The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick

What, you might ask, could be more nerve-wracking than last night’s Roma-Arsenal Champions League match? Let me tell you a tale that should chill any Gooner to his/her very core.

The night began with a frustratingly poor full time, which saw the Gunners concede an incredibly soft goal.

Gallas: You take it.

Toure: After you.

Gallas: No really, I must insist.

Toure: Oh never mind, it’s in.

Now to his credit, Roma’s Francesco Totti and teammates attempted to inject some drama into the match, by throwing themselves to the ground at every opportunity (Gawd, I hate Italian football). Their writhing and pained expressions were worthy of the La Scala stage. And no, it was not a penalty.

Arsenal were at best ineffectual. Passing was good if ball retention was not, and thankfully, Roma weren’t that much better, though they played with spirit and gave us no time on the ball. Extra time is bit of a blur to me, but I’ve no recollection that it was any better.

Thus, we arrive at penalties. I struggle to remember the last Arsenal match of any sort going to penalties. Trusty Eduardo starts off and the unthinkable happens to the unflappable, as his attempt is easily saved by Roma’s goalkeeper. However, Almunia keeps us in it by saving Mirko Vucinic’s shot. Walcott, Nasri and Denilson all convert their attempts, as do their Roma counterparts, and we are in the sudden-death phase of the shootout.

And now, Dear Reader, step back for a moment and put yourself in my shoes. You’re an American Gooner who is Arsenal to the core. But where are you when the match is taking place? Not in Rome, not at Maggie McGarry’s with the other Bay Area Gooners watching it live, nor streaming it online at your desk, because they rather frown on that at your job. No, you’re working diligently, doing everything possible to avoid the result until you can get home to watch it, courtesy of your DVR.

As you go about the day’s tasks, it all seems so inconsequential at times, because you know that something, as someone once said, more important than life or death, is happening, and you can only bide your time until it is revealed to you. All your coworkers have been duly informed that a media blackout is in effect and that match spoilers will result in some very swift and painful judgment. At one point, the Englishman who sits on the other side of the cube wall from you lets out a surprised yelp, and you know he’s tracking the match online, but you reassure yourself that sound could have meant anything.

You’ve dressed appropriately. No Arsenal gear of any sort. The last thing you want, is someone racing up to you on the street, shouting, OMIGAWDDIDYOUSEETHEMATCH! Believe you me, it has happened before. Blasting The Clash in your headphones all the way home, you put forth an air of unapproachability until you make it to the sanctuary of your living room.

Now where were we? Ah yes, penalties. Sudden death. Kolo Toure steps up and converts. And then the unthinkable happens.

The DVR recording ends.

The extra 45 minutes alloted for recording the match was not enough. The Fates are toying with you. No, they say, not only shall you not live in London, not be a season ticket holder, not travel to away matches, but you shall not even get to see this most very important match through to the end. You, you are not worthy, in fact, you are less than worthy, we laugh at you, the world laughs at you.

Thankfully, there is the Internets. Once the remainder of my hair was pulled out and my composure regained, I was able to find the match replay online and see the joy of the young Gunners as Roma’s Max Tonetto skyed his shot well over the goal.

There will be some post match derision from other supporters. Arsenal did not deserve it, did not win convincingly, blah, blah, blah, and you idiot, have you never programmed a DVR before? But Gooners know better, the squad earned it, and we who bleed red and white, most certainly earned it.

I earned it.

Match highlights here.

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