What Happens If a Goalie Gets a Red Card?

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Misconduct in soccer is taken very seriously and can lead to the team losing the game.  This is especially true when goalkeepers receive a red card. 

Goalkeepers have the most specialized position in a team and are usually considered the star players. They prevent the other team from scoring a goal by blocking the opponent’s attack.

That’s why it’s such a big deal when the manager of a team receives a red card for their goalkeeper. They are forced to replace their goalkeeper immediately, which can affect the game’s dynamic. 

If you are thinking about joining a soccer team or you’re trying to understand the rules of soccer better, read our detailed guide describing what happens when goalies get a red card.

Why Does the Goalie Get a Red Card?

Goalies get a red card when they have committed an offense that’s serious enough that they have to leave the field. A goalie can get a red card by accumulating 2 yellow cards (called a warning card) or by committing either physical or verbal misconduct.

The consequence for a red card may result in either a penalty, a free kick, or a match ban for up to 6 matches.

What Happens if a Goalie Gets a Red Card?

The team manager can decide how to proceed if their goalkeeper gets a red card.  I’ll outline the options that the manager can take should the goalie receive a red card.

Substitution of an Outfield Player

According to official standards (FIFA), a team can have up to 5 substitutions per match. The manager also has the option to have 12 players as substitutes on the bench should this happen. 

When a goalie receives a red card and is banned from the match, the manager can call a substitute from the bench to replace an existing outfield player, then an existing outfield player can assume the goalie position. This will help to complete the minimum number of players (usually a minimum of 7 players per team for an official tournament).

This can completely change the game and be a bold move for managers, especially if they make the attacker outfield player the new goalkeeper. This means the new goalie would have to shift his/her perspective from offense to defense. 

On-pitch Tactical Change

Should the manager use all 5 substitutions in a match, the team has no choice but to utilize the existing outfield players present on the field.

This may stretch the team too thin but can also be a chance to amp up their strategy. 

Why Do Goalkeepers Get Sent Off?

There are different reasons why goalkeepers may get sent off. You can read Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct for an exhaustive list. 

Goalkeepers can get sent off if they commit offensive actions towards their opponent. If the referee witnesses an offensive action, even if the goalie didn’t mean to do it, a penalty can be given.

Grievous misconduct, such as physical violence, can also lead goalkeepers to be banned from matches.

What Happens if a Goalkeeper Is Sent Off?

When the goalkeeper is sent off, the two main options are to substitute an outfield player and decide on a backup goalkeeper or, in a case where substitution is no longer available to the team, an existing outfield player is assigned to be the goalkeeper for the rest of the game.

Examples of Goalkeeper Red Cards

Below are examples of different situations where a goalkeeper may receive a red card. 

Alisson Becker Red Card

Alisson Becker is a respected goalkeeper, but his ill-tempered attitude cost him a game against Ecuador in 2022. He received a red card twice for his offensive antics against his opponent.

The first red card was when he was seen high-kicking Enner Valencia, but the red card got demoted when the referee discovered that Valencia had stepped on his foot.

The second red card was given almost an hour after the first red card, when Alisson went out to quell the attacker, but accidentally hit Ecuador’s international head. 

The decision was reversed again when the referee concluded that Alisson got to the ball first.

The game was dubbed a game full of drama due to this and other circumstances, including when the opposing team’s goalkeeper, Alexander Dominguez, was sent off for violently attacking Mattheus Cunha. The red card was awarded to Ecuador due to this misfortune.

Gianluigi Buffon Red Card

Buffon’s case was different; no physical altercations were present during the game. Buffon’s red card was due to his furious protesting against referee Michael Oliver for not giving the opponent team a penalty. He got served with a three-match ban for which he said, “he suffered in silence.”

Offensive remarks were made by Buffon, even after the game. However, some football commentators came to the defense of Michael Oliver, saying he was just doing his job.

Bernd Leno Red Card

Bernd Leno’s red card was due to him reportedly rushing out of his area to punch a ball for a throw-in, even though he was a few yards away from his box. 

This denied the opposing team to score, which led Referee Craig Pawson to give him the odd red card of the season.

Jens Lehmann Red Card

Lehmann was the first goalkeeper to be sent off in a Champions League/ European Cup game in 2005. 18 minutes into the game, he was sent off by Referee Terjee Hauge, who seemingly regrets giving the red card to Lehmann.

Lehmann (Arsenal) blocked Samuel E’to (playing for Barcelona) but missed and slid through the goal. Upon sliding, he held Samuel’s foot, causing him to fall.

Though Ludovic Guily (playing for Barcelona) could recover the ball and score, referee Hauge gave the red card to Lehmann. Some were saying, however, that Hauge should’ve let Lehmann stay and could have used it to the advantage of the opposing team scoring the match.

Though Hauge may regret it, he also doesn’t see his decision as completely wrong as there was clear physical contact.

Despite this situation, it didn’t stop Lehmann from being named as Champions League Goalkeeper of the Year for the 2005–06 season.


A game’s rules are important for a fair game where everyone is given equal opportunities. These red card instances show how athletes’ training also includes their mental and emotional attitude to challenges on the field.

This also shows that one red card doesn’t define your whole career. Some greatest players were given a red card before their big break. It’s a matter of mindset on how you play the game, and how you bounce back.

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