Man City is a special place – Hart

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Joe Hart marked his first start of the season, and
possibly his last for Manchester City,
with a clean
sheet as Pep Guardiola’s side advanced to the
Champions League group stage.
Keeper Hart, who is expected to leave with Claudio
Bravo close to signing, was rarely troubled after
being made captain against Steaua Bucharest.
Leading 5-0 from the first leg, City rested several
key players.
Fabian Delph’s header from Jesus Navas’ cross
made it 6-0 on aggregate.

Hart was dropped for City’s first three games as
Guardiola opted for Willy Caballero instead.
However, the City boss had hinted at his pre-
match news conference that Hart would start this
one – and he gave the 29-year-old the added
responsibility of leading the team out.
Hart’s every touch was applauded by home
supporters while there were many banners on
display in support of the England keeper.
In the 66th minute of his 348th start for the club,
while a Steaua Bucharest player was receiving
treatment, the Etihad reverberated to chants of
“Stand up if you love Joe Hart”. He responded by
shaking his head and touching the club badge on
his shirt.
Hart had little to do as the visitors sat back. He
produced a couple of examples of short, sharp
distribution with his feet – contrary to the
perceived weakness that may have counted
against him under Guardiola
– while making two saves to keep out substitute
Nicolae Stanciu’s free-kick and then blocking
Alexandru Tudorie’s effort.
He also celebrated Delph’s goal by raising both
arms and punching the air.
At the final whistle, Hart applauded all four sides of
the Etihad along with his team-mates.
Concern for Iheanacho
As well as Hart, there were four other first starts of
the season for City players – including a first
competitive start for 19-year-old right-back Pablo
Maffeo – as Steaua embarked on the improbable
task of turning over a five-goal deficit.
Yaya Toure, who is also expected to leave next
week, hit the side netting, Nolito volleyed at the
keeper and young forward Kelechi Iheanacho
forced a save before Delph’s well-executed header
following the best move of the game.
Guardiola was at his animated best throughout –
conducting mini-tutorials, calling Maffeo, then John
Stones over to the touchline for one-on-one
instruction.
Despite City’s victory, there was one moment of
concern for Guardiola when Iheanacho was carried
off on a stretcher after pulling up and receiving
swift medical treatment.
That raises the possibility of a reprieve for fellow
striker Wilfried Bony, who has been linked with
West Ham and was not in the 18-man squad on
Wednesday.
Who could City face in group stage?
City are in Thursday’s draw for the Champions
League group stage along with four other British
teams – Leicester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and
Celtic.
No team can play a club from their own
association.
Guardiola could find himself up against one of his
former clubs – Barcelona or Bayern Munich who
are both in Pot 1 along with holders Real Madrid,
Juventus, Benfica, Paris St-Germain and CSKA
Moscow.
All will become clear around 17:00 BST.
Man of the Match – John Stones (Man City)
What they said
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola: “We are
ready for the Champions League. The players and
club deserve it. We were the better team.
“It was not easy with 10 players behind the ball
but in the second half we adjusted and attacked
much better. The spirit was amazing. Now is a day
to celebrate our qualification for the Champions
League.”
What next?
Regular forwards Sergio Aguero and David Silva,
both unused substitutes here, are expected to
return for Sunday’s Premier League home game
against West Ham United (16:00 BST).

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