It should be very unusual to be Édouard Mendy, a goalkeeper who appears doomed by no means fairly to be centre stage. And when the highlight does fall on him, it usually feels it’s from a wierd angle, that he’s probably not appreciated for what he’s greatest at. Goalkeepers maybe wrestle than different positions to be correctly understood, however few appear as misunderstood because the Senegal worldwide.
In a really barely totally different world, one during which Gianluigi Donnarumma had not made a vastly costly transfer and saved essential penalties in shootouts within the semi-final and last of Euro 2020, Mendy would have gained a raft of goalkeeping awards final 12 months. In a really barely totally different world, he would have been seen because the hero of Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday . This might have been his redemption after the error within the first leg that price Chelsea their Champions League quarter-final in opposition to Actual Madrid.
His low save to his left to maintain out a Cheikhou Kouyaté volley 9 minutes earlier than half-time was gorgeous, however the affect was maybe misplaced as a result of Joachim Andersen’s follow-up, which cannoned again off a put up, was instantly dominated offside. Kouyaté’s effort would have counted, however the dramatic affect of Mendy’s intervention was misplaced because the flag was raised. (In fact had Andersen scored, there would have been lots lining as much as say Mendy, even at full stretch, responding sharply to a snap-shot by way of a crowded field, ought to in some way have pushed the ball away from oncoming opponents.)
You can also make nearly any case with hypotheticals, however think about that save had come late within the recreation, when the rating was nonetheless 1-0. Maybe Mendy’s save wouldn’t fairly have gone down as one of many nice FA Cup saves, a cease to rival Jim Montgomery from Peter Lorimer in 1973, David Seaman from Paul Peschisolido in 2003 or Kasper Schmeichel from Ben Chilwell final 12 months, however he would have been hailed as a key determine. As it’s, his save simply joined the mulch of a largely detached first half.
There have been lengthy spells earlier than half-time of boilerplate superclub in opposition to mid-table soccer: the previous probed too slowly to look actually threatening, and the latter resisted, providing the occasional glimmer of a risk within the counter or from set-plays. After the drama of Saturday’s semi-final, it felt at occasions barely anticlimactic, not helped by the curious lack of conspicuous enthusiasm from the Chelsea followers as they squinted into the late-afternoon sunshine.
Whereas Palace’s followers, for whom such events stay a novelty, sang and clapped and bounced and waved their flags and balloons in a blur of purple and blue, the sense of weary familiarity on the different finish was nearly palpable: all that fuss about sanctions stopping the sale of tickets and the membership didn’t even promote out their allocation.
This, after all, is without doubt one of the many blights of the superclub period that was ushered in by Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003. That what needs to be occasions, days that earlier generations would have recalled for a lifetime, turn into dully quotidian to the extent that Chelsea will face Liverpool in each home cup finals this season. That the brand new homeowners, whoever they might be, won’t pump in £1.5bn as Abramovich did, that nowadays is probably not so frequent in future, appears not but solely to have sunk in.
Wembley has merely turn into a part of Chelsea’s routine to the extent that they’ve turn into a part of the sample of Mendy not fairly gaining acceptable recognition. Final time they have been right here, for the League Cup last seven weeks in the past, Mendy made a collection of positive saves and was in all probability Chelsea’s man of the match, just for his half within the narrative to be as a supporting actor to a different Kepa Arrizabalaga penalty shootout drama (even when he was signed, for a paltry £22m from Rennes, it felt it was largely to be not-Kepa).
As Arrizabalaga, who got here on for Mendy on the finish of additional time, let in 11 out of 11 Liverpool penalties and skied his personal kick, the usual line to take gave the impression to be that taking off Mendy had been a determined mistake.
Maybe Chelsea would have gained had Mendy stayed on, maybe his excellence throughout the recreation would have had a psychological affect. However the logic that he had simply gained a penalty shootout with Senegal within the Africa Cup of Nations last appeared flawed. Egypt’s two failures from the spot then have been an effort blazed miles over and one other scuffed into Mendy’s physique. It’s potential Mohamed Abdelmonem and Mohanad Lasheen quailed earlier than Mendy’s presence, however his penalty file suggests few had been so overawed earlier than. Mendy has many qualities as a goalkeeper, however saving penalties shouldn’t be excessive on the record.
However, he has since gained one other penalty shootout in opposition to Egypt, in a World Cup qualifying playoff. That drama, although, might be remembered, whether it is remembered in any respect past the 2 international locations concerned, for Senegal followers’ industrial use of laser pens shone within the eyes of Mohamed Salah and others earlier than Sadio Mané smashed dwelling the winner.
But have been subsequent month’s FA Cup last in opposition to Liverpool to go to a shootout, it appears most unlikely Mendy would once more be eliminated for Arrizabalaga, regardless that that was a swap that labored within the Uefa Tremendous Cup success in opposition to Villarreal.