Karius starting League Cup final will complete absurd series of events
The unlikely redemption tale is a popular narrative in sport but few of them can ever have been as unlikely as the resurrection of Loris Karius. Karius’ career had seemingly never recovered from the horror of throwing away a Champions League final for Liverpool in 2018.
A back-up, back-up on Newcastle United’s books making up the goalkeeping numbers, the odds on him playing today in a Wembley cup final were so small as to be virtually negligible. There was more chance of finding a cucumber in the supermarket salad aisle.
It required a frankly absurd sequence of events for him to re-emerge on one of football’s grandest stages. Yet here he is. Sometimes sport throws up something so unexpected and so opportune that you start to believe a Divine hand is at play.
Karius’ journey since that calamitous night in Ukraine has been spent in the wilderness. Despite being on Liverpool’s books until last summer, he never played another game for them after gifting those goals to Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.
There was time out on loan in Turkey with Besiktas and then in his native Germany with Union Berlin where, last season, he made a paltry five appearances. Picked up by Newcastle in September on a short-term contract, he re-signed in January until the end of the season to fill out the goalkeeping roster having not played a game for the club.
At 29, he must have been resigned to living out a football life on the margins. He cannot have envisaged the turn of events that would propel him back into the spotlight today. Nobody could have done.
Nick Pope had never been sent off in his professional career before last weekend but inconveniently timed his red card red letter day so as to get himself suspended for Newcastle’s first cup final in 24 years.
Pope’s deputy Martin Dubravka was also ruled out too, cup tied having played for Manchester United in the same competition already this season while on loan at Old Trafford.
So it falls to Karius for the final. This is his moment. Perhaps not to erase that haunting night – a Don Fox meets Jean van de Velde combo with a sprinkle of Devon Loch on top – but to create a happier narrative, a counterbalance to Kyiv. Something to remind himself and a wider world that he can keep goal well like he used to do as a promising kid in the German national age group sides.
The problem is the happy ending is never guaranteed. What if it goes wrong again for Karius? What if ignominy and humiliation revisits him? Football’s scripts are never pre-written, after all.
He has played so little top-level football since that fateful night that he will be going in cold. He will be facing the most in-form striker in Europe at the moment in Marcus Rashford.
And he will have those dark memories in there somewhere, buried deep maybe but just waiting to come to the surface. Goalkeepers are so exposed on their bad days and those bad days can happen to anyone – even the very best – as was evidenced last week at Anfield.
Alisson, who was signed on the back of Karius’ cock-ups, and Thibaut Courtois, both entered howler territory in Liverpool’s Champions League tie against Real Madrid. So let us cross our fingers for him and wish him the best for Wembley.
It is asking too much for Karius to reprise the story Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher wrote in last season’s Carabao Cup final with the winning penalty against Chelsea after keeping a Wembley clean sheet.
But hopefully – whichever way the final goes – it passes off without incident for him. On a human level, no-one with an ounce of compassion would wish more ill on him. He has had his brush with notoriety.
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