Hart truths

Hart truths
Manchester City's Joe Hart saves a penalty from Borussia Monchengladbach's Raffael.
PHOTO: Reuters

Manchester City fought tooth and nail, clawed their way back from one goal down and secured a crucial victory.

Sergio Aguero came to City's rescue with a last-minute penalty which he earned and converted.

With the 2-1 away win over German club Borussia Moenchengladbach yesterday morning (Singapore time), the Citizens grabbed their first points of the Champions League campaign.

The accolades flowed. But Aguero played second fiddle.

At Borussia Park, goalkeeper Joe Hart put up a performance so brilliant that he left no one in any doubt who the Man of the Match was.

As the City defenders took turns to invite the Moenchengladbach players to pull the trigger, Hart's presence grew with every block.

Even when the hosts earned a penalty in the 20th minute, Hart refused to be beaten, saving spectacularly from forward Raffael.

The Brazilian's nightmare had just begun, as Hart would stop two more almost-certain goals from him and another by Patrick Herrmann.

By the end of the first half, City could have been three down. That Hart kept the visitors in the game laid the foundation for what was a dramatic and somewhat fortunate win.

Lars Stindl finally broke the deadlock after the break, but City hit back with goals from Nicolas Otamendi and Aguero to help erase memories of their 2-1 home loss to Juventus two weeks ago,

"His (Hart's) performance was very important for us," said a grateful manager Manuel Pellegrini, who came under fire for City's lacklustre displays lately.

However, Hart's five-star show also underlined just how mediocre City were.

SAVIOUR

Just what does it say about a team as a whole when a goalkeeper has to save his teammates' blushes time and again, especially in Europe?

Moenchengladbach were just the latest victims of Hart's heroics.

In 2012, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund saw it for themselves.

Last season, Roma, Bayern Munich and Barcelona were among the others to have had a taste of his prowess.

But, as Hart's reputation continues to grow, City's standing moves in the opposite direction.

Regardless of how instrumental his performance was, it couldn't mask the deficiencies that continually plague Pellegrini's side in continental competition.

City's game smacked of naivety.

When the pace got frenetic in the first half, the English Premiership outfit quickly lost their tactical shape and discipline.

While they offered plenty going forward, with Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva providing plenty of attacking options, their defence offered little resistance.

The central defence partnership of Otamendi and Martin Demichelis hardly inspired confidence, as Herrmann and Raffael often sliced it apart with ease.

With midfielders Yaya Toure and Fernandinho offering little protection to the back four, City resembled sitting ducks, especially in the first half.

More than two years into the job, Pellegrini continues to struggle to find the right balance.

City have won admiration with their resolve this time, but Moenchengladbach have set off the alarm bells nevertheless.

Hart saved City's skin on this occasion.

But he can't, and shouldn't be, doing this alone all the time.


This article was first published on October 2, 2015.
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