Goalkeeper reflects on Burnley drawRarely will you see Ali Al-Habsi angry, on or off the pitch – but he was less than pleased when the referee pointed to the spot on Saturday as the division’s top scorer Andre Gray hit the deck.
But Ali – with the help of his teammates and coaching staff at Reading – had his redemption when he guessed correctly to keep out Gray’s spot-kick, notching his first penalty save for Reading to add to the six Premier League saves from the spot he made during his time with Bolton and Wigan.
So was it a nice moment? “Yes it was – especially after the referee’s decision; I think it was very harsh,” said Ali. “I wasn’t even near the player – I think it was a very clear dive. The way the fans and the players reacted to the penalty shows just how far away it was from a penalty.
“But I’m very happy to have my first penalty save with Reading and very happy with the clean sheet.
“It makes it even better when you make the save – I worked with Dave [Beasant] to check which side he is likely to go for the penalty. We worked all together and the players helped me to concentrate and save the penalty. I’m happy to have that save because it is really important for the team.
“We look at which players would take the penalty, which side he’d choose, the way he takes it. It’s really important to work together before the game and in the game. In the end the end we all made it right – even [Michael] Hector said to dive to the left hand side!
“The fans have been brilliant and supporting the team; that’s what we want. We have more big games coming and we need to keep focused and keep working hard.”
The Clarets arrived in town with four wins and a draw in their previous five Championship outings; the Omani was delighted with the way that the Royals fought for every ball against the title-hopefuls to earn their share of the spoils.
“It was a difficult game, played against a team that is very direct and very strong, and they are in the top three in the league so you expect a big challenge,” he continued. “But in the end we did a great job, it was our third clean sheet in a row at home.
“We need to have a win, but we’ll take the point and we’ll go forward. We have another big game for us, for the club and for the fans in the FA Cup against a Premier League side [West Brom] and we’re looking forward to it.
“We matched Burnley very well – we defended well and we had the more clear changes – we hit the post in the first half and the second half. When you play against a team like Burnley and other good teams in this division, it’s going to be hard.
“The important thing is to keep ourselves together, to keep working hard. All the boys will take the clean sheet, and the goals will come.
“When you play at home you have to match every team that comes here. Sometimes you have to take a point. The desire and the hard work is there to be seen from the players. Everyone is concentrating on the rest of the season.”