Given injury thrusts unknown Nielsen into the spotlight for City's charge for fourth
Arsenal 0 Manchester City 0
Monday 26 April 2010
The history of goalkeeping in the Faroe Islands is dominated by one man, or rather one woolly bobble hat. Jens Martin Knudsen, a fork-lift truck driver at a fish factory, famously wore the ridiculous headgear in 65 international appearances.
Now Gunnar Nielsen, 23, has a chance to give his homeland a little more credibility as he takes centre stage in Manchester City's bid to reach the Champions League. The club's owners made a top four finish the minimum requirement this season, but for all the many millions they have spent in the past two years their chances of reaching the Champions League could now depend on a goalkeeper not even rated the best in the Faroe Islands.
Nielsen, who has only two international caps to his name, was signed on a free transfer from Blackburn in 2009 and his only experience of note has been in the Conference when on loan at Wrexham.
Nielsen's chance comes after first-choice goalkeeper Shay Given was stretchered from the Emirates after suffering a dislocated shoulder saving Abou Diaby's shot. The Irishman has been ruled out for the rest of the season. Nielsen suffered no hiccups when he came off the bench to make his debut for the last 23 minutes, and with regular understudy Stuart Taylor struggling after surgery on a knee injury and Joe Hart on loan at Birmingham, the unknown quantity will have to play against Aston Villa, Tottenham and West Ham.
City manager Roberto Mancini said: "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 per cent now."
Nielsen hopes the volcanic ash cloud lifts so his family will be able to fly over to see his first start. He said: "The Faroe Islands is only a small country, 50,000 people, and I think they will be very proud. I've just started at the top, the rest will be easy! I'm Gunnar, they're nicknamed the Gunners, so maybe it was fate. But I don't know whether my family and friends would be able to come over and watch. That might all depend on the ash cloud."
City captain Kolo Touré, who was given warm applause on his first return to Arsenal, spoke of the team's confidence in Nielsen.
"We saw a young goalkeeper come on and he did really well. As a team we will protect him and try to help him. And try to make him really confident for the three games coming," Touré said. "He is a hard worker. He is always really focused. He is very intelligent and he saves lots of goals in training."
City are a hugely ambitious club but you would never have known it from the way they lined up at the Emirates. Fourth place was theirs for the taking following Tottenham's defeat at Manchester United yet Mancini was evidently only concerned with sneaking a point to keep City in touching distance of Spurs before the clubs meet at Eastlands on 5 May for the game that could decide who claims the final Chapions League place.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Fabianksi; Sagna, Campbell, Silvestre, Clichy; Diaby, Song; Walcott (Bendtner, 68), Nasri, Rosicky (Eboué, 68); Van Persie. Substitutes not used: Mannone (gk), Eduardo, Vela, Traoré, Eastmond.
Manchester City (4-3-2-1): Given (Nielsen, 73); Zabaleta, Touré, Kompany, Bridge (Richards, 27); De Jong, Vieira (Adebayor, 52), Barry; A Johnson, Bellamy; Tevez. Substitutes not used: Onuoha, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Santa Cruz.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Booked: Arsenal Silvestre, Diaby, Song, Van Persie. Man City Bellamy, Zabaleta.
Man of the Match: Campbell.
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