Juventus star handed ‘ban’ to take penalty kicks against Albanian keepers after missing twice

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 16, 2017 12:00

Juventus star handed ‘ban’ to take penalty kicks against Albanian keepers after missing twice

Story Highlights

  • Asked if Dybala will be allowed to take new penalty kicks, coach Massimiliano Allegri half-jokingly said "no, if the goalkeeper is Albanian, yes, if he is from another national side."

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TIRANA, Oct. 16 – Juventus’s Argentinian forward Paulo Dybala, regarded as the most decent Lionel Messi successor, has missed two penalty kicks in the past two weeks in Italy’s Serie A and it was Albanian goalkeepers in both cases who saved them.

Albanian international goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha turned a hero for Lazio last weekend as he saved an injury time Dybala penalty kick to earn Lazio a priceless 2-1 away win against Juventus and keep their Serie A title hopes alive.

Earlier on October 1, it was Atalanta’s Albanian goalkeepers Etrit Berisha, the regular starter for the Albanian national side, who denied Dybala a winner as Atalanta came from behind to draw 2-2 against Juventus.

The saves made by Albanian goalkeepers have also attracted attention of Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, one of Italy’s most successful Italian managers, who has handed Dybala an apparent ban to take any further penalty kicks against Albanian keepers.

Asked if the Juventus star will be allowed to take new penalty kicks, Allegri half-jokingly said “no, if the goalkeeper is Albanian, yes, if he is from another national side.”

“Football is strange, we hit the bar and the post, we are not doing well for the moment and it’s now time to reorganize ourselves,” Allegri said after the season’s first defeat against Lazio.

Commenting on his save, the Lazio goalkeeper Strakosha said he had studied the Dybala penalty kicks and managed to save it also with God’s help.

“I was so upset when Juventus were awarded a penalty kick as it was the 94th minute and they didn’t deserve the draw,” he added.

Strakosha who has been a regular starter with Lazio since making his debut in Sept. 2016 is now regarded as one Lazio’s strengths.  The 22-year-old keeper has only conceded 10 goals in the first eight Serie A, being one of the best so far.

With eight games played, Lazio rank fourth in Serie A, level on points with third placed Juventus who hold an advantage thanks to their better goal difference, and trail leaders Napoli by 5 points.

Thomas Strakosha is now the only Albanian player with Lazio after the departure of national side’s goalkeeper Etrit Berisha and former Albanian captain Lorik Cana. Former Albanian international Igli Tare has been serving as Lazio’s sporting director since he quit professional football with Lazio in 2008.

Although having made only four appearances with the national side, Strakosha is on track to follow in his father’s footsteps, former Albanian international Foto Strakosha who was the national side’s keeper for 15 years until 2005.

Goalkeeper Etrit Berisha is also having a good personal season with Atalanta although the club looks far away from last season’s performance when they finished fourth to earn a Europa League spot. He also received special praise for saving Paulo Dybala’s penalty kick on Oct. 1 to give Atalanta a precious point in this season’s poor start.

The Kosovo-born goalkeeper who grew up as professional player in Sweden was decisive for Atalanta last season as he moved on loan from Lazio and has been a regular starter for Albania in the past five years.

Asked about his save, Berisha said “it was so great as Dybala had missed no penalty kick in Serie A, but the most important thing for us was to get a point from a team that has been dominating Italian football for years,” added Berisha.

Albanian international fullback Elseid Hysaj is also having a perfect season start with Napoli who lead the Serie A on full points from the first eight matches. The 23-year-old defender has been a regular starter with Napoli since joining in 2015 and has been on the watch by several big teams following his impressive games in Serie A and the Champions League in the past two seasons.

He is the best-paid Albanian player earning about €1 million a season and Napoli have put a €50 million release clause on his new 5-year contract.

Three other Albanian internationals play in Italy’s Serie A with Ledian Memushaj and Berat Djimsiti for newly promoted Serie A club Benevento and center back Arlind Ajeti for Crotone.

The final World Cup qualifier against Italy which Albania narrowly lost 1-0 few days ago was considered a ‘local derby’ due to half a million Albanians living in Italy and the popularity the neighboring country across the Adriatic enjoys in Albania. A considerable number of the Albanian internationals grew up as professional players in Italy.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 16, 2017 12:00