Football

Dudek: Don't make Mignolet the scapegoat

PHOTO: REUTERS

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has come under fire this season, but former Reds shot-stopper Jerzy Dudek is backing the Belgian to come good and make his critics eat their words.

Dudek, who made 185 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool from 2001 to 2007, says the criticism Mignolet (above) has received this season is down to the fact the media is looking for a scapegoat for Liverpool's poor form.

Touted as challengers for the English Premier League title before the season started, Brendan Rodgers' men are now languishing in 11th place after 11 games.

They have lost five league games, shipping in 15 goals in the process and collecting just 14 points - less than half of league leaders Chelsea, who have 29.

Some have pointed to Mignolet's tendency to commit the odd error as a reason behind their slump, but Dudek told The New Paper last night: "I don't understand all the criticism he's getting.

"Just because Liverpool have not been winning as many games as they did last season, people are looking for someone to blame.

"Some people try to destroy his game, but he is good enough."

The 41-year-old Pole described Mignolet as a "very good goalkeeper" and said he has the mental strength to bounce back from all the brickbats.

ERROR-PRONE POLE

"You need to be a strong person to be a Liverpool goalkeeper and that's what he is," said Dudek of Mignolet.

"I saw him in training for a week when Real Madrid played Liverpool in the Champions League recently and I don't think he is off-form or anything like that."

Dudek is no stranger to criticism and his time in a Liverpool shirt was pockmarked with errors from time to time.

Most infamously, he let the ball slip between his legs and allowed Diego Forlan an easy goal in a clash against arch-rivals Manchester United at Anfield in Dec 2002.

United won the game 2-1.

But he is most fondly remembered by Reds fans for his contribution to their success in the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul.

Then, after Liverpool had rallied from 3-0 down to pull level 3-3 against Italian side AC Milan, Dudek pulled off a remarkable double save from Milan's chief goal-getter Andriy Shevchenko in extra time.

In the ensuing penalty shoot-out, he saved spot-kicks from Shevchenko and Andrea Pirlo as Liverpool won 3-2 and lifted their fifth European Cup.