Cosmin Moti celebrating an improbable victory against Steaua BucharestLudogrets Razgard, the undisputed champions of Bulgaria, will be taking their place amongst Europe’s elite in the Champions’ League group stages for the first time in their history this season. The story of their rise from the Bulgarian third division via two consecutive promotions to achieve an unprecedented first division treble (Bulgarian League, Cup and Super Cup) is barely believable in itself, but it enters the realm of ludicrous fantasy when you realize how they got to Europe this season.When the goalkeeper, Vladislav Stoyanov was sent off deep into extra-time their journey-man center Romanian back, Cosmin Moti, was forced into take his place in goal. He would go on to produce two stunning saves in the resulting penalty shootout (while also converting Ludogrets’ first spot-kick) to deny the Romanian giants Steaua Bucharest in an astounding result that could have been scripted only by a man in a LSD-influence utopia.To celebrate the incredible heroics of Moti, we take a look back at 7 outfield players who have put in brave and unexpectedly skillful performances as stand-in goalkeepers over the years.Author’s note – The list does not purport to be definitive; I would love to see your favourites in the comments section.
#1 Alex Dawson - Manchester United
Date – January, 1961
Opposition – Tottenham Hotspur
The Tale – When their legendary keeper Harry Gregg injured his shoulder in a traditionally (for that era) violent penalty box melee just before the half time whistle went, it looked like United were in deep trouble. After all, the Spurs team they were facing that blustery winter day had entered this match undefeated and had scored in every single game until then.
During the interval, the United back-room staff did their best to patch up Gregg’s shoulder, but when he re-entered the pitch, one arm was heavily bandaged – essentially he was going to be useless as a goal-keeper and had taken the field to play as a centre forward!
This meant that United’s main striker Alex Dawson, who had spent the last few moments of the first half in goal, would now have a whole 45 minutes to bear the brunt of the Spurs onslaught. And bear it he did. In style too; he excelled when called upon and pulled off a remarkable point blank save late on to keep United in the match.
His goalkeeping heroics didn’t go in vain as Gregg (of all people) produced a marvelous back-heel through ball for Mark Pearson to score the only goal of the match. Dawson had achieved what no ‘real’ goalkeeper had achieved till date in that season – a clean sheet against the champions to be.
Tottenham failed to score in only two matches all season; this was one.