Home » Development Of The Game » What happens when a goalkeeper gets a red card?

What happens when a goalkeeper gets a red card?

In rare circumstances, goalkeepers can find themselves facing a red card, and an immediate ejection from the field. In these cases, an outfield player must be sacrificed to bring on a second keeper, or failing that, put an outfielder in goal.

Red cards carry significant consequences for players and teams; often changing the dynamics of a match. When a goalkeeper receives a red card, the team and the scope of the game are profoundly impacted, with the team left with no choice but to replace the most specialized position in soccer.  

Rash Decisions

When a goalkeeper is shown a red card, they are usually expelled from the game due to a serious infringement of the rules. Common reasons for a goalkeeper to receive a red card include violent conduct, deliberate handball outside the penalty area, or denying an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity through illegal means. 

When it comes to the last example however there is an important caveat to note. The double Jeopardy rule. The Double jeopardy rule most often applies to keepers but can apply to any defending team. In the context of this article, this rule is actually applied fairly often, when keepers come out to dive at an attacker’s feet but fail to win the ball fairly.

 In these situations, as the illegal prevention of a goal-scoring situation is punished with a penalty, which is often a better goal-scoring opportunity than the initial chance, sending off the defender/goalkeeper is too unfair of punishment, especially since the defender/goalkeeper in these situations are almost always trying to play the ball fairly. 

Goalkeepers will sometimes bring down an attacker 1 on 1 in an attempt to win the ball. A playstyle popularised by Lev Yashin, and is now expected of all goalkeepers. However, should the goalkeeper do the same foul, but outside the box, they will be sent off, as A. The resulting Free-kick is far lesser compensation for the illegal cessation of an attack and B.

 If such a foul were only a yellow card, professional fouls that unfairly stop attacks would become a legitimate strategy, making for an unfair advantage to goalkeepers and increasing the likelihood of injuries to attackers.

The Substitution Dilemma

Following a goalkeeper’s dismissal, the team is left with a crucial decision to make: how to reorganize their line-up. As with any sending-off, an outfield position must be sacrificed, but what makes a Keeper being sent-off worse, is the mandatory substitution to replace the keeper.

 No outfield player is going to be a good enough keeper to simply don the gloves without any fuss. As such, the reserve goalkeeper is brought on for an outfielder, with that outfield position essentially sacrificed. This scenario is part of the reason substitute keepers are always on the bench, despite almost never being used.

In even rarer circumstances there is no backup keeper to bring on. This can be down to multiple goalkeepers being injured/suspended, the manager has elected not to select a backup keeper for the bench, or all substitutions have already been made, meaning a reserve keeper cannot enter the fray. The only option for teams, in this case, is to put an outfielder in goal. 

If teams are already aware of a goalkeeping injury/suspension crisis, and have one goalkeeper left in the squad, they will often train a first-team outfielder as a keeper in preparation for the worst-case scenario. Such situations have caused much mayhem, hilarity, and even heroics with some outfielders putting on impressive displays in goal.

When an outfield player is forced to don the goalkeeper’s gloves, several adjustments must be made on the field. One outfield player typically volunteers or has already been chosen to fill the goalkeeping role temporarily. 

This player will not possess the same level of expertise as even a 3rd or 4th choice goalkeeper, which can create a huge issue for the team, requiring a much higher line of engagement to prevent players from taking long-range shots vs the much weaker make-shift goalkeeper.

 Another reason teams will try to move the defensive line higher is to prevent crosses which are now far more dangerous with an inexperienced player in goal.

Strategies and Adaptations

Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane fails to stop a shot from Asteras Tripoli’s Jeronimo Barrales going into the net.

Another alternative approach, typically used when already in the lead, is to pack the box full of outfielders and offer little to no attacking threat. By packing the box full of defenders, the extra 2 or 3 men in the box make crosses far less effective, even with an inexperienced goalkeeper. This also makes long shots much harder to get on target, thanks to the sheer number of bodies in the way. 

The only disadvantage to this approach is the huge amount of sustained pressure to survive through, with almost every failed cross or shot going behind for a corner, allowing the opposing, attacking team to throw even more players into the box

When a goalkeeper receives a red card in football, it can often cause chaos. The team must make critical decisions regarding substitutions, adjust their formation, and in some cases cope with the challenges posed by an outfield player in goal.

The absence of a skilled goalkeeper exposes the team to increased pressure and requires the team to adapt tactically in order to make it out of the match with any points/progress in a tournament.

About The Author