Wednesday night will go down in history as the Zlatan Ibrahimovic show. No doubt he deserves it after answering years and years of English based criticism with an incredible four-goal-salvo against England in Stockholm. Of course the main highlight was his quite exceptional overhead-kick from what seemed to be an impossible angle and distance from goal.
Other than the disconcerting middle-aged perving of Zlatan’s torso by the ITV commentary team the most disturbing factor of the game was the performance of goalkeeper Joe Hart. While others did not cover themselves in glory (Gary Cahill) there was no doubt that The Zlatan show could have been titled ‘The Joe Hart Horror Show’ and been just as apt.
Jack Wilshere made his first appearance for England since the 2-2 draw with Switzerland in June last year and not since that game would Hart have had a worst appearance for his national side.
First there was his sluggish encroaching off the goal-line. Twice in the first half he ended up bundling into Cahill after being indecisive in the claiming of two bread-and-butter through balls. While he could do little to stop the first two goals; other than the sheer craftsmanship and genius of the Paris Saint-Germain striker the winning goals were both the City stoppers fault.
The first, a free-kick, saw him commit the biggest goalkeeping sin that every top class stopper seems to be doing recently; conceding a goal on your side of a free-kick. Zlatan had no right to score from that distance unless he bends it over a well organised wall into the top corner of the far post. A rasping bobbler along the awful Swedish turf into his territory should have been gobbled up. That is his side of the goal to defend and he failed. As for the poor clearing header that set up Zlatan’s historical party-piece it is best to remain silent on the issue.
Goalkeepers have bad days at the office but despite that unbelievably good performance against Borussia Dortmund Hart has been largely underwhelming this term. Gordon Banks feels he needs more pressure in order to avoid becoming complacent:
"I don't want him to get too over-confident where he doesn't have to worry about his place. Nobody is pushing Joe Hart at all’’
Could it be that Banks was wrong; because now it seems he does have competition he turns out this woeful display for his country. Fraser Forster was previously written off as an SPL player and by association ‘he isn’t good enough’. Now he is the giant that dwarfed Barcelona in two excellent appearances against the Catalan giants.
His form will surely put stress on Hart as the Celtic stopper is in the form of his life and if he can cut out his bad habits there is little doubt he can start to push Hart all the way.
So are we starting to see a chink in the armour of the unflappable Hart?
image: © illarterate