Soccer has a funny way of giving back what it has taken away from its heroes, and former Manchester United keeper Roy Carroll tasted the sweet side of this on Thursday as he ensured Olympiakos would advance to the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday literally on one leg.
Olympiakos beat Rubin Kazan 1-0 once again to advance with a 2-0 aggregate score, with Carroll, who 12 months ago was jobless, emerging once again as its undisputed hero.
Nine days after the 1-0 victory in Moscow, with Carroll coming from the bench to save a late penalty, the former Northern Ireland international shone in another way during the second leg at the Karaiskakis Stadium.
Not only did Carroll maintain the Reds? lead on the night — obtained after 13 minutes through a Rafik Djebbour header — with wonderful saves in four occasions, but was forced to play for the last 24 minutes literally on one leg and save Rubin?s last?ditch effort for an equalizer in injury time.
Carroll had already earned his day?s wage keeping Olympiakos in the lead, when he saw Rubin?s Cesar Navas land on his right leg, injuring him to the point of limping.
He was not substituted, however. With Balazs Megyeri sent off in the first leg and third-choice keeper Sifis Daskalakis not being selected by coach Ernesto Valverde for the Europa League roster, Olympiakos only had a completely inexperienced 19-year keeper, Ivan Babovic on its bench.
Valverde was reluctant to risk throwing the teenager in, while Carroll was urged by the home fans to carry on.
And he did it in style. Standing on one leg, he shut the Russians out for the remainder of the match and managed a superb save two minutes into injury time as he denied Nelson Valdez by pushing the ball to the crossbar before it landed on his arms.
It really was like a fairy tale for the 34-year-old who last spring was unable to find a job in British soccer after his return from Denmark?s Odense.
OFI Crete secured his signature in the summer, Carroll was outstanding in most of the 16 games he played for the Iraklio club before Olympiakos acquired him in January to fill in for disappointing Franco Costanzo and become the new toast of Piraeus.
He will be sorry to miss the next round, where Olympiakos will face Metalist Kharkiv of Ukraine, due to his injury. Olympiakos fans will be hoping to welcome him back for the competition?s quarterfinals.