Roberto Mancini has all but confirmed Costel Pantilimon, City’s 26-year-old substitute goalkeeper, will play in next weekend’s showpiece FA Cup Final against Wigan. The Romanian has played in both domestic cup competition this season, and Mancini feels it is ‘important’ for his development that he continues to play.
Asked whether Joe Hart would be considered for the match at Wembley, Mancini replied:
I don’t think so, we decided this at the start of the season. Pantilimon deserves to play.
Joe won the FA Cup two years ago, he won the Premier League last year, he is the best keeper in England and I think he should be happy his second keeper can play in a big game.
I know he wants to play but we decided at the start of the season it was important for Pantilimon to play in the two cups.
Before the semi-final with Chelsea a few weeks ago, I thought it was a questionable decision to keep Hart on the bench, yet Panti’s performance in that match silenced me and a few other sceptics. He made a string of fine saves during the final 30 minutes, a period in which City were under pressure after a very straightforward first hour. Having played every match in this season’s competition, it would be harsh to drop him for the final. It’s still a big call for Mancini, though. If a Pantilimon blooper was to defeat for City, and result in a trophyless season, Mancini would face tough questioning as to why England’s number one was left on the bench for an important match.
Written by Robert Pollard