Hart to keep City place after win

Blackpool Citizen: Joe Hart is in line to face Liverpool Joe Hart is in line to face Liverpool

Joe Hart will keep his place in the Manchester City side for the Boxing Day clash against Liverpool after making his first Premier League appearance in almost two months against Fulham, manager Manuel Pellegrini confirmed.

Hart made his first Premier League start since October 27 in City's 4-2 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage.

The England goalkeeper was helpless to stop Vincent Kompany's looping own goal drop into the net as Fulham clambered from 2-0 to draw level in the second half, before City replied with late goals from Jesus Navas and James Milner to take the win.

Afterwards, Pellegrini said he had seen enough to confirm Hart will face Liverpool.

He said: "We don't know what will happen in the future, today, what Joe did I think he did it well.

"We'll see what will happen, every match we can play with different 11 starters, but at the moment Joe will continue to play in the next game.

"At the moment he deserved to play today and he also deserves to continue.

"When I put (Costel) Pantilimon in the starting XI I spoke with Joe and he understood that he was not in a good moment.

"Maybe seven games after, one month after, he's working very hard, and I thought that he deserved another opportunity, and I think he did it well.

"It was a tough decision (to change the goalkeeper) because we were winning. I think Pantilimon was doing well also but I thought that this game was better for Joe to play.

"I think that we have a squad, and I have to make the decision every week who will play, not only Joe Hart."

City had eased into a 2-0 lead after half-time thanks to Yaya Toure's free-kick and a goal at the right end for Kompany.

But things changed after the break as the strong winds which had been behind City's backs in the first half began howling in their faces.

"It was a really difficult match: the pitch wasn't good and it was very windy," Pellegrini added.

"Fulham are a tough team at home and they defend very well.

"We started well but after slipping back Navas and Milner made huge contributions."

Kieran Richardson got Fulham's first before a bizarre own goal from Kompany, who sliced what should have been a routine clearance up and over Hart.

Pellegrini praised his players for not panicking when Fulham levelled the match.

He said: "We had at least three clear chances to score more goals and normally when you miss chances the other team will score.

"The second goal was very bad luck, and it would be impossible to repeat.

"These things happen and I think the reaction of the team was very important, to go forward again to try to win."

Dimitar Berbatov suffered a groin problem on Friday, and Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen admitted he chose not to risk the Bulgaria striker with the busy festive schedule in mind.

Meulensteen said: "Unfortunately he kicked a ball wrongly in training which aggravated something in his groin as far as I'm aware.

"So we had a good look at it, we assessed him, and actually assessed him this morning as well.

"And unfortunately he was too big of a risk. With all the games coming up I didn't want to take the risk of having to start Berbatov in that position and maybe him have to come off and then you lose him for the other games."

Meulensteen said Fulham continued their trend of praiseworthy hard graft without reward.

He said: "It's the same story as the Spurs and Everton games.

"The goals that we concede, from set plays, it's not good enough defending, especially the one just before half time.

"I was hoping the experience would kick in a bit from some of these players, to steady the ship."

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