We’ve seen plenty of goals flying in throughout our Top Fives, but it’s about time we paid tribute to Southampton’s last line of defence – here are five times Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy has excelled to save his team…
5. Denying Fornals at full stretch
14th December 2019
Perhaps a save that never got the credit it deserved, given Saints were already trailing and went on to lose the game, but this was a stunning stop in its own right. The second half was barely 30 seconds old at St Mary’s when West Ham midfielder Pablo Fornals connected sweetly on the half-volley from the edge of the box. His shot was flying towards the top corner, rising all the way, but McCarthy sprung to his left and somehow got one giant outstretched hand to the ball, helping it over the crossbar and behind for a corner.
4. Clawing out Jiménez’s header
29th September 2018
McCarthy produced arguably his best save of 2018/19 to keep his team in the game at Molineux. Shortly after falling behind to Ivan Cavaleiro’s opener, Saints’ number one offered some hope with a spectacular intervention to deny Raúl Jiménez. Caught out by a quick corner, the visitors’ blushes were spared after the Mexican directed a precise glancing header towards the near post, only to find McCarthy alert to the danger, clawing the ball out with his right hand. The keeper took some punishment for his efforts, colliding with the goal frame in the process, but its bravery only added to the brilliance of the save.
3. Three saves in one against Newcastle
7th March 2020
Can you believe this was the last time Saints were in action? McCarthy marked the occasion with some inspired goalkeeping, particularly in the first half, as Newcastle grew increasingly frustrated. The England stopper had St Mary’s on its feet with not one, not two, but three sublime saves in quick succession inside the first 10 minutes. First, he spread himself to thwart Dwight Gayle’s point-blank snapshot, before instantly diving to his left to keep out Miguel Almiron, who was denied for a second time as McCarthy tipped the ball around the post for a corner. More was to follow, as he repelled Matt Ritchie’s penalty on the stroke of half time, but this flurry of saves gets our vote – fittingly, at number three.
2. Preserving a clean sheet at Swansea
8th May 2018
This was a critical night for both clubs, and boy did McCarthy respond to the challenge. Saints’ most alarming moment of an unbelievably tense affair arrived early in the second half, when their last line of defence was called upon to preserve the most important clean sheet of his Saints career. Swansea’s Jordan Ayew stepped inside from the left flank and sent a wonderful curling effort towards the top corner that was dipping just under the crossbar – until McCarthy acrobatically turned the ball over with his right hand, as he rapidly retreated towards his own goal. Soon after, Saints were celebrating Manolo Gabbiadini’s priceless winner to all but secure Premier League survival.
1. Late heroics against Bournemouth
28th April 2018
Few players, if any, could claim to have played a bigger part in Saints’ 2017/18 survival mission than McCarthy, and this was his crowning moment. Dušan Tadic’s brace had the hosts on the brink of a first win at St Mary’s in five months, but as the game entered stoppage time, south coast neighbours Bournemouth were intent on spoiling the party. Failure to win would have left Saints in a world of trouble, but McCarthy maintained their slender 2-1 advantage with some stoppage-time heroics. As former Saint Andrew Surman cushioned the ball to his left for Ryan Fraser, the onrushing Cédric inadvertently deflected Fraser’s shot towards the far corner, where McCarthy spectacularly adjusted his body to dive full length to his left and push the ball to safety with his top hand.