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Placement Of A Penalty



Much is being made about Manchester United’s missed penalty in the 2-2 draw against Fulham, so where should have Nani placed his kick?

This question has very simple, obvious answer – in the back of the net – but if it were only that easy.

With the score at 2-1 in United’s favor, the Reds were awarded a penalty in the 87th minute following Damien Duff’s unintentional handling of the ball inside the area, but Nani’s penalty was well-saved by Fulham’s goalkeeper David Stockdale.

Directly after the match and without seeing the placement of Nani’s kick, Sir Alex Ferguson said that all penalties should have some height on them, which makes it harder for the goalkeeper to save.

Like he normally is, the United manager was spot on, because if his effort was struck into the top corner then Stockdale would have had no chance of saving it, but despite the fact that it was hit low and hard, the young ‘keeper was able to get down and push it away.

Nowadays, the reaction of the goalkeepers is much quicker, so it is imperative for the attacker to strike the ball as cleanly and as high into the top corner as possible.

Opposers will say that the attackers have the advantage, because they are striking a ball into a 192 square-foot (24′ x 8’) goal from just 12-yards out, but the wingspan of a normal goalkeeper ranges from six to seven feet will do well to cover the vast majority of the goal.

Hitting penalties has become a bit of a strategic guessing game for not only the goalkeeper, but also the spot kick taker.

Like in the match-up between Nani and Stockdale, if the ‘keeper saves the penalty then he is a hero and the taker of kick is a goat, but in actuality each of them have a 50/50 chance of either scoring or saving it.

Take nothing away from the 24-year old shot stopper, because he fully deserves credit for helping Fulham earn a point in the match, however, if Nani converted the kick then he would have been seen as the hero, but the goalkeeper would not have been at fault, because he was “supposed” to have scored – a catch-22, really.

To better prove this point, there were seven penalty kicks in the second round of Barclays Premier League and four of them were missed (three saved).

Carlton Cole (West Ham United) and Morten Gamst Pedersen (Blackburn Rovers) both had their penalties saved, but John Carew (Aston Villa) totally missed the target.

The amazing correlation about each of the players that missed spot kicks this weekend – their team lost – and in each circumstance, a successful conversion would have given their team the lead as well.

Manchester United should learn a valuable lesson with this missed opportunity at sealing three points, and hopefully they will not make the same mistake again.

The author of this post, David T. Hammons, runs the website The United Religion.

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"The United Religion: A Manchester United View From Abroad," www.theunitedreligion.com, is a blog that delivers an American perspective on one of the world's most successful football clubs. Since I have an opinion about anything and everything, I decided to put many of my off-the-wall ideas as well as passionate feelings about the ongoings of United into words. In my writings, you will discover that I do my best to back up all of my outlandish opinions, and finicky analysis with statistical and/or factual evidence. If you wish to publish any of the articles, or have any questions, please contact me directly at theunitedreligion[at]gmail[dot]com.