Friday, 31 March

Pope 'best goalkeeper in the world' | 'Ten clean sheets is phenomenal'

Sports News
Nick Pope makes an important stop to deny Che Adams

Bruno Guimaraes hailed Nick Pope as the best goalkeeper in the world after a 10th clean sheet in a row helped Newcastle to a 1-0 win over Southampton.

This latest clean sheet helped Newcastle on their way to carrying a slight advantage heading into the second-leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final with the Saints.

Pope hasn't been beaten since November 6 - 79 days ago - when Romain Perraud scored a late consolation for Southampton in the 4-1 defeat to Eddie Howe's men. That is a run of 10 games and 901 minutes where Pope hasn't been beaten with the only goals Newcastle conceding during that period coming in the 2-1 FA Cup defeat at Sheffield Wednesday when Martin Dubravka replaced Pope in goal.

It's an unprecedented run of clean sheets as since August 2012 (when Opta started tracking the data) there are no other instances of a goalkeeper with a Premier League side keeping a clean sheet in 10 straight games in all competitions. Pope has been called on to make 20 saves in those 10 matches, including three at St Mary's - the pick of which was to deny Che Adams when he raced through on goal.

Newcastle midfielder Guimaraes, who won the player of the match award in 1-0 win, said: "I'd like to say thank you to Nick Pope - he has been brilliant for us. He is the best goalkeeper in the world."

Pope said himself: "We look really solid at the back. The boys work so hard to make that happen."

Former Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given has been blown away by Pope's performances, saying: "I had to double take when the stat came up about 10 games and 10 clean sheets. It's phenomenal. Any goalkeeper in the world who had that would be buzzing. He's there for important moments, at Palace and when Adams went through tonight - he makes a big block. He gives his teammates so much confidence. Best in the world? That is up for debate but he's in the best run of form in his career."

Pope's clean sheet run actually looked to have been ended when Adam Armstrong prodded a close-range finish past the England goalkeeper but VAR stepped in to rule the goal out for handball.

Pope said: "A lot of work goes into it but VAR has helped us out. It was a massive relief, you don't expect too many reprieves. We're thankful for that one."

Newcastle boss Howe, who snapped up Pope from Burnley for just £10m this summer, enthused over his goalkeeper, praising his ability to stand up at key moments in matches.

Howe said: "The two saves he made were big moments in the game. Adams' one-vs-one was at a huge time in the game where the crowd were getting into the game and they were getting on top, and Nick stood up and made a great save, and then made one shortly after as well.

"He's been outstanding for us this year and the defence has played very well the majority of the time in front of him, but whenever he's needed he's produced the goods for us."

Southampton boss Nathan Jones called Pope the best goalkeeper in the Premier League: "There isn't a better goalkeeper in the league, in terms of what you need to be a goalkeeper, using your hands, he's categorically the best in the league."

Source: Sky Sports