Life From 12 Yards: The Terry “Slip”

Penalty. A term, that can ruffle the feathers of even the calmest of beings.  A term, that in any walk of life, shocks and triggers signals of doom and punishment for some, and  hope  or satisfaction for  others. Football, is no exception. Goalden Times  bring you a series where we look at the more unfortunate events of missed penalties (and their aftermath??). Enjoy the ride with Subhashis Biswas.

Terry Miss

Player : John Terry, Chelsea.

Opponent Goalkeeper :  Edwin van der Sar, Manchester United.

Match venue and date : Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia, 21st May, 2008, UEFA Champions League Final.

Till that night, Sir Alex Ferguson did not have a very good record on penalty shoot-out in competitions other than the community shield. All that was about to change thanks to an infamous slip by a famous player. Ferguson was about to win a penalty-shoot out in any major competition after six failed attempts.

But first, let us lead up to the event. It was a rainy, wet, drenched murky night at the Russian capital, Moscow. After five years, when AC Milan and Juventus did so in 2003, two clubs from the same country – Manchester United and Chelsea of England –were again squaring off in the final. Manchester United were looking to clinch the trophy for the first time in nine years, while Chelsea were making their maiden appearance in the Champions League final.

We are trying to focus on that single moment, 120 minutes and nine shot later from the kick-off, when John Terry was walking to the penalty spot, confidently, taking his usual strides, adjusting his armband, thinking in hindsight that in a few seconds, he will be the first captain in the history of the London club to win the much coveted UEFA Champions League.

Red devil fans were not feeling so comfortable that night. Their team had taken the lead through  Cristiano Ronaldo in the 26th minute only for Frnak Lampard to equalise 19 minutes later benefitting from a complete mishap near the goal. Manchester United faithful saw in disbelief their darling “Ron” missing the penalty in tie-breaker. This gave Terry the perfect opportunity to win the Champions League by scoring from the last spot kick of the penalty shootout.

Life is not so simple. If it had been, problems would not have been plenty.

John Terry is through and through a Chelsea man. Playing at the centre half position, he is one of those old school English defenders who go to the ground every day to come out as winner, no matter if blood runs down his nose or a bone or two is broken. He wanted to win. Chelsea was not exactly the trophy clad club till Russian money and Jose Mourinho arrived in 2004. But they had tasted success in domestic league for two consecutive seasons earlier. Time was perfect to capture some European glory. No better person than John Terry to lift the cup.

Terry is not a natural penalty taker. Didier Drogba slapped Nemanja Vidić in the 116th minute after a little bit of gamesmanship from Carlos Tevez, and was sent off by the referee. Drogba was the destined penalty taker in the shootout along with Michael Ballack, Juliano Belletti, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole. Ironically all of these first four shots had been converted, and Petr Cech managed to save Ronaldo’s shot to give Terry the chance to win it for Chelsea.


Undoubtedly Terry showed a lot of courage and character by walking up to the spot, but the decision of the coach Avram Grant can be questioned as well. Even with forwards like Solomon Kalou and Nicholas Anelka (he would miss the final penalty in the sudden death) in hand, Grant allowed Terry to take the shot. If you are looking for logic, you can also argue that Terry had more authority over Grant regarding team selection and several other tactics during the latter’s short tenure at Stamford Bridge.

It was raining heavily and Edwin van der Saar was an experienced goalkeeper. He had good reflexes and had taken part in many penalty shoot outs in his career. On the other hand, one has to really dig dip to find the stats for John Terry as a penalty shooter. His strides were confident. He placed the ball in the middle, took a few steps back, and waited for van der Saar to take his place in the line. Rio Ferdinand, from the huddle with his fellow United men in the centre circle, waved to van der Saar and indicated that Terry would shoot to the right of the goalkeeper.

The teams stand pretty close to each other in the centre circle during penalty shootout, and I do not know if this signal by Ferdinand was result of some conversations that he might have picked up from the Chelsea squad. Nevertheless, the message was given to van der Saar, and when Terry took the shot, van der Saar did dive to his right.

But the story, the comedy or tragedy whatever you want to call it, lies on the moment the shot was taken. If one looks into the statistical possibilities of a shooter shooting the ball in a particular direction, he or she will notice that a right footed player would prefer to shoot the shot to the right side of the keeper to generate more power. Studies have shown that more than 94% of time the ball goes in if a right footed player takes a penalty to the right side of the goalkeeper. From the goalkeeper’s perspective van der Saar predicted the same and dove to his right.

