Barclay’s English Premiership
Saturday 21 September, 2008, 15:00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Richards, Dunne (c), Garrido, Kompany, Ireland (Gelson 77), Wright-Phillips, Elano, Robinho (Sturridge 85), Jo (Evans 72)
Unused: Schmeichel, Ball, Ben-Haim, Hamann
Goals: Jo (14), Dunne (20), Robinho (57), Wright-Phillips (68), Evans (78), Gelson (83)
City Man of the Match: Stephen Ireland
This was a game that many saw as a better test of City’s progress than the home game with Chelsea and it was a test that City not only passed with flying colours, but they earned themselves a distinction, too. For a team that have aspirations of a top six finish, Portsmouth looked pedestrian at times, as City systematically dismantled Redknapp’s side.
The home side started the brighter, with Robinho testing David James early on, after he found himself on the receiving end of a Jo flick. Then, just after the ten minute mark, Shaun Wright-Phillips tested his former team-mate, after Robinho released him on the right, but the Portsmouth keeper deflected his powerful drive wide.
Just before the quarter of the hour, Robinho sent a through ball to Jo. David James came racing out to try and cut it out, but the big Brazilian forward took a touch to take the ball away from him and then powered the ball into the empty net.
And it got better. On 20 minutes City extended their lead, after Elano spotted the near post was left unguarded and he had a shot directly from a corner. James got down to save, but he could only parry to Richard Dunne, who forced the ball over the line on his 29th birthday.
Eight minutes later, Portsmouth had a chance to half the deficit, as Glen Johnson powered a ball across the box for Crouch, but the big man could only shoot wide.
Robinho tested James once again from distance on 39 minutes and then demonstrated his skills after taking the ball around James, just keeping it in and trying an audacious chip using one foot behind the other, but it was cleared, with the Portsmouth keeper helpless.
Portsmouth looked like they might get it to 2-1 just before the break, as a free kick was lifted in and nodded back to Campbell by Crouch, but Argentinian Zabaleta was on hand to volley off the line.
Defoe had the first chance of the second half, firing a cross-cum-shot across goal towards Crouch, after he had gotten a lucky bounce from a Micah Richards clearing header.
On 53 minutes, Armand Traore broke free in the box and look set to score, until academy product Stephen Ireland stole the ball with a superbly timed tackle in his own area.
It was Ireland who was instrumental in getting City’s third, as he pinged a delightful ball over to Jo, who, at first appeared to miscontrol, but, on second viewing, it was clear he was knocking it to fellow Brazilian, Robinho. Robinho shot first time, beyond James and it was game over.
On 68 minutes, Zabaleta showed some skills by beating two men before finding Ireland, who released Shaun Wright-Phillips. The little winger ran onto the ball and smashed it past James on the near post, with the England keeper unable to react.
Substitute Ched Evans looked like he should have had a penalty soon after joining the action, as he battled his way into the box and then appeared to be pulled down by Belhadj.
But it didn’t really matter, as Kompany spread a lovely ball out to Robinho, who cross for Wright-Phillips. City’s number eight then backheeled across goal and Ched Evans drove the ball past James with his left foot.
With seven minutes remaining, Gelson Fernandes got in on the act, after Kompany found Garrido, whose cross was met by neither James nor Wright-Phillips and it fell to the Swiss international, who poked the ball into the unguarded goal.
It could have been seven, when Gelson’s cross was met full blast by Evans, but his curling effort was just wide.
City finished the game with some possession football, to the delight of the crowd and the misery of the Portsmouth fans, who, to their credit, never stopped singing. 6-0 at full time and City were by far and away the better side. If this is the level of performance Mark Hughes can get from the team most weeks, then the good times really should be coming soon.