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Júlio César assesses top Europa League saves

Goalkeeping great Júlio César runs his expert eye over four of the best saves so far in this season's UEFA Europa League.

Júlio César assesses top Europa League saves

Júlio César knows a thing or two about goalkeeping. In a career that spanned over two decades, the Brazilian made over 500 appearances for club and country, a 2009/10 UEFA Champions League winners' medal with Inter the highlight of successful spells for the likes of the Nerazzurri, Benfica and Flamengo.

Now 42, he looks like he could still do a job, but these days he prefers to assess others. Here, presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, he runs his expert eye over four of the best – and contrasting – saves in the UEFA Europa League this season, from Galatasaray's Fernando Muslera, West Ham's Alphonse Areola, Rangers' Allan McGregor and Frankfurt's Kevin Trapp.

Fernando Muslera double save

Galatasaray 1-1 Lokomotiv Moskva
Group stage, 04/11/2021

Matchday 4 great saves

There are just two minutes of this group game left, with the sides level, when Galatasaray goalkeeper Muslera springs into action for the hosts.

A corner is swung in from the right and Fedor Smolov gets a firm head to it. Muslera quickly adjusts his 35-year-old frame to keep it out with his feet, then recovers admirably to smother Murilo's vicious effort from the rebound. Galatasaray breathe again.

Júlio César's verdict

Whoa! The first one was a good reaction; it's great. He got his foot to it. Most people think keepers just need their hands but he is like a goalkeeper in futsal. The second one was amazing because of the reflexes; he got up well, perfect. And most importantly, the ball stays with him. He kept hold of it. It's nice that the defender protected the ball, gave him time to grab it. Wonderful!

What it meant: Galatasaray kept up the momentum that took them into the knockout stage unbeaten for the first time.

Alphonse Areola's reflex stop

West Ham 2-0 Sevilla
Round of 16, 17/03/2022

Great Saves: round of 16 second legs

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, West Ham's uphill struggle threatens to become a mountain to climb as Sevilla boss play. With 27 minutes gone, an outrageous back-heel from Anthony Martial unlocks the home defence, and Ludwig Augustinsson cuts the ball back for Youssef En-Nesyri.

The Morocco forward connects with a full-blooded left-footed strike that is somehow clawed away by the wrong-footed Areola, the French keeper shifting his weight onto his other foot at the last moment.

Júlio César's verdict

Amazing! He claws it out! I loved to make this kind of save in my time, wrong-footed. You're expecting it to go one way and then all of a sudden you need to adjust your body. Your arm and shoulders have to be strong, too, because otherwise the ball will just touch it and go in. Get it wrong and it's six months out – there's a reason that keepers need to spend a lot of time in the gym!

What it meant: The save sparked a previously disjointed West Ham into action. By half-time, Tomáš Souček had levelled the tie, setting the foundation for Andriy Yarmolenko's emotional extra-time winner as six-time champions Sevilla suffered the rarest of Europa League disappointments.

Allan McGregor's penalty heroics

Rangers 3-0 Crvena zvezda
Round of 16, 10/03/2022

Great Saves: round of 16 first legs

A barnstorming start to the first leg had already yielded two Rangers goals and two disallowed efforts for Crvena zvezda when the visitors win a penalty midway through the first period.

Aleksandar Katai, victim of those two disallowed efforts, steps up and learns the adage that bad luck comes in threes as 40-year-old McGregor becomes the oldest goalkeeper to save a penalty in Europa League history, springing to his right to parry the ball to safety.

Júlio César's verdict

Saving a penalty for the keeper is like scoring a goal – you're the hero! You need to fix your eyes on the ball and forget everything else. Even when you decide where you need to go, you keep your eyes on the ball.

What it meant: Rangers went on to claim a 3-0 win that left them with one foot in the last eight. The result was not a true reflection of a tight game, however, and it was perhaps telling that Giovanni van Bronckhorst's post-match thoughts were dominated by that "amazing save".

Kevin Trapp puts best foot forward

Olympiacos 1-2 Frankfurt
Group stage, 04/11/2021

Highlights: Olympiacos 1-2 Frankfurt

Kevin Trapp has been pivotal for Frankfurt this season, helping lift them from a torrid start domestically to the heady heights of the latter stages of the Europa League. Here is a case in point, a wonderful stop that keeps his struggling side level at 1-1 with half-time approaching.

The home fans are already half-celebrating as Youssef El-Arabi's wonderful pass to Giorgos Masouras carves open the visitors' back line, but the alert Trapp is swiftly off his line, staying on his feet until the last second before almost doing the splits to divert the ball behind.

Júlio César's verdict

Well done Kevin Trapp! Amazing save! What he did well – the best decision he took – was to quickly take two or three steps forward to reduce the angle, to give the striker less time. He then delayed making a decision about which side to dive – the most important thing is to not make the striker's decision for them. He always knows exactly where he is because, for goalkeepers, the penalty box is our home, and in the end he used his foot, because you don't always have time to use the hands. Perfect!

What it meant: Trapp was not done yet, continuing to keep a dominant Olympiacos side at bay until, deep in added time, Jens Petter Hauge snatched an unlikely win for Frankfurt. It kept the Bundesliga outfit top of Group D, where they would remain – with Olympiacos finishing runners-up.