There was an awkward sense of nervousness in his mind as Terry walked to the spot. He adjusted his arm band twice and did not take a long run up. There was hurriedness in all his steps. He took barely three steps, tried to plant his left leg beside the ball and place it to the left of van der Saar.

Van der Saar was standing on the goal line with an outstretched hand, and by moving both sides with outstretched hands, he was trying to put off Terry. Though by the way he dove, it seemed that he had made up his mind to dive to the right (as per Ferdinand’s signal), even before Terry started that run. It is difficult to sense that whether Terry read that movement correctly, but his placement in the end was in right direction, if you want to call that placement.

His left leg slipped when he was about to take the shot. It was actually a commendable job that he managed to place the ball in right direction as he was falling down while taking the shot. Had his balance been a fraction more right, his precision would have been little more and the ball would have been inside the net. But instead, the ball stuck the outer part of the goalpost (left of van der Saar, exactly the opposite side in which he dove), and went wide.

A distraught, broken Terry sat on the penalty spot with his head buried in his knees. Had it not been raining, had the field not been that slippery causing him to slip, it would have been John Terry who would be pumping his fist by then.

But as we all know, there is absolutely no ifs and buts, as far as life from 12 yards is concerned. Terry admitted that even after a year or so, that penalty haunted him. Whether he was taking dinner with his family, or walking back from training ground, or boarding the team bus after a game, those few seconds kept on replaying in his mind. He would rewind them several times, 40-50 times in a day. He wrote an apology letter in Chelsea’s official website, apologizing to the fans for the agony.

Terry kept that shirt he wore and runners-up medal he received in that dreaded night in Moscow, and drew inspiration from it. Four years later, in Munich, at the home of Bayern Munich, Chelsea won the Champions League final … through penalty shoot-out! This time Drogba was present to take – and convert – the last penalty in the shoot-out to give the cup to Chelsea. John Terry was suspended for the match, but he dressed up as if he was playing the match, and turned up for the presentation ceremony to lift the cup. He drew a lot of flak for this incident, but John Terry had waited four long years for this moment. He probably still replayed that “slip” in the rainy Moscow night, as he was celebrating with his teammates after the victory in Munich.

Traditional Rivals renew Euro Rivalry

Match Facts

Group D: France vs England

Monday, 11 June 2012

1800 (local time); 1200(EST); 21.30(IST)

Donbass Arena, Donetsk

What can Le Proffeseur Bring to France

Zinedine Zidane will always come to one’s mind whenever you think of an France vs England encounter and that too in an Euro clash. Eight years back, England were so close to a win in that pulsating encounter in Estadio da Luz but only to be denied by an injury time Zizou magic. However, lot have happened after that encounter in between 8 years. Le Blues have experienced the crest of success in in becoming Runners –up in WC 2006 as well as ignominious episode of the WC 2010. England on the other hand has continued to be perennial under achievers in International scenes. Coming to the Euro 2012, both sides have contrasting preparations.  France FA made whole sale changes to their National team after their debacle in the WC 2010. Laurent Blanc was installed as the Manager. Slowly but steadily, Blanc have been able to mould the team in his philosophy which that insists on playing attacking football with a balance at the back. He has brought a discipline in the team that was severely missing under previous manager.  Compared to that, the preparations of England team have been nothing sort of messy. After successful ly securing qualification for the Euro, Fabio Capello was preparing to erase the memories of an disappointing campaign WC 2010 with a strong performance in the Euro 2012. Then the John Terry saga happened when the National Captain was charged for racially abusing his fellow opponent. Although Capello stood by his Captain, the FA had to act to against Terry and stripped him of captaincy. This led to a collision between capello and the FA and eventually Capello resigned. After months of speculation, FA made the bizarre selection of Roy Hodgson as the manager barely 2 months before the Euro. Whether this is a correct or wrong selection, time will only tell but for any manager, it is next to impossible to get the best performance out of his team in such a short time. Things have become complex for Roy as he has lost 3 key players due to injury that includes Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and the ever reliable Gary Cahill, add to that  the suspension of Wayne Rooney who must have been a vital part of Roy’s plan. However all these things have given rise to a never –seen –before situation, the English press haven’t  been that vocal about the chances of the team in the tournament .A low expectation can be conducive to English team’s performance in the tournament.

Form Guide

France qualified for the Euro 2012 as group champions seeing off a stiff competition from Bosnia. In the build up to the Euro, they have played quite balanced football albeit against lesser opponents like Estonia. The players are also coming off good individual domestic seasons which will give them an added advantage.

