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Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart insists the title race is still wide open despite gap to Manchester United

December 27th, 2012 Sports

Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart insists the title race is open despite gap to Manchester United

Don’t mind the gap: Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart insists the club are more than capable of catching leaders Manchester United Photo: ACTION IMAGES

The 25-year-old England international was a disappointed man after former
club-mate Adam Johnson sneaked a long-range shot past him at the Stadium of
Light yesterday to condemn City
to a third successive 1-0 Premier League defeat at Sunderland.

The defeat saw the champions slip further off the pace as they attempted to
reel in United, who had to come from behind three times before eventually
beating the Black Cats’ north-east neighbours Newcastle 4-3 at Old Trafford
in stoppage time.

Blues manager Roberto Mancini was quick to point out that the season was only
at the halfway stage as he assessed the implications of an unexpected
defeat, and having seen his side chase down United at the back end of the
last campaign to snatch the title in a dramatic finale, Hart remained
equally bullish.

”We have had leads, United have had the lead – it’s to-ing and fro-ing at the
moment,” said Hart.

”We are a team of winners. It’s hard and it hurts, but we have got to move
on. It is hard to lead and it is hard to chase too.

”We have clawed points back before, we proved it at the end of last year. We
have just got to believe.”

Sunderland’s record against City is remarkable – they were the only side to
leave the Etihad Stadium last season with a point – and Mancini joked
afterwards that they would not travel to Wearside during the 2013-14

In the short term, the Italian’s focus will be on Saturday’s trip to Norwich,
where his side won 6-1 in April and where a repeat of that result, if not
the scoreline, would be hugely welcome.

Hart said: ”The only way we can change it is by winning here next year – but
for now, we only have Norwich on our minds.”

City had their chances at the Stadium of Light, but were denied by a
combination of the woodwork and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

The Belgium international made three outstanding saves, from Yaya Toure and
David Silva before the break and Sergio Aguero after it, and his efforts did
not go unnoticed by the man at the opposite end of the pitch.

Hart said: ”Simon Mignolet has had a magnificent game. He’s a brilliant
goalkeeper, I have watched him closely in other games.

”Sunderland defended for their lives and it just wouldn’t go in for us.”

Hart himself had to get down superbly to turn away Steven Fletcher’s
25th-minute strike as Sunderland, having weathered an early storm, started
to make an impact.

However, when the game’s decisive moment arrived, he was unable to prevent
Johnson, who left City in the summer having found himself surplus to
requirements, from stealing the headlines.

City were furious not to be awarded a free-kick for Craig Gardner’s challenge
on Pablo Zabaleta immediately before Carlos Cuéllar slipped the ball to the
winger, and he cut inside and drilled a speculative effort towards the near

Mancini later absolved Hart of blame, although admitted he might have been
anticipating a cross rather than a shot, but he could not get across his
goal in time to prevent the ball from ending up in the bottom corner.

”First and foremost, someone stamped on Zaba – it was a blatantly obvious
foul – but what can you do?” said Hart.

”I was in my position for the shot, and that’s where you will see me again on

”But he struck it well with just enough wobble to beat me.”