After returning to Manchester City’s starting XI for the first time in eight Premier League games, Joe Hart will keep his spot for Thursday’s game against Liverpool, the England international having done enough on Saturday at Fulham to win over Manuel Pellegrini. Satisfied with his former No. 1’s performance in the Citizens’ 4-2 win at Craven Cottage, Pellegrini is ready to give Hart his first back-to-back starts since benching him after Oct. 27’s loss at Stamford Bridge.
“Joe did well and it was not easy,” Pellegrini said after Saturday’s . “The pitch was very quick and there was a lot of wind but he had a very good game.”
“He deserved to play and he also deserves to continue.”
Back in October, the 2-1 defeat at Chelsea was decided when Hart’s late misread allowed Fernando Torres to win a ball at the edge of the penalty area. New the end of regulation time, the Spanish international was granted an empty net for the match-winner. Since Hart had only made three appearances before Saturday’s start: two games in Champions League, one in League Cup. Though Hart allowed five goals in that span, City went 3-0-0, a run that featured a win in Germany over Bayern Munich.
Hart conceded two more goals against Fulham, but one came off the foot of City defender Vincent Kompany, whose shanked clearance looped into the Citizens’ net in Saturday’s second half. When not being scored on by his teammates, Hart made three saves and only conceded when Kieran Richardson was given a sitter in the 50th minute. Had Pantilimon been in goal, Fulham would have still been left with two goals.
In his nine matches, Pantilimon conceded nine times and kept four clean sheets, that Citizens going 7-1-1 in that time. The 26-year-old Romanian’s last appearance was Dec. 14 against Arsenal, a game Manchester City won, 6-3.
As for whether Pantilimon might be back in net after Thursday’s match, we can only assume Pellegrini sees the situation as evolving.
“In every match, we could play with 11 different starters, but at the moment Joe will continue to play.”