Goalkeeper Sinan Bolat put his dramatic late intervention down to luck after scoring the 95th-minute header that earned R. Standard de Liège a UEFA Europa League chance at AZ Alkmaar's expense.
Article top media content
Sinan Bolat is clearly developing a taste for the theatrical. The R. Standard de Liège goalkeeper's incredible last-gasp header earned his team a 1-1 draw with AZ Alkmaar which secured their passage to the UEFA Europa League, yet he rates it only second on his list of dramatic interventions.
Defeat for the hosts would have left the Dutch titleholders as the club still harbouring European ambitions, and when Jeremain Lens put the visitors ahead three minutes before the break it seemed incoming AZ coach Dick Advocaat would have a chance to recapture the trophy he lifted with FC Zenit St. Petersburg in 2008. Standard were certainly determined to claw their way back after the restart, but they looked increasingly harmless going forward until the most unlikely player in their ranks showed the others how – heading Benjamin Nicaise's 95th-minute free-kick high past Sergio Romero with all the precision and power of a centre-forward.
"It's the second craziest moment for me because the first was when I saved the penalty that helped us become champions," said Bolat, who kept out a spot-kick from KAA Gent forward Bryan Ruiz deep into added time in Standard's last match of the regular season last term, setting up their play-off games against eventual runners-up RSC Anderlecht. The 21-year-old was nonetheless more than happy to relive his latest moment of glory, which he celebrated by running the length of the pitch. "In the last few seconds we got a free-kick, I looked at the bench to see if I was allowed to go up and they said 'go for it'. Obviously the intention was to score, but I didn't think it would work out. Nicaise sent in a great ball."
The Turkish-born custodian took his chance with consummate skill, but he insisted he will not be tempted to give up his gloves for an outfield role. "It was pure luck," he explained. "Just luck. It could have been someone else who had that luck, but thanks to God it was me. We had nothing to lose. It was the last few seconds of the game and we were losing 1-0. It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing. You just take the decision to go up front."