Walter Mazzarri attributes Heurelho Gomes’ fine penalty-saving record to the Brazilian’s attention to detail when doing his homework.
Gomes saved his ninth Premier League penalty last time out against Crystal Palace, guessing correctly to dive down to his left and keep out Christian Benteke’s tame first-half effort. Only David Seaman now has a better save percentage than the evergreen Gomes.
“These [penalty-saving] skills that are very difficult to explain,” said Mazzarri. “I have had some very good goalkeepers that couldn’t save a penalty. It’s difficult to explain why. He’s an expert goalkeeper, he studies a lot his opponent. He’s a very professional player and it helps him achieve a lot.”
Gomes is put through his paces by Paolo De Toffol, the goalkeeping coach who has, incredibly, stood the test of time and managed to survive a number of culls to the coaching staff over the years. As well as being a close aide of technical director Filippo Giraldi, De Toffol clearly knows his onions and it was interesting to see him frantically trying to get a message to Costel Pantilimon when Bradley Dack was about to take a spot-kick in the EFL Cup clash with Gillingham earlier this season. De Toffol and the goalkeepers clearly do their research on opposition experts from 12 yards.
“If I go in the mind of the player, like Benteke, he is the sort of player who waits for the goalkeeper to move,” explained Gomes. “I didn’t go because I saw some clips from him. He probably didn’t know what to do after I stood still. It was good to make the save and important as well. I conceded the penalty so I had to deal with it. I believe it was the key point in the match and if they scored then it would have been very difficult to get back into the game.”
Harry Kane, who missed a spot-kick last time out, will know he’ll face a test of his mental fortitude if he gets the chance from 12 yards tomorrow afternoon.