Hero keeper Ross Connelly on how he psyched out Basel players during Euro shootout
Cumbernauld teenager Ross Connelly this week relived the moment he became a '˜Champions League' hero in a dramatic penalty shootout.
The 17-year-old, from Smithstone, made three crucial saves to help his Hamilton Accies side knock Swiss cracks FC Basel out of the UEFA Youth League - the under-19 version of the Champions League.
After a 2-2 draw in Switzerland earlier in the month, last Wednesday’s second leg at New Douglas Park finished in the same score, courtesy of a Hamilton equaliser in the fifth minute of injury time.
That meant a penalty shoot out and the chance for Ross to become a hero.
And it was one he grabbed with both hands, saving Basel’s first two kicks and the decisive fifth kick which the Swiss had to score.
Yet even after the emotion had subsided, Ross admitted he found it hard to put the experience into words.
He said: “It was unbelievable, surreal, anything you can imagine.
“It was unbelievable, especially with all the fans that were there. There were 2,500 fans and half of the game I can’t even remember.
“That’s the most people that have ever come to one of our games. When you’re playing sometimes you don’t notice it and then when the game gets a bit quiet you hear a roar and chanting and it was amazing.
“I tend to have a good record in penalty shootouts and the boys and the coaching staff know that. When it went to penalties my head had kind of went at that point. I just want to be in my own head space so I’d kind of zoned out a bit.”
While the Accies staff had done plenty of preparatory work on their opponents, particularly after the first leg, studying their individual penalty techniques wasn’t part of it - not that the Basel players realised.
Ross revealed: “Right before the shoot out my goalie coach pulled out a notebook and said ‘look at this book and start looking at them’.
“It was a blank sheet of paper, but it was to make them think we had something on them so I was looking at the book and then staring at them.”
Accies now face Danish side FC Midtjylland in the next round after they defeated Irish side Bohemians 4-2 on aggregate.
And if they get through that they will face one of the runners-up from the eight groups which feature the same teams as the senior Champions League.