Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Man City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega reacts to song from fans and discloses what Pep Guardiola has told him

Man City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega reacts to song from fans and discloses what Pep Guardiola has told him

Stefan Ortega was observing anotherManchester City onslaught from the perimeter of his penalty area when he heard a familiar sound from behind him.

The 30-year-old was making only his third appearance for City, but his man-of-the-match performance against Chelsea in the third round of the Carabao Cup earned him a chant from the crowd behind his goal.

“When I listened to the crowd and thought ‘oh, that’s my name’, I was starting to smile a little bit. It was a good feeling and a good sign I think, that means I made a good game,” Ortega told Manchester Evening News the day after his outstanding display.

Ortega produced five saves to thwart Chelsea, who had an xG of 1.9 but were unable to beat the German goalkeeper, who returned to the home dressing room to be congratulated by Ederson and Scott Carson.

Ortega, who joined City on a free transfer in the summer after leaving Arminia Bielefeld, has made an immediate impact, and not just with his saves.

The quality of his passing, his ability to sweep behind a high line, and his decision-making under pressure have all been brilliant in his three starts over the last six games.

The consensus opinion after his performance on Wednesday was that he is almost too talented to be a No. 2 goalie. With Ortega, City possesses one of the most ideal backup goalkeepers in European football.

When he left his position as the first-choice goalkeeper at a Bundesliga team that was relegated last season to join City, he was fully aware of the consequences.

“It was clear before, the club told me they searched for a goalkeeper who tries to push Edi and tries to improve and is ready when the time is coming to play. This situation for me is to improve every day, show my best performance, that’s the target,” he said.

“There’s so much quality in a training session, even with the goalkeeping coaches I learned so much new stuff, I’m a better ‘keeper than the summer.”

However, there is no substitute for game time, and Ortega has been revitalized by starting three of City’s last six matches.

The Champions League games against Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla, as well as Wednesday’s Carabao Cup victory, have provided him with focus, and goalkeeper coach Xabi Mancisidor has been preparing him for this stretch of the season.

“It was really important for me to get some games, the time before you train without a target on the weekend, so it was a bit difficult,” said Ortega.

“But Xabi told me every time ‘keep going, keep going, at the end of October and the beginning of November there are some games where you can play’. I was really happy to play the three games, especially the two Champions League games.”

Ortega is chatting with the MEN less than an hour after Germany’s World Cup roster of 26 players was announced. After being on standby for last summer’s European Championship, he again missed the final cut this time around. However, he was well aware that by moving to City to begin as a No. 2 he was making it more difficult for himself to reach his international goals.

He developed slowly, even for a goalkeeper. Until the beginning of the 2017/18 season, he was still making rare appearances in Germany’s second tier. This season was his 26th birthday and was when he firmly established himself as Bielefeld’s first-choice goalkeeper. He also developed the mentality that made him stand out to City’s recruitment team as the ideal goalkeeper for Pep Guardiola.

“He likes it when the goalkeeper is good in the build-up, but he told me ‘at the end, your job is to save balls’,” Ortega said of his new manager.

“You can be the best footballer, but when you have slippy hands then you’re at fault in your job. He wants the full package, good shot stopper and good with the feet.”

Ortega sees his career as “unusual,” and although his club was relegated last season, it was a courageous decision for him to accept a No. 2 position at the age of 30.

However, he enjoys working with Ederson and Carson, as Ortega says: “For me he [Carson] was a big help in the beginning. He’s a top guy, also a top keeper. In this age, with his mentality, it’s really insane, he’s a really good guy.”

Ederson is currently the unquestioned No. 1 at City, but he faces challenge from Ortega in other ways.

The Brazilian has often been informed that he is good enough to play in midfield, but his backup is now rivaling him in terms of quality as an outfield player, despite having had few opportunities to play on the open field during training.

“Not that much, it’s more about shot stopping, crosses, finding the right position. To play football is inside of me and the other ‘keepers, it’s more important to train in the positioning process and shooting,” he said.

What aboutpenalties? Ederson has expressed his desire to play for City, but the acquisition of Erling Haaland may have eliminated that option.

City have not yet practiced penalties this season, so Ederson and Ortega have not yet been called upon, but the No. 2 is just as eager as the No. 1 to take a shot from 12 yards.

“We didn’t practice yet, but when the situation is there and I have to shoot, I think I will shoot, yes,” Ortega said with a smile.

Man City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega reacts to song from fans and discloses what Pep Guardiola has told him

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