MANILA, Philippines – On their way to the Challenge Cup finals, the Philippine Azkals' Roland Mueller made two stunning penalty saves to help his team win.
Mueller explained to ABS-CBN's TJ Manotoc how he cleared the penalty shots that helped the Azkals defeat Turkmenistan and Maldives.
The Filipino-German keeper said he had to move a lot from post to post to distract his attacker from making the goal.
“I try to make him a little bit confused and make him focused a little bit on me,” Mueller said. “I move and try to make him a little bit more shaky.”
Against Turkmenistan, Mueller’s mettle was tested when the Turkmens secured a penalty kick in the 43rd minute of the match. But he guessed right and cleared Aleksandr Boliyan's kick to help the Philippines advance to the semifinal round.
The keeper faced the same scenario in their crucial match against host team Maldives when Ali Ashfaq won a penalty kick in the 54th. Mueller parried Ashfaq's attempt to help the Azkals make a historical trip to the Challenge Cup finals.
“It makes me happy that I saved two penalties... I have a feeling that luck is on my side,” said Mueller, who stepped up to replace the injured Neil Etheridge.
Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said Mueller’s presence was a big factor in their defense.
He said the Filipino-German’s efforts proved that keepers can win games even if they don't score goals for the team.
“The goal keeper has to win games for our team so it's not that he has to score goals and all that stuff but he has to win games… the goal keeper's job is to save the ball, so the less balls he lets on goals, the bigger chance that we have that we don't get scored on,” Dooley said.
“He had two shots that he saved that are unbelievable. So that's what makes a player outstanding and he did more than his job,” he added.