When Bengaluru FC (BFC) beat North Korea's April 25 SC in the first leg of their AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semi-final at the Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru on Wednesday, a lot of chatter centred around BFC captain Sunil Chhetri's Panenka penalty in the first half that gave his team the lead against the run of play.
So what is a Panenka?
Normal practice for a penalty taker is to blast the ball towards the goal; in a Panenka, the taker - guessing the goalkeeper's actions, chips or strokes the ball in the other direction. Visually dramatic and audacious; great when it comes off but silly at best, and disastrous at worst, if it fails.
It is named after the first footballer to have executed this kind of penalty at a big stage -- midfielder Antonin Panenka of erstwhile Czechoslovakia, who used a chip against West German goalkeeper Sepp Maier at the 1976 European Championships finals in Belgrade in a make-or-break penalty kick during the shootout.
What are some of the famous Panenkas in football?
There have been some famous instances of the Panenka executed in international football -- for instance, Uruguayan substitute Sebastian Abreu stepped up for what turned out to be last kick of a manic World Cup quarter-final against Ghana at Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium to take his team to the last four of the tournament for the first time in 40 years.
Two years on, one of the likeliest practitioners of this cool craft was Andrea Pirlo, as he sent Italy on their way to a penalty shootout win over England at the Euro 2012 quarters in Kiev. Mind you, Pirlo is supposed to have said he spent the day in the lead-up to a World Cup final in 2006 against France playing video games in preparation.
The most audacious attempt, perhaps, came from Zinedine Zidane at that very game, with the ball actually hitting the underside of the crossbar before spinning out from inside the goal-line just behind Gianluigi Buffon. This would give the French a 1-0 lead, but would end with Zidane bowing out of the World Cup without adding a second World Cup crown to his kitty.
So how significant was Chhetri's Panenka?
The game was even till the 33rd minute when Chhetri stepped up to take the penalty. Chhetri converted, and from then on April 25 had to play a more expansive game in their pursuit of an away goal, and BFC capitalised on their mistakes in pushing forward to put away two second-half goals.
Did Chhetri pre-empt it?
Chhetri, whose penalties are usually hard and unforgiving was asked the same question, but revealed that it was situational, and in fact expressed his gratitude to keeper Kang-il for moving very early.
A hat-tip to the moustached hero of the 1976 Euro final, and a timely goal for a team looking to reverse the pressure in a continental fixture four decades later.