DAN Twardzik is learning exactly how severe the penalties can be in European football.
While Motherwell captain Keith Lasley will want to forget the two spot kicks he uncharacteristically conceded to leave the Lanarkshire club's Europa League qualifying tie against Stjarnan teetering on a knife edge, their new Czech goalkeeper will be equally keen to atone from the ignominy of being beaten twice by the same man, Olafur Karl Finsen, on both occasions wrong-footed by identical low shots into the keeper's bottom left-hand corner.
In the psychological battle between custodian and penalty kick taker, this was perhaps something of a corrective to Louis van Gaal's inventive decision to replace Holland keeper Jasper Cillesen with one-time Falkirk shotstopper Tim Krul against Costa Rica in Brazil this summer, in the sense that the initiative was seized by the man without the gloves.
"We saw videos of how the guy took his penalties," said Twardzik. "He took the last ones on my right so I actually thought he'd go there at least once. He obviously studied us as well so he changed his mind. It's like a double bluff, I guess. I was in two minds for the second one and I thought maybe with it being a pressure penalty he'd blast it in the middle. But I could see with his run that he was placing it somewhere. He did well with both penalties, good placement."
After the handful of promising games on loan to Motherwell from Dundee last season which cemented his permanent deal, Twardzik knows now is the ideal time to get the nod ahead of Gunnar Nielsen for what will be the second family outing to Iceland this fortnight. Only last week, his younger brother Filip was an unused member of the Celtic travelling party which overcame KR Reykjavik. His other sibling Patrik was released by the Parkhead club this summer.
"I want to put in a big performance for the team," he said. "I played the five games here last year and was quite happy with everything around and in the club. I have to say thank you for the opportunity to come back from the gaffer to show what I can. I will work hard every single day to keep my place if I get the chance again next week. We will see what happens over there.My brother was in Iceland with Celtic last week and it was a good result for them there," he added. "You could see Reykjavik were hard to break down which, I think, was the same for us. Stjarnan weren't easy to play against either, but we managed to score. And I'm sure we will score over there too. But we need to be careful at the back."
Twardzik, whose father Rene was also a goalkeeper, could have joined Motherwell some five years ago, but after stints at Karlsruhe, Como, Aberdeen and Dundee, he is determined to make up for lost time. "I left Bayern Munich and expected to come over, show myself and sign a contract," said Twardzik. "But Bayern asked for compensation which was, at the time, usual for international transfers if a young boy was changing team. They put a little stone in my way, but I am back and I am happy to be back.
"This is definitely my big chance in Scottish football," he added. "I have been unlucky at previous clubs with other goalkeepers being in position. It has been hard for me to find a team, to find a manager that believes in me. That's because I am not the tallest one (he stands six feet tall). I feel I showed last season when I came to Motherwell that I am capable of playing at this level and I hope to show it again."
Having said all that, Stjarnan, a club best known for their eccentric goal celebrations, also hope to be celebrating this Thursday. Pablo Punyed, a player who had a trial at Chesterfield earlier this year, and has represented both the USA and El Salvador at youth level, said he felt the Fir Park club were guilty of taking them lightly after racking up an early two-goal lead.
"Maybe Motherwell underestimated us a bit," he said. "At 2-0 it's a false score and we knew if we got a goal before half-time we'd be back in the game - that's what happened. We like to play open, attacking football, that's our style. So I think it will be a similar type of game in Iceland. They have to come and score. That will leave spaces for us and hopefully we can hit them on the break.
"We've been trying to focus more on football than our goal celebrations recently," he added. "But we'll maybe we'll come up with a new one for the second leg."