Pellegrini unsure on Hart situation

31 October 2013 11:01

Manuel Pellegrini insisted he has yet to determine Joe Hart's fate after his deputy Costel Pantilimon impressed in the 2-0 Capital One Cup victory over Newcastle.

Pantilimon was hardly overworked in the course of his side's extra-time victory at St James' Park but did everything that was required of him when called upon.

He got down well while partially unsighted to paw a Shola Ameobi effort wide in the first half and then, with the scores still level early in added time, the Romanian came out to meet Papiss Cisse and stood firm to make a strong save.

That latter intervention was picked out by home manager Alan Pardew as the key moment of the match, giving City the platform to secure passage to the quarter-finals via goals from Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko.

The focus on the under-pressure Hart was inevitable, but Pellegrini did little to fan the flames around England's number one.

While he stopped short of guaranteeing a return to the starting XI against Norwich on Saturday, he also declined to anoint Pantilimon as his successor.

"He is a very good goalkeeper and he normally plays in the Capital One Cup and the FA Cup," said Pellegrini.

"This was a very important match for him. But I will start to think about the game against Norwich on Thursday. Today I was just thinking about winning this match.

"I think that we will talk tomorrow (about the team selection). One goalkeeper can play but the other will have our full support. We will think about it."

Pressed for further details about Hart's standing, Pellegrini responded curtly: "I have just told you I will think about that tomorrow."

There was more praise for Pantilimon, again slightly muted, from Dzeko.

"He was great, he's been working hard in training. It's his second clean sheet in the Capital One Cup so he's definitely improving," said the striker, who secured City's win by rounding Tim Krul at the end of the first period of added time.

Pellegrini was also able to react for the first time to news that CSKA Moscow had been hit by a partial stadium closure for their next Champions League fixture as a result of racist chanting against Yaya Toure.

"It is a country where the next World Cup (after 2014) will be played," he said.

"It is an important way to finish those things. I don't know if there was less severity or more severity (in the sanction) but UEFA have three levels of punishment and this is the first but I can't tell you more than that."

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew, who had described a shot at silverware as "a priority" in his pre-match assessment, was frustrated to be exiting at the fourth round.

His side probably had the better of the play in normal time and a 2-0 defeat was unflattering to their efforts.

"We're obviously disappointed not to score. We played well enough to warrant a goal and I couldn't ask more from the players," he said.

"The performance level was really high but it was a hard match so it's a shame we didn't get our noses in front.

"We had a really big, big chance at the start of extra time and that first goal is critical at that point because people are getting tired and it's very difficult to claw it back.

"Unfortunately for us they scored it."

Pardew was also unable to achieve his aim of giving the St James' Park faithful something to counter-balance the bitter taste of defeat to Sunderland in last weekend's Tyne-Wear derby.

"I just feel for the fans really," he added.

"They were terrific. They didn't give us a hard time about Sunderland, they came to support the team and we responded to that.

"If you looked at us out there I don't think you'd say we were in bad form."

Source: PA

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