The Manchester City FC have suffered some key injuries in the past week, so it turned out to be a good time to give fans their wildly popular goalkeeper, Joe Hart, back. With Pablo Zabaleta out for at least a week, and more likely a couple of weeks, City manager Manuel Pellegrini made the decision that it would take the experience and vision of his fan-favorite goalkeeper to manage the defense this week. It became evident early that City was suffering the lack of its stalwart defender, Zabaleta. A beautiful diving deflection around the 12th minute made it clear that Pellegrini had chosen well. Hart, after several weeks of watching from the bench, appears to be back in top form.
Romanian big-man Costel Pantilimon has been doing an admirable job for Manchester City, carrying the starting spot while Hart was on the sidelines. He has an impressive record, and has used his 6’8″ frame to good advantage. On more than one occasion, his expansive reach has allowed him to keep opponents from taking advantage of his relative inexperience. Missing both Sergio Aguero with his scoring ability and the quick counter-attack of Zabaleta, the game was destined to hinge on a coordinated defensive effort. Manchester City needed to have the experience of their English keeper, Hart, back on the field.
Hart’s previous tendency to get off of his line and out of position too early appears to have been remedied during his time on the sidelines. The two goals that he did surrender were far more attributable to poor decisions on the part of the Manchester City defenders than to any mental lapses by Hart. Both Aleksander Kolarov and Vincent Kompany were trying to fill the role of Zabaleta on the counter-attack to the neglect of their duties on the home end. The Fulham attack caught them too far forward a couple of times. Kompany even scored an own-goal as a result of striking the ball while trying to get back to it from being out of position.
It is a testament to the depth of the squad that City was able to provide its customary offensive production despite the loss of Aguero for several weeks. Once Negredo asserted himself in the midfield, feeding winners to the front with skill, it became clear that there were plenty of players willing to step up and fill the temporary scoring void. Jesus Navas showed considerable promise on the right and looks to become a favorite target up front along with Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri. Now up to 51 goals scored for the season, the team seems unlikely to surrender the Premier League lead anytime soon.
With this 4-2 victory over Fulham FC, City takes second place in the Premier League standings for the moment. It makes the match next week against current leaders Liverpool FC an important one to the table. Facing the skill of Luis Suarez, who was on fire again today in the Liverpool match against Cardiff City FC, experience may be an important edge to have. Manager Pellegrini might just decide that it is the right time to have Manchester City FC fans see their emotional favorite, Joe Hart, back in the net.
By Jim Malone