LONDON: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has declared he has faith in third-choice goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen as his side’s quest for Champions League qualification enters a critical final phase.
City are set to be without Shay Given for the rest of the season after the Republic of International was carried off during the second half of the goalless draw at Arsenal on Saturday with a dislocated shoulder.
Given was replaced by Faroe Islands international Nielsen, who was making his City and Premier League debut.
The 23-year-old newcomer made a number of saves as City moved to within a point of fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur, who had lost at Manchester United earlier in the day.
City are at home to Spurs, who currently occupy the final Champions League spot on offer to English clubs, next month, in between next weekend’s home game with Aston Villa and a final day trip to West Ham.
Second-choice goalkeeper Stuart Taylor has been out for a month with a knee injury.
Meanwhile City may have to investigate whether they can recall England goalkeeper Joe Hart from his season-long loan at Birmingham.
“Shay’s injury will be a problem,” Mancini said. “It’s not good for us because Shay is a fantastic goalkeeper. He is important to us, but in football you can always get injured.
“Shay is in hospital, but we have 10 days and must play three big games. Gunnar came on and did very well. Stuart is still some way off and everyone must be 200% now,” the Italian added.
Saturday’s match at the Emirates saw the return of City striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who had left Arsenal in acrimonious circumstances last summer and was booed by a large section of the home support.
The Togo international had also courted controversy in the reverse fixture in September by celebrating a goal in front of the Arsenal fans and being accused of stamping on Gunners striker Robin van Persie.
Mancini though was convinced his player had behaved impeccably on this occasion, saying: “I only said to him ‘Manu, think only of the match and not the other situation’. Today he was on his best behaviour.”
Gunners manager Arsene Wenger had called for the Arsenal fans to respect Adebayor, who came on as a substitute early in the second half, but that did not happen.
“It made it a bit livelier because our supporters suddenly got lively but he was focused, motivated and sharp,” he said.
“I said before the game I wanted everybody to show respect so you know clearly what I think.”
The game also marked Van Persie’s first start since suffering a serious ankle injury in November and Wenger declared himself satisfied by the Holland international’s contribution to a game of very few chances.
“He was sharp for 60 or 70 minutes and after that he dropped physically,” he said. “I left him on because I thought we could only win on set pieces and he might score from a free-kick.
“Having been such a long time out it was very positive.”
Wenger reserved the highest praise for 35-year-old centreback Sol Campbell, who put in a peerless performance in front of England manager Fabio Capello.
“Maybe they should take him to South Africa,” he said. “I still don’t know yet if he will be here next season. Since he has been in the team he has been outstanding. I never expected that from him and it is a great credit to him.
“You can compare him with any centreback in the league. He has been very, very good,” the Frenchman added.
The draw ended third-placed Arsenal’s lingering title hopes and left the north London club still searching for their first major trophy since the 2005 FA Cup.
But Wenger tried to re-assure supporters by saying: “We are nearly there.” — AFP