Belfast Telegraph

'Keeper Joe Hart: We really showed what Manchester City are made of

By Robert Jones

Goalkeeper Joe Hart hailed the resolve and character of Manchester City as they reached the Champions League knockout stage.

Samir Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta struck in the second half to claim the victory which was enough to see City through to the last 16.

Up until Nasri's long-range special, a City side without three of their key players had been staring at the Champions League exit door but Hart was outstanding and they grew in confidence to claim a famous victory.

It completed a remarkable comeback in Group E, with progress having looked unlikely just a couple of weeks ago.

"We are a strong unit and we really believed in it," a delighted Hart said.

"We had a bit of a slow start but you don't win the Premier League easily.

"We've got resolve, we've got character and we've got great players. Add that all together and you have a chance.

"It was a great performance and we're moving in the right direction.

"We've won five or six games on the spin now and we've really stepped it up."

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini refused to focus on the players that were missing for the victory and instead wanted to focus on the quality of the men that were on the pitch at the Stadio Olimpico last night.

He said: "We recovered our normal performance and are playing well and are similar to the team who won the title last year.

"We are a solid team and are recovering the ball in the correct way in the correct moments.

"I don't want to complain about the players that aren't in the team. You must decide to play without (Vincent) Kompany, without Yaya Toure, without (David) Silva without (Sergio) Aguero. It's difficult for a team. This team deserves a little more credit than the press always gives us."

However, Pellegrini hopes to have captain Kompany back for the return to City's Premier League title defence at Leicester this weekend - which is now his total focus after securing qualification.

"I hope that Vincent will be fit for Saturday.

"It would have been a risk for him to play today as he has a problem with his hamstring and also his calf," the Chilean added.

"We are playing in two different competitions. We have finished with the Champions League, we have qualified.

"We will start thinking about this in February.

"If we didn't qualify I would be telling you the same words - now we must think about the Premier League to try to discount the points to Chelsea at the top of the table."

Nasri admitted his goal was of huge importance both for the team and on a personal level.

"It was important for me to score as after my surgery it took a little bit of time to come back to that level and now I am," he said.

"We are a team and we did it today."

Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Monaco, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea and Porto qualify as group winners while Juventus, Basel, Bayer Leverkusen, Arsenal, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke and Shakhtar Donetsk progress as runner-ups.

The draw for the last 16 fixtures takes place on Monday.

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