Glenn Gibbons: Joe Hart pained by football’s bite-back factor
REAL Madrid’s Champions League victory over Manchester City may have been impossibly dramatic – from 2-1 down to 3-2 ahead in the last few minutes – but it was also a pulse-quickening example of the test of nerve and mental fortitude required to succeed at the most intoxicating levels of professional sport.
Spanish elation would, naturally, be countered by English dejection, the latter personified by the City goalkeeper, Joe Hart. The big man’s halting, virtually choking comments under interrogation from ITV’s Gabriel Clarke indicated the depth of his suffering. They also hinted powerfully that he was raging with his team-mates, particularly the central defender Vincent Kompany, who appeared to duck under the shot from Cristiano Ronaldo which clinched Real’s victory.
“We simply shouldn’t lose after leading with a few minutes to go,” said Hart, in one sentence vindicating the belief that players have much to learn from experienced managers in the matter of rationalising a body blow.
My mind instantly returned to the night in 2004 when another team in the care of Jose Mourinho, FC Porto, eliminated Manchester United from the Champions League at Old Trafford with an injury-time goal that was the gift of the clumsy home goalkeeper, Tim Howard.
Having lost the first leg of the last-16 tie 2-1, United had seemed certain to reach the last eight on the back of Paul Scholes’ first-half goal. In addition, Scholes had what proved to be a legitimate second goal disallowed for offside just before half-time.
I made my way round to the interview area soon after the final whistle and found Sir Alex Ferguson waiting to speak to radio reporters. Quietly, I said, “That must have been hard to take”. His reply instantly made a nonsense of the trite, easy-to-hand pronouncements on “furious Fergie” regularly and conveniently favoured by so many in the media. “Well,” he said, perfectly unruffled, “we’ve done it often enough to other teams. One day, it’s bound to happen to us.”
Considering that Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero scored the two injury-time goals that brought City victory over QPR and the Premier League championship only in May, big Joe would not have to look too far for evidence of football’s heightened sense of retribution.
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