Koeman hails “magic” Forster, as goalkeeping giant puts in stunning display

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LONDON — Fraser Forster put in a sensational goalkeeping display to deny Arsenal on Tuesday in Southampton’s 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium.

Forster, 27, only returned last month from a nine-month layoff following a serious knee injury and the England international has kept four-straight clean sheets since getting back on the pitch.

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The 6-foot 7-inch goalkeeper put in perhaps the best performance of his career against Arsenal, making a vast array of fine saves to frustrate the Gunners and grab a point for Saints.

Early on Forster denied Mesut Ozil with a stunning reflex stop, and then in the second half twice denied Theo Walcott in quick succession before also thwarting Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez late on.

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Inside the Emirates Stadium fans gasped and looked at one another in disbelief as Forster pulled off save after save to leave Arsene Wenger extremely frustrated on the sidelines.

After the game Forster declined to make any comment on his own display and instead praised an “excellent team performance” as Saints snatched a point. His manager, Ronald Koeman, described Forster as “magic” as his 10-save night will live long in the memory.

That said, the Dutch manager wasn’t happy with the way his team gave up possession cheaply and failed to spring counters, but he was delighted that Forster was on top form to deny the title-chasing Gunners.

“Every time you need to go back more and you defend and defend and that is difficult because Arsenal is so good offensively with a lot of creativity,” Koeman told ProSoccerTalk. “That is difficult and then, of course, you need a goalkeeper who is magic. And he was magic tonight.”

Now he’s back fit, Forster will aim to push Joe Hart all the way for England’s No. 1 jersey ahead of the 2016 European Championships in France this summer. Koeman didn’t want to comment on that battle, but believes he possesses one of the best in the business.

“He is one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League and maybe one of the best in Europe,” Koeman added.

Costing $15 million from Celtic in the summer of 2014, Forster went down with a knee injury in March 2015 and spent almost a year on the sidelines watching on. Just how good he’s been on his return has even surprised his manager, who also praised his focus over a long recovery period.

“It is always difficult because he was nine months out and maybe we had to force him back a little bit because [Maarten] Stekelenburg was injured and maybe if he wasn’t injured we had to wait one or two weeks more. Sometimes it happens,” Koeman said. “We know that if you are nine months out you need rhythm and game minutes but from the start when he is back, he is what he was. That is unbelievable. That is credit to the medical staff and the best credit is to Fraser himself because he did everything and worked so hard to come back.”