Manchester City’s Joe Hart: Not a ‘great’ save, but still great goalkeeping 1

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Assessments of goalkeeping performances in the media and in broadcasting are notoriously weak, and tend to be divided into either ‘he’ll be disappointed with that’ moments or ‘tremendous saves’. There’s very little middle ground.

Joe Hart’s late denial of Keisuke Honda in Russia last night wasn’t an amazing reaction save, nor was it a demonstration of spectacular agility, but that shouldn’t diminish what a good bit of goalkeeping it was.

…and definitely don’t say ‘yeah, but it was straight at him’.

Gravity-defying acrobatics are a really small part of playing that position, and while fingertips saves are crowd and camera-pleasing, the fundamentals of a goalkeepers game are all about narrowing angles and positioning - and that’s what Hart did last night, when his side absolutely needed him to.

Yes, Honda hit his falling volley straight at the England keeper, but primarily because Hart was in a position to be hit - if that makes sense.

From a mental standpoint, a goalkeeper’s confidence isn’t dictated by spectacular saves, more by big moments which carry a greater relevance to the result of the game - a keeper’s self-worth is almost entirely dictated by his own sense of value to his team, and preserving a win with a seemingly routine save in the dying seconds will mean more than a Gordon Banks-esque stop would do when the points were already safe.

It might not have been a fantastic save, but it was still a fantastic bit of goalkeeping, and it will have meant the world to Joe Hart - he needed that moment, and something which restored his sense of self at Manchester City.

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