Roland Muller saves another penalty for Azkals
MALE, Maldives—As if saving a penalty in a major tournament isn’t hard enough, Roland Muller pulled off the feat twice in consecutive matches for the Philippines in the AFC Challenge Cup here.
Stepping up to the plate for the injured Neil Etheridge, Muller has been spectacular for the Azkals, who reached the finals of the tournament with a 3-2 victory over the Maldives Tuesday night at National Stadium.
Muller’s hands were all over the semifinal victory with a string of quality stops, none bigger than the one on Ibrahim Fazeel’s penalty kick in the 54th minute with the Azkals protecting a 2-1 lead.
“It makes me happy that I have saved two penalties, but luck has been on my side,” said Muller.
In a carbon copy of his stop against Turkmenistan’s Aleksandr Boliyan, Muller lunged to his right to keep Fazeel’s well-struck effort out and silencing the home crowd that was already looking forward to celebrating an equalizer after Phil Younghusband and Jerry Lucena had put the Azkals on top.
Muller, who currently plays in the Swiss second division, said more than relying on his agility, there’s plenty of mind games involved in penalty kick situations.
“As a striker you have a lot pressure,” he said. “I wanted to distract the players so they focus a little bit on me and not on how they hit the ball.”
In a tournament where there’s plenty at stake, Muller has been as reliable as any keeper can be for the national side, which faces Palestine in the finals.