Thursday 04 October 2012
Roberto Mancini was disappointed with his side's performance but recognised Joe Hart as their saviour after the Manchester City goalkeeper produced a string of outstanding saves against Borussia Dortmund to spare the Barclays Premier League champions a second successive UEFA Champions League defeat.
Mario Balotelli's last-minute penalty, awarded for a handball by Neven Subotic, ensured Man City salvaged a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium but it was the heroics of Hart that kept Mancini's men in the match.
"Joe Hart was fantastic tonight - I don't know if it is the best performance in football history, but he did very well"
"Joe Hart saved us from an incredible defeat because he saved everything and we should say thank you to him," said the Man City manager. "He did a fantastic performance, he was fantastic tonight. I don't know if it is the best performance in football history, but he did very well."
It was a sentiment echoed by Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, who tweeted his praise of his international team-mate. "Have to say joe hart has been incredible. For me best keeper in the world."
In an open match there were chances for both sides with Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller also at his best to keep the hosts at bay, but the fact that Hart was the busier of the two shot-stoppers and that City needed a late penalty to get their first Champions League point on the board was a source of some discomfort for Mancini.
"We didn't play well," he said. "We conceded a lot of chances to them and I am really disappointed by our performance. The Champions League is totally different from the championship. When you have a chance you need to score. If you concede like we concede this evening, it is hard to win.
"In the first half we had three or four incredible chances. If you don't defend, if you don't run like Borussia Dortmund did this evening, it is difficult."
However, Mancini, whose side have yet to keep a clean sheet n all competitions this campaign, suggested he knew had to correct City's slow start to the season. "This is my problem - is my job," he added. "I will solve this problem."
Ajax 1-4 Real Madrid
Manchester City 1-1 Borussia Dortmund
Arsenal assistant manager Steve Bould believes that Gervinho could follow in the footsteps of Thierry Henry and become a "top striker" after the Ivorian international inspired the Gunners to their second successive UEFA Champions League group stage victory.
Gervinho opened the scoring and set up Lukas Podolski's second-half strike as Arsene Wenger's side completed a 3-1 win against Olympiacos at the Emirates Stadium.
"If Gervinho gets anywhere Thierry Henry we'll take that all day long"
Though the Greek champions responded to the Ivory Coast international's 42nd-minute opener on the stroke of half-time, Gervinho's persistence and awareness carved out a chance which Podolski converted on 56 minutes, before Aaron Ramsey wrapped things up with a cool, added-time finish.
Bould, who was deputising as manager in the absence of the suspended Wenger, commended Gervinho for the latest in a string of strong showings, which are the consequence of a move from a wide position into a more advanced attacking role.
It is the same positional switch that was made by Thierry Henry, and which has engendered comparisons with the Arsenal legend.
"If he gets anywhere Thierry Henry we'll take that all day long," said Bould. "Number one: he is scoring goals so his confidence is sky high. Number two: I think his link play is gradually improving. I think he set Santi [Cazorla] up quite a few times over the last few games.
"He is learning his trade there. I don't think he has played there an awful lot and he is a danger with his pace and movement at times. He could be a top player."
Despite Gervinho's performance and a convincing scoreline, it was not a vintage performance by Arsenal, whose fluent passing was missing for spells, and Bold admitted the hosts' edginess bore the hallmarks of a hangover from their Barclays Premier League defeat by Chelsea on Saturday.
"We made it tough," said Bould. "They were actually, I thought, very good. Their organisation was excellent and they made it tough for us. I think we improved in the second half with the ball, but we looked a little bit nervy, I have to say, at times so overall we are delighted.
"I think it probably affected our confidence a little bit getting beat [by Chelsea] when we felt perhaps - even though we didn't play so great - we should have got something from the game.
"Maybe there was a little bit of a carry-over, but we're hoping now that we've won that has gone, done and dusted, and we get back on track."
Arsenal 3-1 Olympiacos
Schalke 2-2 Montpellier