MADRID – Bayern Munich goalkeeper Sven Ulreich had done an admirable job filling the gloves of the injured Manuel Neuer for most of the season but he is destined to be remembered for his catastrophic blunder against Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Ulreich was in two minds as he received a back pass from Corentin Tolisso in the first minute of the second half and fell to the floor as he tried to kick the ball away, allowing Karim Benzema to tap home into an empty net.
That goal put Madrid 2-1 up on the night, and 4-2 ahead on aggregate, and while James Rodriguez struck for Bayern to level the score another goal was beyond the Bundesliga champions, who suffered a fourth semi-final exit in five years from Europe's elite club competition.
“He won't want to wake up tomorrow,” said former Bayern goalkeeper Oliver Kahn on German television network ZDF.
Ulreich, 29, signed from VfB Stuttgart in 2015 as a back-up to number one and club captain Neuer and was a benchwarmer until the German international broke a metatarsal against Mainz last September.
Ulreich got off to a rocky start by conceding a soft goal from a free-kick in a 2-2 draw with Vfl Wolfsburg in his second game after Neur's injury but he soon settled into the role.
One highlight was an injury-time penalty save against old club Stuttgart to protect a 1-0 win for Bayern in December, and the club's president Uli Hoeness said in January Ulreich had been the team's “man of the year”.
Ulreich collected a third Bundesliga winner’s medal in April but it was the first title win he could feel he had truly earned after being in Neuer's shadow. He also helped the team reach the German Cup final, against Eintracht Frankfurt on May 19.
But it will be his blunder in the Bernabeu that people will remember him for, a slip-up being described in the media as the worst goalkeeping error in the history of the Champions League.
“It's a terrible thing for a player to live through,” said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes.
“Ulreich got confused, had a little black-out. He didn't know if he could pick it up, realised he couldn't, got nervous and that's what happened.
“It was a bad moment for my team but we had a lot of chances to score and my keeper played really well overall.”
While Madrid players were celebrating reaching a third successive final, Ulreich was photographed with his face in the ground at the other end, cutting a lonely figure after a game which is likely to haunt him for the rest of his career.
Especially with Neuer now back in training and set to return soon.