Thrust into Chelsea’s bid for an English Premier League and European Champions League double, Mark Schwarzer looks right at home.
The veteran Australian goalkeeper was untroubled between the sticks as Chelsea stunned league leaders Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield on Sunday to turn the league title race on its head.
The result put a significant dent in Liverpool’s bid to end a 24-year title drought, with Manchester City beating Crystal Palace 2-0 to become favourites.
It also kept Chelsea’s slim hopes alive, though they need to rely on their rivals slipping over the final fortnight.
That they remain in the hunt at all came down to a stellar defensive performance against a Liverpool outfit that has run rampant in attack this season.
Behind a superb performance from Chelsea’s back four and Jose Mourinho’s controversial tactics, Schwarzer became the first goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet against Brendan Rodgers’ side in 28 games.
The 41-year-old Australian – Chelsea’s oldest ever Premier League player – was given little to do until just before the hour mark, when he repelled Joe Allen’s first-time volley with a superb low diving save.
Liverpool upped the pressure but Schwarzer made another save to deny Luis Suarez in stoppage time.
“He was good – very solid and very experienced,” Mourinho said of Schwarzer after the match.
“When Liverpool started putting long balls in the area for Mark and (Gary) Cahill and (Branislav) Ivanovic, they were like fish in water. It was easy for them.
“He (Schwarzer) made not a lot but a couple of important, difficult saves. Good for him.”
In an unlikely twist at the twilight of his career, Schwarzer has come in for Chelsea at a crucial stage following a season-ending shoulder injury to Petr Cech.
Schwarzer’s dream end to the season also includes Chelsea’s tilt at the Champions League title and he will start in Wednesday’s semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge, having come off the bench in a scoreless first leg.
Mourinho admitted he had considered resting Schwarzer against Liverpool with an eye on Wednesday’s match.
Since signing for Chelsea at the start of the season after his contract with Fulham expired, Schwarzer has spent much of the season warming the bench.
“He needed to play and this was a big game for him, so it was good for his confidence,” Mourinho said.
Schwarzer, Australia’s most capped Socceroo with 109 appearances and one of the nation’s greatest football exports, announced his international retirement late last year.
Despite his recent re-emergence at the highest level, Socceroos Ange Postecoglou has ruled out trying to persuade Schwarzer to reconsider ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.