England also emerged as Group champions in their qualification campaign which was quite an easier group. However their performances in the friendlies, leading to Euro, have been quite below par. Under new captian Steven Gerrard, the team seems to be finding their way forward.

Teams & Formations

Blanc after a lot of experimentations in the last two years seems to have found the right balance. Upfront, Benzema is raring to prove his worth for the National team. He will be backed by the attacking trio of Nasri , Ribery and Malouda with the excellent Cabaye and Diarra marshalling the midfield. However loss Eric Abidal can be important as the defence will be a concern for the Le Blues.

France : LLoris; Adil Rami, Patrice Evra, Mathieu Debuchy, Phillip Mexes; Cabaye,Alou Diarra; Nasri, Malouda, Ribery ; Benzema

Roy Hodgson will set out his team based on solid defensive organization that will try to hit opponents on counter. A lot will depend on how John Terry will lead the defensive line and Steven Gerrard will operate the midfield. Given their respective club forms, Danny Welbeck will start as the only striker over Andy Carrol and Jermaine Defoe. It is to be seen whether Alex Oxlade Chamberlain can prove to be a sensation for the Three Lions.


The Joker Inside


England : Hart; Glen Johnson, Jolean Lescott, John Terry, Ashley Cole; Scott Parker, Steven Gerrard; Alex Oxlade Chanberlain, Ashley Young, James Milner; Danny Welbeck


Don’t worry! The English will show up ready for us. They always want to win and even more so against the French.

France coach Laurent Blanc


We’ve all got to turn up and we’ve all got to perform well at the right time. There’s no point one or two turning up or you’ll go home early.

England Captain Steven Gerrard

Maximus Tacticus – Chelsea


Chelsea are fast changing. Even by the fast paced standards set by Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of the London club, there is a buzz around that things are changing fast at Chelsea. There is a new coach at the helm of things, Andre Villas-Boas(AVB). AVB, is only a year or two older than the old custodians like John Terry or Frank Lampard, but that has not intimidated AVB from stamping his authority at Stamford Bridge. Here is a look at how things are shaping up at Chelsea on the field.

History Beckons

Jose Mourinho, as the boss of Chelsea did two noteworthy things – he led them to their first league title for over 50 years; and he did not bother to change his boring but effective ways of winning 1-0. The famous 4-3-3 formation had 3 spines in the form of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. Times have changed. Old war-horses are no more spring chickens. Many a famous manager has come and gone after the “Special One” but have failed to replicate the same level of success. However, it seems like history is repeating itself as another Portuguese has won 4 titles with Porto and was promptly snapped up by Roman for the managerial post of Chelsea, although he lacks exoerience and is only 33! Incidently he was the understudy to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and then at Inter Milan – and hold on – the 4-3-3 is back.

Each coach has his own interpretation of the system and AVB is no exception. His mentor, Mourinho, used a 4-3-3 formation with classic wingers and asked the wide players to track back forming more of a 4-5-1 without the ball. Villas-Boas is more inclined to use modern-day wingers, or wide forwards, who would drift inside as a major goal scoring threat, themselves. Defensively, Chelsea are set for a more pressing game this season. They have bought in new players, who are younger, and they have the energy to press higher up the pitch. AVB has openly expressed his admiration for Pep Guardiola and it is not strange that he has strong influence of his pressing game, but under this new system, John Terry, the centre half, has been too vulnerable for his own good – the slip leading to Robin van Persie’s 2nd goal during the 3-5 defeat to Chelsea can have a paramount impact on Chelsea’ title claims. Hence, Alex and Ivanovic have a chance to step up and lay claim for that spot. It will be nice selection dilemma for the coach. The pivotal point in attack remains Fernando Torres. Many believe the old system did not suit him as Torres cherishes through balls played along the ground in front of him (a certain Steven Gerrard will second that). Torres thinks it is the lack of pace in Chelsea’s passing that has augmented his poor form.  To counter this problem, AVB has Raul Meireles and Ramires holding the central midfield together along with the ageing (and sloth, some may say) Frank Lampard. Meireles is preferred to guard the ship sitting back, Ramires is seen as the engine of the team bursting forward on every opportunity, while Lampard tries to have telling contribution playing between these two younger players. It is a fluid midfield where anyone can stay back and the other two can advance forward. In the wing, AVB has bought in fresh players – Juan Mata from Valencia (transfer) and Daniel Sturridge from Bolton, after having finished his successful loan stint there. Ashley Cole from the left and Jose Bosingwa from the right flank would burst forward to drag away the opposition full backs. Combine all of these in a short, quick triangle of passes in the final third of the pitch and Everton will validate their ruthlessness in their recent 3-1 defeat.

