Hart breaker: City within a whisker of glorious comeback


MANCHESTER CITY goalkeeper Joe Hart denied his side’s season is on the verge of imploding after Sporting Lisbon clung on to secure a place in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

City’s five-month stay at the Premier League summit came to an end last weekend after defeat at Swansea and although they salvaged some pride with a rousing second half comeback last night, wrestling domestic supremacy from Manchester United is now their sole target after Sporting Lisbon progressed on the away goals rule.

Roberto Mancini’s men looked to be heading for an ignominious exit when Matias Fernandez and Ricky van Wolfswinkel struck twice within seven first-half minutes to treble Lisbon’s aggregate lead.

City, however, roared back after the interval with two goals from Sergio Aguero and a Mario Balotelli penalty, before Hart’s 95th-minute header was tipped round the post by his opposite number Rui Patricio to deny the England goalkeeper a moment of unprecedented glory.

Despite the obvious disappointment of having been so close to putting the finishing touch to an improbable act of escapology, Hart insists City are still well placed to ensure they do not end the season without a trophy.

He said: “We’re one point behind the leaders of the Premier League, we’re a good team and we’ve got nothing to worry about. We’ll go in against Chelsea on Wednesday as favourites and we should be favourites.

“We need to play well in every game. There are not many left now. We’ve cost ourselves with the first half but if we keep rolling now we’ll be all right.”

On his near miss, Hart added: “I can’t believe it, I thought it was in.

“It didn’t need to get to that, but football is football. The fans were fantastic tonight and we didn’t give them what they deserved in the first half.

“Hopefully we can take some positives out of the second half and move on for the rest of the season.”

“It was important to win this game and go through, but now we need to keep our heads up,” added Kolo Toure, captain for the night in the absence of Vincent Kompany.

“We have a really important game coming up on Wednesday against Chelsea and we have to give it all.

“For Man City now every trophy is very important so when we go out like that, it is always very difficult, but now we just need to think about the future. The past is the past.”