Apollon vs APOEL: Dissecting Dimitris Dimitriou’s penalty incident

Looking into the young goalkeeper's decision to come out and claim the ball which lead to a penalty for APOEL

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The game clock reads 61 minutes gone. Your team has just lost the ball after one of your teammates was dispossessed.

The game clock reads 61 minutes gone. Your team has just lost the ball after one of your teammates was dispossessed.

The ball is closer to the halfway line than it is to your own area and play is concentrated on the left, again, away from the more dangerous areas of the pitch.

Apollon vs APOEL: Dissecting Dimitris Dimitriou's penalty incident: The game clock reads 61 minutes gone. Your team has just lost the ball after one of your teammates was dispossessed.

However, you are aware that your team’s defensive structure is not settled due to the transition currently taking place.

Further, your defensive line is fairly high, on account of both the tactical setup as well as the aforementioned transition, which caught your teammates further up the pitch than during an organized defensive setup.

Finally, you see one of the opponent’s most penetrative players asking for the ball to be played behind the defence and into the ample empty space between your teammates and the goal you’re responsible for protecting.

You are aware of all these things because you’re reading the game from distance, taking everything in until you need to take action.

Apollon vs APOEL: Dissecting Dimitris Dimitriou's penalty incident: The game clock reads 61 minutes gone. Your team has just lost the ball after one of your teammates was dispossessed.

Play progresses for just one second but things suggest that the situation may deteriorate further in terms of defensive solidity.

The opponent’s movement on the wing has drawn too many teammates away from the middle of the pitch.

In fact, there are now five players concentrated in a tiny area on the left: two marking the closest option, one marking the holder of the ball, one blocking a backpass option, and one retreating back towards his own goal.

Meanwhile, the threat you saw asking for the ball just one second ago has now moved closer to the penalty area and his movement has not only split the opposition centre backs, but it is also evident that he will beat them to the ball without being caught offside.

Apollon vs APOEL: Dissecting Dimitris Dimitriou's penalty incident: The game clock reads 61 minutes gone. Your team has just lost the ball after one of your teammates was dispossessed.

Roughly one and a half seconds pass and the ball has been released into space.

Your assessment was correct and the opposition player, in this case, Musa Al-Taamari, has indeed sprinted past both teammates and is on his way to gain possession of the ball.

There are three things to note here:

Firstly, the opposition forward is significantly closer to the ball than yourself.

Secondly, you are still inside the six-yard box.

Thirdly, while the player has been released behind the defence and will undoubtedly be the first outfield player to the ball, the pass was both underhit and slightly misaimed.

In other words, the position in which the opposition forward will receive the ball is not as dangerous as it could have been because it’s somewhat too wide. Moreover, the speed of the pass was slow enough to give your teammates enough time to recover some ground and reposition themselves in front of the player in possession.

Furthermore, there is no other opposition player close enough to the box for a quick layover or smart pass which increases the potential time your teammates have to take proper defensive positions.

Should the opponent decide to go at it alone, they would have to beat two of your teammates, while also being aware of additional opponents tracking back, and then beat yourself as well with a good enough shot.

Apollon vs APOEL: Dissecting Dimitris Dimitriou's penalty incident: The game clock reads 61 minutes gone. Your team has just lost the ball after one of your teammates was dispossessed.

Unfortunately for you, the part of the assessment that takes place after the ball has been released did not register in quite the same way.

You are now on your way towards the ball, hoping to beat the opposition forward to it.

Apollon vs APOEL: Dissecting Dimitris Dimitriou's penalty incident: The game clock reads 61 minutes gone. Your team has just lost the ball after one of your teammates was dispossessed.

We are now approximately four seconds into the move, from beginning to inevitable end.

You are now midway through the distance between your original position and the ball.

The opponent is even closer, both on account of where he started his run and how fast the player is.

You are now aware that you will not beat them to the ball and that a simple clearance using your foot is not an option.

If you stay on your feet and stand off the eventual holder of the ball, you risk two things: being dribbled past or being dragged further and further away from your own goal, with all the risks that situation entails.

It’s time for something drastic, something desperate, something that seems like your only option.

You will go to the ground earlier than originally planned and use your long arms to palm the ball away. It doesn’t quite work out that way.

Apollon vs APOEL: Dissecting Dimitris Dimitriou's penalty incident: The game clock reads 61 minutes gone. Your team has just lost the ball after one of your teammates was dispossessed.

It’s quick but it’s clear: you have taken the opponent out without first coming in contact with the ball.

A somewhat speculative ball into space has now been transformed into a high-quality opportunity with a 0.76 xG denoting the elevated likelihood of it being converted by the opponent.

Apollon vs APOEL: Dissecting Dimitris Dimitriou's penalty incident: The game clock reads 61 minutes gone. Your team has just lost the ball after one of your teammates was dispossessed.

You block the penalty but only for the ball to find itself in the path of the oncoming taker who happily stabs it into an open net.

Apollon vs APOEL: Dissecting Dimitris Dimitriou's penalty incident: The game clock reads 61 minutes gone. Your team has just lost the ball after one of your teammates was dispossessed.

The score stays as is until the end and both teams drop two valuable points.

Your own team has all but dropped out of the title race in the first round of the play-off stage.

What now? You naturally feel regretful, even dejected, for a few days. It’s a normal reaction for a player your age.

But beyond that, you gradually regain your calmness and belief in your own potential, accept that mistakes happen in a sport as dynamic as football, refuse to take the entirety of the team’s performance on your shoulders, continue trying to read the play and carry on trying to be as proactive as possible and provide solidity to your defensive line when needed to contribute.

Your decision-making improves and you have learned from your ill-judged decision.

In a future game, in a similar situation, you decide against coming out and let your teammates handle the situation.

The counter-attack gets nullified and dealt with and the game carries on.

You remember the mistake you made and what it taught you and allow yourself a knowing smile.

 

by Kyriacos Nicolaou

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