pulled save after brilliant save, Real would be in a worse situation than they are now.
Real were the dominant side at the Bernabeu, but had he not kept a clean-sheet against Galatasaray, they could have lost the tie in Turkey, where Real were once again indebted to him for some excellent saves as the Turkish side mounted a stirring comeback. It was the same against Borussia Dortmund in Germany, where although Madrid did concede four, it could have been much worse for Los Merengues, who looked shaky for periods against the yellow-blacks and had Lopez to thank for keeping them in the game. The third clean-sheet came away at Athletic Bilbao in the league.
3.) Zeljko Brkic, Udinese Calcio and Serbia
Juventus may have won the league in Italy, but is another team in black and white who owe thanks to their goalkeeper for keeping their dreams of Europe alive. Udinese are currently sixth in Serie A and on the verge of qualifying for Europe. The Little Zebras won all of their league games in the month of April, three of them coming with clean sheets.
Brkic kept his first clean sheet of the month away at Parma is his team’s second game, the Serbia international conceding one at home to Chievo Verona. Clean sheet number two was accompanied by another three points as one goal was enough to see of Lazio before the feat was repeated away at Cagliari.
With one game in hand over their nearest rivals, Udinese are eight points away from the Champions League qualification spot (third place) which they could get by winning their three remaining games.
4.) Steve Mandanda, Olympique de Marseilles and France
The only keeper among the five mentioned here to not concede a goal throughout April, Steve Mandanda’s four clean sheets ensured Marseille mount a late title challenge by matching Paris Saint-Germain blow for blow come the business end of the season.
The Riviera based club kicked off April with a 1-0 win against Bordeaux at home before holding Lille to a goalless draw on their travels. That was followed up with two consecutive 1-0 wins against Brest at home and Lorient Bretagne-Sud on their travels, ensuring that PSG keep the champagne on ice for at least a little while longer. Although they are mathematically in with a chance of usurping the Parisians at the top of the table, they have 67 points while the capital club have 74. Both teams have three game remaining.
5.) Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich and Germany
Bayern played nine games in a congested April, but Neuer didn’t play all of them. He didn’t need to because the Bavarians had wrapped up the league title with a 1-0 win away at Eintracht Frankfurt: a game Neuer featured in. He was imperious in goal, showcasing his best in the Champions League as he kept clean sheets against Juventus both on the road and at home.
But the performances he will feel most proud of are the ones against Barcelona. If shutting out the Blaugrana at home wasn’t a testament to his skill, he repeated the feat in Spain, keeping David Villa and Alexis Sanchez at bay as his team found the back of the net three times in Catalonia.
With Tom Starke getting a run-out for the remaining games of the Bundesliga, Neuer will look to be in top form as his side prepare to contest the Champions League trophy later this month.Published 08 May 2013, 20:46 IST