It’s the 80th minute. You’re tied with Manchester City, 1-1. You weren’t expected to even score once, but here you are, with the chance to score for a second time. Make this shot and you pull off one of the greatest comeback victories of the season. Miss, and you may not get another chance to score. The pressure of the situation would break almost anyone. Except Matt Ritchie.
According to whoscored.com, Matt Ritchie had a flawless penalty kick record coming into this game, five goals for five shots. A streak extending back to the 2016/2017 season, where he was a perfect three for three in penalty kicks.
Upon returning to the Premier League, Ritchie and his streak fell silent, not taking a single penalty kick all season. That’s not to say he didn’t contribute on offense as Ritchie ended the 2017/18 season with three goals, two during open play and one off a set piece.
Fast forward to the 5th of January, Newcastle found themselves down by one against Blackburn. Staring defeat in the eyes, Ayoze Pérez draws the penalty. Tension is palpable, Newcastle to that point had only won two games at home all season. Enter the Iceman. Ritchie takes his time, then buries it in the bottom right corner.
Return to the Man City match. Nothing lasts forever, right? All good things must come to an end eventually. And to make it worse, the commentators not only brought up Ritchie’s perfect streak before he took his shot, they put up a graphic in the middle of the screen, as if taunting the football gods.
Call me superstitious, but when you bring up a streak before the result is decided, the streak ends and it’s due to taunting the sports gods. And when you bring up graphics relating to the streak in question, you might as well call the streak broken right there and then.
But the Iceman cares little for your jinxes. He doesn’t care about titanic amounts of pressure riding on this one shot. Ritchie lines up, takes a deep breath, hesitates and rifles it home into the bottom right corner! 6 for 6!
With a perfect penalty kick streak that spans over three seasons, it’s hard to tell if Ritchie can keep it alive. But in a season with more downs than ups, it is definitely a silver lining for this season, no matter what happens.