Toure spot-kick saves calamity Hart from nightmare scenario
Man City 2 Norwich 1
Published 02/11/2015 | 02:30
The last time Joe Hart celebrated a goal quite so wildly was when Sergio Aguero settled the 2011-12 title race with the last kick of the season, but as Yaya Toure secured victory for Manchester City from the penalty spot on Saturday, Hart was hugging team-mates as though another championship had just been secured.
Toure's winner, following a Russell Martin handball, which resulted in the Norwich defender being dismissed, came just moments after Hart had gifted Alex Neil's team an equaliser with a gaffe appropriately timed on Halloween due to the nightmares it would have given the England goalkeeper had it proved decisive. A routine cross from Robbie Brady had initially been plucked from the air by Hart before he inexplicably lost his grip and dropped it to the feet of the grateful Cameron Jerome.
No wonder the goalkeeper held his head in his hands, but Toure's penalty spared his blushes before the City No1 redeemed himself with a crucial block from Martin Olsson's deflected strike three minutes into stoppage time.
For Hart, it was the life of a goalkeeper encapsulated into the space of 10 minutes.
What had been a solid outing looked to have been ruined by one loss of concentration before his quality came to the fore again when it mattered.
"It was a very unfortunate goal that Norwich scored," City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. "But Joe is human, these things can happen and he can make a mistake."
In many ways, the story of Hart's game reflected City's. Strong, composed and unruffled until the dying stages, before overcoming adversity right at the end.
It is little surprise that nobody leaves the Etihad Stadium until the final whistle nowadays.
The cost of a season ticket would be good value simply by taking your seat in the 80th minute between now and the end of the campaign.
Norwich, beaten 6-2 at Newcastle on their last game away from Carrow Road and hammered 7-0 on the most recent visit to the Etihad, unsurprisingly approached this fixture with the mindset of making the hosts work overtime in order to win.
They achieved that objective, but would have headed back to Norfolk believing they could and should have come away with something.
"I just feel we chucked a point away today because we had it in our own hands," Neil said. "City struggled to break us down and that speaks volumes for how hard we worked.
"After equalising, it was just basic errors from individual players and that's the bottom line."
Having missed a succession of first-half chances, with Wilfried Bony the prime culprit, City broke the deadlock on 67 minutes when Nicolas Otamendi scored from 12 yards with a bullet header from Kevin De Bruyne's corner.
Hart's error was then punished by Jerome, but Toure's penalty was a killer blow for Norwich.
Had Aleksandar Kolarov scored a second penalty five minutes into stoppage time, following a Brady foul on Raheem Sterling, it would have been overly harsh on Norwich, but the City defender sent his spot-kick wide.
Not that it would have been any consolation to Norwich, who came so close to halting City's title charge. © Daily Telegraph, London