Verdict: Portsmouth 0 City 1
Goals: Adebayor 30 mins for City.
Emmanuel Adebayor scored in his third successive Premier League game for the Blues to secure a narrow, but deserved, victory over a limited Pompey side.
The big surprise in the line-up was the absence of Robinho. Let’s hope there’s nothing serious amiss with our Brazilian superstar, who had been the subject of a 40 million euro bid from Barcelona according to Marca. There has been nothing in the English press to substantiate this, and hopefully we can get through to Tuesday evening with last season’s top scorer still a blue.
Craig Bellamy lined up on the left, and how Martin Petrov felt about this is anybody’s guess. With Luca Modric injured for Spurs, we can expect some more speculation in the London press about Petrov joining Harry Redknapp at Spurs.
On a more positive note, Joleon Lescott made his Premier League debut for City and looked a very capable defender. There was one Dunney style gaffe when he passed straight to a Pompey forward in the second half, but overall it was a joy to see a genuine left footed central defender finally replace Distin.
The first half was mostly perspiration rather than inspiration and those who appreciate the beautiful game will have missed the silky touches of Robinho. However City were looking solid throughout the side, with the workrate and competitive nature that was the hallmark of Hughes’ Blackburn side clearly in evidence.
When the goal came, it was a straightforward affair with Barry sending over a corner for Adebayor to rise above everyone and nod home. Micah Richards had one of his better games. The hurley burley atmosphere of Fratton Park seemed to suit him, before a painful looking locked left leg saw him make way for Zabaleta. The England U-21 international had been unlucky earlier when having a perfectly good goal disallowed for Gareth Barry being offside. The former Villa man wasn’t interfering with play, but the linesman didn’t realise. For once, a Michel Platini idea, of having officials behind the goal, would have helped City!
Michael Brown didn’t disappoint with some trademark challenges on our midfielders. Somehow, he managed to escape without a caution from Howard Webb. Stephen Ireland was the biggest victim, receiving a knock before half-time which looked to reduce his effectiveness in the second period.
Adebayor continued to look a fantastic signing, even beating full-backs down the flanks, to go along with his usual link up play. Aside from the goal, his best moment was going past two defenders in the penalty area before firing in a shot that was saved by the keeper. Tevez was industrious rather than penetrative and it could be argued that Bellamy’s pace through the middle might have caused Pompey more problems, as we saw in the opening game against Blackburn.
As with the Wolves game, City nearly paid the price for not adding to their first half goal. This time it was the final few minutes where Pompey had their chances. Substitute Nugent, with his first touch after coming on, chested the ball down and should have scored, but somehow managed to hit Given on the shoulder. Shay was then grateful to have a Utaka header land in his arms. At the other end Tevez was hauled down when going through in what looked like a penalty.
Overall, the defence looked stronger, and the team worked better as a unit than in any of the previous games. For the first time, the formation with just two central midfielders, didn’t buckle at any point. The down side was the way possession was conceded to cheaply, and we never found the fluency in creating chances that we had in the first half against Wolves.
“All in all, it was a very satisfying performance, it could have been more emphatic if we had had the goal that was chalked off allowed. At 1-0, there is always that little doubt when they hit balls into your box late on. You just have to stand up to the challenge when that happens, and that is what we are doing at the moment.
“It was important to get a good start to settle everybody down. We are not making any promises about what we can achieve, we will just try to do our very best and be as consistent as we can. We have had the good start we wanted, and we have a good base to build on.”