- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 30 August 2009 16:00
- Posted by Chris Bailey
Not even Usain Bolt has been quicker out of the blocks than the Blues this season.
Mark Hughes men have left scorch marks in their wake after a three league wins and a successful entry into the Carling Cup.
Now the trick is to make those giant strides stretch the whole season long. Whatever their eventual fate, City could hardly enter the first international break of the campaign in better shape.
With Arsenal and United waiting when domestic hostilities resume in a little less than a fortnight’s time the sense of anticipation and excitement surrounding the club is palpable.
There were many pundits who expected this visit to the south coast to be a Sunday stroll but Paul Hart’s side, buoyed by their midweek demolition of Hereford and the completion of the takeover by a new owner, can be a curmudgeonly lot and they made life hard for their visitors for most of the afternoon.
It took the Blues half an hour to find a way through when Emmanuel Adebayor took his tally for the season to three with a classic centre forward’s header from Gareth Barry’s corner.
You wait what seems and eternity for the Blues to score from a flag kick and then you get two in four days! And that was it for goals with City not having to reach the heights to maintain their lead and hand Portsmouth their worst start to a campaign in 56 years.
Pompey’s chimes have appeared out of tune since Harry Redknapp left and although the pragmatic Hart managed to keep the ship afloat last season he has openly admitted already this season that survival and not glory is uppermost in his mind.
That quest might have been aided five minutes from the interval when Micah Richards had the ball in the home net only for a linesman with an overly twitchy arm to rule it out. Why he flagged the young England man offside only he knows though it was only one of two burning questions at the interval the other being how combative former City midfielder Michael Brown wasn’t booked after a series of indiscretions.
The revolving doors at Pompey have been spinning at a mind boggling pace all summer with the outgoings easily outnumbering the incomings until the back end of this week. Brown was brought in to add bite in the midfield and there was plenty of that on view and he was lucky Howard Webb was in such liberal mood.
Hughes startled many by naming his strongest possible side at Crystal Palace on Thursday and he was in no mood to tinker too much with the line up for a fixture that last season elicited one of City’s worst performances of the year. Out went Robinho, who ended the Selhurst Park triumph with an ice pack on a sore ankle, and in came Craig Bellamy to add a bit more feistiness to the left hand side.
It all worked well with the Blues dominant throughout. Home keeper Begovic was consistently busy most memorably plunging at the feet of Bellamy after Stephen Ireland caressed a though ball beyond the serried ranks of the Pompey back seven! Carlos Tevez fired a weak shot straight at the keeper who was left thanking his lucky stars when he dropped a first half Barry free kick.
It was a similar story after the break as Begovic saved well from Adebayor as the striker attempted to sneak a goal in at the near post. Shay Given might have been wondering why he had got changed until the 87th minute when he kept Pompey’s only on target shot, a volley thudded into the ground by substitute David Nugent, with his shoulder.
Mindful of throwing away a valuable two points City went up the other end and on another day might have had two penalties as Belhadj tackled Shaun Wright-Phillips from behind and Vanden Borre seemed to impede Tevez.
It wasn’t the prettiest of performances but three wins, three clean sheets and fourth place with a game in hand don’t half look gorgeous!