Penalties is the most heartbreaking way to lose a game of football especially if you went down to ten men during the game like Crystal Palace did away to Cardiff. After Patrick McCarthy got sent off for two bookings, the Palace team defended brilliantly and did everything they could to keep Cardiff from scoring.
Cardiff missed opportunities and over the two legs they probably deserved to win the tie but Crystal Palace must feel hard done as they put in a very committed display and a draw would have been fair but the rules state that the tie had to be decided that night and when it came to it their players failed to keep their cool missing three of their penalties. With Jonathan Parr missing the target completely and both Jermaine Easter and Sean Scannell seeing their spot kicks saved by Tom Heaton they must be travelling back to London deflated and absolutely devastated to have missed their best opportunity of getting to a cup final in a long time.
Tom Heaton will be seen as the hero and will grab all the headlines in the morning papers whereas Kenny Miller who actually missed for Cardiff will hardly be mentioned unlike the Palace players that missed will be portrayed as villains.
Although this isn’t directly the same it is yet another time when England have failed to win a game because of penalties. England have been knocked out by Portugal and Germany which was heartbraking both in 1990 and 1996.
So what goes into taking a penalty? The most important thing a player needs is confidence and players that put their names forward deserve great credit as they are basically putting themselves forward to be shot down as they have put all the pressure on themselves to succeed as their opposite number, the goalkeeper, can only be a hero because nobody expects him to save the penalty.
The longest walk a player must take in his career is when he knows it is his turn next and has to walk from the centre circle to the penalty spot and look at the fans behind the girl which will either be his own who will be trying to encourage him or towards the opposition fans who will be doing all they can to put off the player. That walk must be so nervous and basically takes away the majority of a players footballing ability because it is one kick and one opportunity and although people say practice makes perfect, it doesn’t matter how often you practice taking penalties, you may choke on the big stage or the keeper could pull off a great save.
Another thing that would make anyone feel nervous is when a player places the ball and is all set to take it and then the referee tells them to replace the ball, it must ruin all momentum and cause panic as the player will be focused then all of a sudden they are taken out of the zone because the referee has spoke to them as the best penalty takers block out all the noise around them and just hit the ball.
Another thing that is important to remember though and the best advice to give to someone taking a penalty is that the goalposts do not move, they are in the same place every time and you are only 12 yards away. If you are a striker and you have a chance from 12 yards unmarked you are expected to score and most good strikers do put them away and therefore every penalty should go in.
However as I have said pressure can get to everyone and if a chance falls to you in a game it is a split second moment whereas you have so much time to think about it when taking a penalty especially in a shootout.
So is a penalty shootout the best way to end a game? In my opinion, yes because games have to come to a conclusion in some way and even though it is slightly unfair, every single player is under the same pressure and therefore it just comes down to whoever can hold their nerve the most.