Everyone’s gone gaga for Alisson’s save against Napoli

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, you’ll be well aware Liverpool have made it to the Champions League knockout stages.

You’ll also have seen the media buzz surrounding that Alisson save. Back pages focused on Jurgen Klopp hailing the Brazilian as a “lifesaver”; Twitter was awash with goat emojis; Pundits and online forums repeatedly wheeled out the that’s-why-you-pay-big-money-for-a-goalkeeper line.

All very true. But let’s take a deep breath and gain a little perspective. Alisson made a very good save, absolutely no question. However, the overwhelming response is further proof as to why analysis of a goalkeeper’s game generally remains misunderstood.

Alisson’s heroics have been amplified because of timing. Because the most recent overriding Champions League memory for Liverpool fans is the Loris Karius double clanger from last season’s final. Because he made the save in the final minute, because it ensured the Reds’ passage into the Round of 16 and because the man who signed him seems to be the media’s flavour of every single month in every single year.

When reacting to the save in his post-match interview, Klopp said, “I don’t know how he saved it.”

Alisson kept a cool head. He made the correct decision by moving quickly off his line and he spread well. He executed the perfect technique at the perfect time. He did what you’d expect a £67m goalkeeper to do.

Elsewhere across Europe, Barcelona stopper Jasper Cillessen kept Tottenham at bay until late on with a string of fine saves. Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak pulled off a world class stop in a meaningless encounter with Club Brugge. That game in particular wasn’t a main attraction and, therefore, neither was the save.

Plenty is said about the best goalkeepers making big saves at big moments. Alisson did just that, hence the response. Is it up there with the greatest saves of all time? No. But neither can it be argued, as the case has been has been on Twitter, that the effort was “straight at him”.

In theory, yes it was. But only due to his quick movement to find that position. Alisson used speed, agility, power and goalkeeping intelligence of knowing where to be. He twisted his body to be as big as possible and, because of that, he probably influenced the instinctive effort from Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik. Had Alisson not taken up that position, Milik may have scored.

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Needless to say, Alisson should quite rightly take the plaudits. A goalkeeper can have a great game, lose 1-0 and be lambasted for not keeping a clean sheet. Produce a mediocre performance (not that Alisson’s was on this occasion) but make a vital stop in the last minute and it’s the best game you’ve ever had. You learn to take the credit when you can.

Liverpool paying a then record fee on a goalkeeper has been justified with one top save in a hugely important game. Circumstance has just altered the perception of that save to make it appear far greater than it actually was.

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