Good Old Days of 4-3-3

I Have a Plan B

The above system has its fair share of blemishes. Without an able holding midfielder – Michael Essien is on injury list for a while and he is not getting any younger, John Obi Mikel is good at playing square passes only and thus slowing down the pace of the game, Josh McEachran is too young to pitch in a solid performance week in week out – at his disposal, AVB has deployed Meireles at a deeper role. The recruit from Liverpool likes a more advanced role which is occupied by Lampard. Can he be eased out by the new kid, err boss? Early signs suggest that yes, he can. Lampard can be seen more of an impact player, come the business end of the season. FlorentMalouda can be swapped with the young Sturridge if  need be. Didier Drogba – yes, he still is registered with Chelsea – or Nicolas Anelka, can be seen in a fringe role in what seems to be their swansong season. Also, Chelsea traditionally like to play a high defensive line when in possession. With ageing stalwart Terry at the back, it can backfire against teams having a pacy counter attacking option.

Hybrid 3 Forward

That is where AVB would look to reshuffle the pack, as he had done at times in the Champions league game against Valencia. He has a wealth of strikers at his disposal and none better than Drogba to partner Torres up front if Chelsea go with two up front. The midfield will shape up like a standard diamond with the wide players providing the width. The striking feature with this attacking diamond formation is that, both Drogba and Torres can start upfront. A defensive shield is provided in the form of Mikel in front of the defensive duo. AVB likes to play a short, quick and central passing game near the penalty area of opposition box,hence he will be tempted to feature all of Mata, Meireles and Ramires in the first team, even at the cost of earning the wrath of the Lampard faithfuls. Both the “wide” players would look to drift in and cause problem for their markers. The fullbacks will overlap and draw the opposition fullbacks away, thus creating the space. One of Torres and Drogba will time and again sway like a pendulum, drawing one of the centrehalfs towards the sideline while the other will act as the focal point of attack. To break away from shackles, Chelsea can change to a hybrid three man forward line with the likes of Mata, or Sturridge pushing up considerably.

Man to Watch (1) – Juan Mata

Juan Mata, summer recruit from Valencia, is a typical new breed attacking midfield player. He starts on the left hand side of the midfield as suggested in the team sheet, but rarely chalks down the sideline like traditional wingers. He is more prudent in dropping to the “hole”, shifting position with the overlapping sideback, switching to the other flank seamlessly. He is a perfect replacement for the ageing FrankLampard, though they are as similar players as chalk and cheese!Lampard made his mark as a box-to-box industrious midfield player who can contribute 20 goals a season. More importantly, he turned up in almost every game of the season. Mata is more of a creative force, and like every other creative player, is not so eager in tracking back. He loves to create goals and AVB’s short-n-slick passing game perfectly suits this Spanish playmaker. It is like a breath of fresh air – the creativity which Chelsea lacked so dearly for the last 2 seasons.

Mata Settling into England quickly

Man to Watch (2) – David Luiz

David Luiz, 24 year old Brazilian centre half who arrived at Chelsea in the summer of 2011 from Benfica. Assured with the ball at his feet, he is a very good passer of the ball. Besides, he reads the game very well and is an ideal ballplayer at the back to kick-start any attack. Often he is instrumental in making bursting runs through the middle and can provide an additional attacking edge. Hailed as the future Chelsea captain, he is slowly but surely taking it over from the old war-horse John Terry. What has been impressive is his link up play. Andre Villas-Boas prefers a short passing game, but Luiz brings in a bit of variety to the attack. Just look at the graphic below – how often he has tried to play a traditional English long ball to the overlapping fullback. Although he has a very poor success rate at that but don’t forget it is his first season and it is a newish set up at Chelsea. With time, he is bound to improve. He has already shown his mettle with the assist to Daniel Sturridge against Bolton. Another glaring feature is that barring these long balls, he has not put a foot wrong – almost 100% accuracy in passing is awesome for a centre half.

David Luiz trying for perfection in Long Balls

Blue Line – Successful Pass

Red Line – Unsuccessful Pass

White Line – Assist


Debojyoti Chakraborty is a follower of English Premier League and European football. You can reach him at