Soccer-Raja hope madcap keeper won't take another walk on wild side

Reuters

By Brian Homewood

AGADIR, Morocco, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Raja Casablanca fans are hoping wildly unpredictable goalkeeper Khalid Askri can curb his eccentric side when their team face Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro in Wednesday's Club World Cup semi-final.

The 32-year-old won the man of the match award against Monterrey in Saturday's quarter-final after one of the most important performances of a career marked by some truly bizarre incidents.

Askri became a figure of fun around the world after two extraordinary moments when he was playing for FAR Rabat, a club where he spent most of his career, three years ago.

The oddest came during a Moroccan Cup match against MAS Fez when the keeper thought he had saved a penalty and failed to see the ball trickle over the line while he was celebrating.

Askri dived low and stopped the spot kick, turned to the crowd and began thumping his chest, blissfully unaware the backspin was carrying the ball over the line. He only noticed when his opponents began celebrating.

In another incident two weeks later he stormed off the field in disgust at his own mistake, ignoring pleas from his team mates to continue the game.

Askri attempted to dribble his way out of trouble but showed too much of the ball to an opponent who stuck out his foot and slid the ball into the net.

He walked across the pitch, ripped off his shirt, waved away his team mates and headed straight for the dressing room.

NEEDLESS SAVE

Askri joined Raja in 2012 and provided their supporters with a moment to remember with one of the most needless saves ever seen.

Having been caught off his line by a long chip forward, Askri raced backwards and kept going even when it became clear the ball would sail over the crossbar, eventually catching it about 10 metres behind his goal.

He fell over on the treacherous surface and was lucky to escape injury.

Monterrey were not laughing on Saturday when Askri, who has yet to win a cap for Morocco, kept them at bay with half a dozen outstanding saves including one to deny Neri Cardozo after he had a clear run on goal with the score at 1-1.

Raja went on to win 2-1 in extra-time to earn a meeting with South American champions Atletico, featuring former AC Milan and Barcelona forward Ronaldinho, on Wednesday.

"I achieved my dream of playing against Ronaldinho by qualifying for the semi-finals," Askri told reporters. "I admire Ronaldinho and I have followed him throughout his career." (Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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