Edwin van der Sar was finally able to celebrate the "decisive moment" of his long career after his shoot-out heroics helped Manchester United FC overcome Chelsea FC and win the UEFA Champions League final.
'Be a hero'
The 37-year-old has suffered penalty heartache in high-profile matches in years gone by, losing to Juventus in the 1996 final with AFC Ajax and also in the semi-finals of the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000™ with the Netherlands. Understandably the United goalkeeper was keen to make the most of his long-awaited shoot-out success. "We didn't really [want penalties] but when the moment comes you know you can be a hero," he said. "It's one of the benefits of having a long career. I won this final in 1995 with Ajax and I lost one on penalties so I know it's hard. On the other side, I've lost a couple as well; [when] I lost the Champions League final in 1996 I was heartbroken and didn't leave the house for three days so it's good this has gone my way."
Van der Sar's save from Nicolas Anelka took the trophy to Old Trafford for the third time, yet the Dutchman would not have had his moment of glory had John Terry not slipped while taking the penalty that could have won the shoot-out for Chelsea and sent his kick wide of the post. "We were a little bit lucky with John Terry's slip, although you could say the goal we conceded was an easy goal, the ball changed direction and I slipped," he said. "It's our luck that he slipped otherwise it would have been all over and someone else would be sitting here. Life and football can change on small things. Penalties are all about the quality of strikes and you just have to hope that you save one."
He may have been beaten five times but it is Van der Sar's stop from Anelka that will linger in the memory and left the goalkeeper struggling for words to describe the moment. "Saving that - I don't have any words for it. What can I say? It's great. You see it coming, you save it and then you get up and you know the game's over. You have two, three or four seconds on your own, arms in the air and everything goes through your mind. You see your team-mates coming and it's just happiness. It's always difficult because before that five went in. I was close to one or two, I touched Ashley Cole's penalty and should have saved that one but I knew."
'Not finished yet'
The match at the Luzhniki Stadium was the ninth time the European Champion Clubs' Cup final has been settled by a penalty shoot-out, and Van der Sar revealed he had drawn inspiration from the heroics of one of his fellow Dutchmen 20 years ago. "It's always nice to win but to win it sort of yourself… Hans van Breukelen won it in 1988 with PSV [Eindhoven] against [SL] Benfica. He saved the last penalty and I strived my whole career to get a decisive moment and to have that final moment to win the game is fantastic. I'm grateful to have had that opportunity from Alex Ferguson at 34 to come here to United – sometimes I wonder why it didn't happen sooner, but never mind. I've got two titles and the Champions League tonight and we're not finished yet."
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