The goalkeepers’ union was placed under some considerable strain on Tuesday night. No sooner had Aberdeen disposed of Hibs via a penalty shoot-out Adam Bogdan was accusing opposite number Joe Lewis of gaining an unfair advantage by pushing boundaries with his penalty-saving technique.
While the Hibs goalkeeper was quick to point out Lewis had a “very good game” and there were no hard feelings, Bogdan was moved to complain to referee Steven McLean during the penalty shootout, which Aberdeen won 6-5 after a goal-less 120 minutes to proceed to the Betfred Cup last four.
The on-loan Liverpool goalkeeper had concerns about Lewis coming off his line before the kicker had struck the ball. Lewis saved Hibs’ first penalty, aimed to the keeper’s right by Stevie Mallan. Hibs were successful with their next four attempts before substitute Thomas Agyepong saw his effort smack down off the underside of the bar and come out again.
Bogdan, who saved Niall McGinn’s spot-kick, has accused McLean of not applying the rules and Lewis of breaking them. Goalkeepers are not permitted to move forward off their line before the taker has struck the ball. They are allowed to move along their goal-line providing they do not advance towards the kicker. Bogdan believes Lewis was doing this and so was gaining an unfair advantage.
“I had a word with the ref,” revealed Bogdan. “Because the refs keep telling us to stay on the line. That is the rule – you have to stay on the line. But they still don’t do anything about it. By the way, it was a good save. But the rule is there and the refs don’t do anything about it when someone is making a save three yards out.”
The Aberdeen goalkeeper has responded. Lewis explained that, while it might have looked like he was illegally encroaching, he had actually taken a step back before advancing from a position behind the goalline.
Predictably, Lewis defended his corner after hearing Bogdan’s complaint.
“It’s almost impossible to start on your line, dive sideways and tip the ball around the post,” he argued. “I try to start a yard behind the line to get momentum going forward. Maybe where I finish up is a yard or two off the line but it’s because I try to start behind the line. After a couple, the linesmen told me to start on the line. But it’s near impossible to do that.
“I tried to make sure I was a yard behind the line so as it was hit, my feet were on the line diving forward. It’s pleasing to make the saves and people can talk about that if they want to. I’d rather talk about the defensive performance and getting to a semi-final.”
Lewis seemed a little dismayed to come under attack after his first penalty shootout experience. This is a remarkable detail considering he is 30 and played over 250 games in English football. Now that he boasts a 100 per cent level of success, he isn’t about to amend his style. But referees are bound to be more vigilant if he’s involved in any more in following Bogdan’s comments.
Lewis believes the result, on a night when Aberdeen were largely unconvincing, can act to kickstart their season. Although the Pittodrie side have lost just once over 90 minutes so far this campaign, the general assumption is they have been struggling for the most part. Manager Derek McInnes alluded to this perception when expressing the hope that Tuesday night’s result might shut a few people up, with a trip to under pressure Celtic to come on Saturday. Aberdeen won on their last visit there at the end of last season and can go above Brendan Rodgers’ side in the league table with a win.
“I wasn’t aware we were under the radar – it hasn’t been a blistering start but Hearts have been fantastic and are rightfully taking the plaudits,” said Lewis.
“I’ve not read any disrespectful comments,” he added. “People have been focusing on other teams playing well. We haven’t flown out of the traps. You don’t expect people to elaborate on performances that aren’t great. We’re happy for that to happen and whatever people want to say about us is of no interest really.”