Arijanet Muric made the season’s worst goalkeeping mistake: how did it happen – and what now?

There are goalkeeper errors; there are bad goalkeeping errors and then there is the kind of goalkeeping error that Arijanet Muric made on Saturday.

It’s not just that the Burnley keeper allowed a back pass to roll under his boot and into his goal. That’s because he did it in his club’s biggest Premier League game of the season, when his relegation-threatened side led Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0, turning three points into one in the blink of an eye. ‘eye.

Some Burnley supporters held their heads in their hands, others vomited into their arms in dismay. Most just stared with their mouths open.

It was arguably the most costly goalkeeping error of the Premier League season and, to make matters worse, it was his second in as many games, having suffered a similar mishap at Everton last week former.

But how do you explain a mistake like this – and what happens to Muric now?

The background

There has been debate over Burnley’s goalkeeping position since July, when the club signed James Trafford from Manchester City for an initial fee of £15 million.

Trafford had excelled on loan at League One Bolton Wanderers the previous season, then became the hero of England Under-21s’ victory in the European Championship.

It was clear that Trafford had arrived at Burnley to be the new No.1, but fans were less convinced. Muric had played an important role in Burnley’s championship-winning campaign – they felt he deserved a chance to prove himself in the Premier League.

Trafford started the season as first choice but things did not go well. With a defense that was leaking in front of him, he conceded 62 goals and his use of the ball displeased the supporters. Trafford are comfortable in possession but lack the passing range or proactivity of Muric.

Kompany persisted with the 21-year-old and he avoided making any high-profile errors until the game at Crystal Palace in February, when his poor pass resulted in Josh Brownhill’s red card with the game still goalless. Burnley eventually lost 3-0.

Two games later, Kompany made the switch and Muric made a positive impact. The defense looked calmer, he made crucial saves in a 2-1 win over Brentford and performed well in draws against Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Burnley, who looked doomed, had new hope in their battle for survival, especially following the points deductions inflicted on Everton and Nottingham Forest. A trip to Goodison Park last Saturday appeared crucial in deciding their fate.

This is where Muric’s week of hell began. After dragging the ball around, he was stopped by Dominic Calvert-Lewin…

…and when he attempted a pass to Wilson Odobert…

…it hit Calvert-Lewin’s leg and flew into the net.

Burnley failed to get back into the game and finished six points from safety. To have a realistic chance of survival, victory at home against Brighton seemed essential.

The mistake

For once, luck seemed to be in favor for Burnley.

Fifteen minutes remained at Turf Moor yesterday when Brighton goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen, a transfer target from Burnley last summer, saw his attempted clearance cannon over the onrushing Brownhill and into the net.

Confidence began to flow into the stadium: suddenly the gap to fourth-from-bottom Nottingham Forest was just four points.

There was a lull in the match as Burnley attempted to exert some control with easy possession in their own half. It started with Charlie Taylor recycling the ball to Muric, who passed it to Sander Berge on the edge of the area.

Berge was under little pressure. Brighton striker Joao Pedro casually walked towards him and returned a simple pass to Muric. It was well paced and precise.

There was no pressure – Brighton’s Adam Lallana started to press but he was still some distance away.

The Kosovo international attempted to control the ball with his studs rather than the side of his foot, a common tactic in the Premier League to encourage opposition players to move forward, making it easier for their press to break through.

But he was terribly wrong. The ball passed under his foot and, despite Muric’s efforts to redress the situation, his agonizing return to his own goal line failed.

A moment of madness, a loss of concentration or simply taking your eye off the ball: whatever the cause, the result is disastrous. As the goalkeeper stood up, he looked dazed and in disbelief.

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The consequences

Just like at Everton the previous week, Burnley were unable to score another goal after Muric’s effort and two valuable points slipped away.

In the process, the Burnley staff did their best to rally around their discouraged goalkeeper. While Kompany was absent from the touchline due to a touchline ban, assistant manager Craig Bellamy said the coaching staff took responsibility for the error by asking the goalkeeper to play from the rear.

“It’s us (as coaches). It’s not his mistake, it’s our mistake,” Bellamy said. “We are not going to change. He scored goals for us doing what he does. This is not a problem. This is how we like to play football. It may not be for everyone, but we believe in it. Get the ball back, look for the pass again.

Muric was understandably dejected. After an inaccurate kick following his error, he turns his back on the game while the ball remains in play.

After the final whistle, he was consoled individually by his teammates, who offered him a word of encouragement or a pat on the back of the neck.

Arijanet Muric is consoled by Maxime Estève (Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

“All confidence in Aro (Muric),” said central defender Maxime Estève. “He’s a great, great goalkeeper. He showed me a lot of things in training, during matches. He made so many saves that were very important – Aro saved the team. This is football, he will raise his head and the team will be with him.

Bellamy highlighted the close-range save Muric made in stoppage time to keep the score alive, although the offside flag was later raised.

“We all make mistakes,” Bellamy added. “It’s how you react to it. I have nothing but praise for him because he is ready to continue.

They were kind words and Muric has largely been an impressive performer for the club. But he knows how much his mistakes cost him dearly. The question now is whether Burnley will stick with him.

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