To some people it might be stating the obvious, but Legia's captain Ivica Vrdoljak is on borrowed. Despite his sides 4-1 triumph over Celtic last night, he missed two penalties. Fortunately for him, his colleagues managed to score two late goals to give the Polish champions a 'meaty' advantage. If the result had remained 2-1, Vrdoljak would almost certainly have had to expect a wave of criticism.
His first penalty went wide. He saw the goalkeeper moving in one direction and decided to hit the ball in the other, but he tried to be too accurate. What's hard to understand is, if he could tell the goalkeeper was going one way, why not hit the ball more to the centre, or slightly to the right of centre, thus guaranteeing he would get it on target? The goalkeeper already committed himself, so he wouldn't have saved it.
The second one was worse. Vrdoljak was keen to make up his earlier miss [even though Lukasz Broz had been assigned to take the next penalty]. He grabbed the ball and wanted to take the same penalty he had taken earlier, but this time get it right. The goalkeeper worked this out and saved it without too much trouble.
His misses were devastating, but Legia made up for them twice. First he missed the chance to raise a 2-1 scoreline to 3-1, but then Michal Zyro did just that. Not long after Zyro's goal he could have made it 4-1, but missed again, only for Jakub Kosecki to score late on.
The penalties weren't the only opportunities Legia didn't take in this match. They had other great chances. Kucharczyk could have played the ball to Radovic in the first half, who would have found himself clean through on goal, but decided to shoot and hit the ball against the defender. In the second half Zyro found himself one on one with the goalkeeper from a few yards out but managed to hit it straight at him. It's the penalties that will be remembered though.
Most people knew Legia needed to take a decent advantage with them in to the 2nd leg. Before this game, they'd have taken a 4-1 without even thinking about it. Miroslav Radovic even said before the match that he'd take any kind of win over Celtic if it was offered. Given how the match played out, with Legia taking charge in after half time, fans will feel like they could be home and dry, but they're not.
It should be remembered that Celtic have a knack for turning things around. In 2005 they lost 0-5 away at Artmedia Petrzalka, but managed to win 4-0 at home. On this occasions Artmedia built up enough of a lead to survive on aggregate. Shakhter Karagandy were not as fortunate. They're 2-0 home victory over the Celts last season was not enough, and the Scots managed to win 3-0 in the return leg. Four years ago Braga's 3-0 home victory against Celtic was enough, but they still lost 1-2 away from home. It won't be surprising if Legia lose their away game, the question remains how much they lose by. With their opponents having to attack from the get go, Legia should counter attack. An away goal would do them a lot of good, and should demoralize the Scottish champions.
If Legia make it through to the play off round, Vrdoljak's penalties will be forgotten, but if they don't, people will remember them and the fact that Legia could have been done and dusted in the home leg.
This isn't the first time a team or player has missed more than one penalty in a match. Holland were beaten by Italy in the Euro 2000 semi final. During the match they missed two penalties and then failed to convert three of their four in the penalty shoot. As for a single player record, Argentinian Martin Palermo once missed three penalties in one game for his country during a Copa America match against Colombia.
One thing you can give Vrdoljak is, he's got guts. After the match he stated that if Legia has been awarded a third penalty, he's have taken that too. Looks like he was more than prepared to equal Palermo's record.