‘Redemption’ for Simon after bizarre own goal

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June 29, 2021
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    Euro 2020 on the BBC
    Dates: 11 June-11 July. Venues: Amsterdam, Baku, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome, Seville, St-Petersburg. Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC Radio 5 Live, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app. Click here for more details

    From the moment Unai Simon let a 49-yard backpass into his own net, Spain's Euro 2020 last-16 meeting with Croatia was destined to live long in the memory.

    The eight-goal thriller that followed – with Spain winning 5-3 in extra time – means it will go down as one of the great tournament knockout ties.

    And much to Simon's relief, his bizarre howler will be just a footnote in a pulsating Copenhagen encounter, in which he would go on to earn redemption for his horrible mistake.

    Unai Simon walks back towards his net after the own goalThe lonely walk back to his goal for Unai Simon

    A classic Spain goal – in the wrong net

    Seven players involved in a slick 10-pass move leading to a goal. Classic Spain. Not only that, the opener was the second-longest range strike in European Championship history. It was just a shame it was actually an own goal.

    The drama all started when Pedri – the youngest player ever to start a Euros knockout game at the age of 18 – got the ball near the centre circle and decided to knock it back to his keeper.

    • Check out the Euro 2020 scores and fixtures
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    Simon, the 24-year-old Athletic Bilbao keeper, had almost half the pitch to watch the ball come back to him but completely misjudged his attempted control, barely getting a touch (if at all) as the ball rolled past him into the empty net.

    It was initially credited as a Simon own goal – but Pedri later got the 'honour'.

    "You will never see a more bizarre own goal than that. A complete lapse in concentration and he took his eye off of it at the last second," said England international Izzy Christiansen on BBC Radio 5 Live.

    Move leading to Pedri's own goalThe move leading to Pedri's own goal

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    Pedri's effort was from 49.4 yards, which is only 0.3 yards behind Patrik Schick's effort (in the right net) for the Czech Republic against Scotland earlier this month. That goal holds the record for the longest-range strike in Euros history.

    Remarkably, that was the ninth own goal at Euro 2020 so far. That is as many as there were in 2016, 2012, 2008, 20… actually it is as many own goals as there were in every other European Championship combined (15 Euros).

    Although one of Wayne Rooney's goals at Euro 2004 should have been a Jorg Stiel own goal.

    "What a mistake from the goalkeeper," said former England striker Dion Dublin for BBC Sport. "His concentration levels drop. He takes his eye off the ball, he's not even looking at it.

    "If you're in any doubt at all you make sure you get the biggest part of your body behind the ball. He switches off."

    Spain fansSpain fans could not believe what they were seeing… and little did they know what would happen later in the game

    Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague was not surprised: "It's not an accident. Unai Simon in La Liga has the record for mistakes leading to most goals conceded – eight – in a season.

    "He is a goalkeeper who makes mistakes and a lot of those mistakes come when he's forced to play the ball."

    It is the second Spain game in a row to contain a memorable, baffling own goal. In their final group game Slovakia's Martin Dubravka clawed the ball into his own net as he tried to tip a cross over the bar.

    Simon's redemption

    After Croatia scored twice in the final five minutes of normal time to make it 3-3 and force extra time, Simon was presented with his chance for redemption.

    And he took it.

    Andrej Kramaric seemed certain to put Croatia 4-3 up with a powerful shot from close range but the goalkeeper reacted quickly and got down well to keep it out.

    He also denied Kramaric again as Croatia had a chance for 4-4, after Alvaro Morata had restored Spain's lead.

    "Unai knows he's got our total confidence," said Spain captain Sergio Busquets. "The goal was bad luck but his mentality is very laid back, and he showed that today. He was ultra secure after the goal and made some top saves."

    Goalscorer Ferran Torres agreed: "Unai is a great goalkeeper. He reacted brilliantly to what happened and he saved us with a couple of stops which were tremendous – particularly when the score was 3-3."

    "He'll be so relieved," Christiansen added. "If you're a midfielder and you make that error you have so much more chance to make up for the error but that's not always the case for a goalkeeper.

    "He's certainly redeemed himself and it goes to show the power of mental strength in sport. He has recovered from a freak incident.

    "He made some exceptional saves and he dealt with everything well."

    "Unai gave a lesson to kids everywhere," said Spain manager Luis Enrique. "Football is made up of errors and his reaction, making great saves, was an example of why we have such confidence in him."


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    June 29, 2021
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