CITY 6 PORTSMOUTH 0
Barclays Premier League
21st September 2008
Jo(13), Dunne(20), Robinho(57), Wright-Phillips(68), Evans(79), Fernandes(83)
City Hart, Zabaleta, Richards, Dunne, Garrido, Elano, Kompany, Wright-Phillips, Robinho, Ireland, Jo – Subs Sturridge(85), Fernandes(77), Schmeichel(unused), Ben Haim(unused), Hamann(unused), Ball(unused), Evans(72)
Portsmouth James, Kaboul, Campbell, Distin, Johnson, Davis, Belhadji Diarra, A Traore, Crouch, Defoe – subs Pamarot(82), Diop(33), Utaka(unused), Kanu(unused), Ashdown(unused), Hreidarsson(unused), Muemba(unused)
JO 1-0 DUNNE 2-0
ROBINHO 3-0 SWP 4-0
WHAT THE PAPERS SAID
Roman Abramovich apparently fell in love with football while watching Real Madrid play Manchester United and was disappointed to discover, soon after buying Chelsea, that not all matches were as mesmerising as the Champions League quarter-final, second leg at Old Trafford that finished 4-3.
As Khaldoon al-Mubarak rose to his feet to acclaim Manchester City’s biggest win in the 16-year history of the Premier League yesterday, someone might have wanted to point out that the opposition are not always as accommodating as Portsmouth were on this occasion. However, even accounting for their wretchedness, it was hard to escape the feeling that something special is stirring in the blue part of Manchester.
City’s supporters have struggled to catch their breath over the past three weeks and the same seemed to be true of Portsmouth’s players as they were run ragged from the first whistle to the last. As good as City were, Harry Redknapp was not guilty of exaggeration when he suggested that he had not presided over a poorer performance during his 25-year managerial career.
Sylvain Distin and David James endured a torrid time against their former club, while Sol Campbell resembled the player who left Arsenal a broken man. In their defence, City would have given anyone a run for their money on this form. There was a samba beat to City’s performance, with a trio of Brazilians – Elano, Jô and Robinho, looking every inch a £34.2 million player – impressing, but as if to underline the importance of investment in youth to the club’s new owners, it was Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips, two products of one of the best academies in the business, who stole the show.
When asked if that was the best performance by a team he has managed, Mark Hughes said: “By a country mile. We have set a very high standard and we must not let our standards drop below those we’ve set. Hopefully, we’ll strive to greater heights.”
Jô set the tone in the thirteenth minute when he latched on to Robinho’s through-pass, leaving Campbell trailing before rounding James to score his third goal in two matches, and City did not take their foot off the pedal thereafter. As fast and fluid as they were, however, Portsmouth were, to borrow from Redknapp, abysmal. “It was a catalogue of errors,” the Portsmouth manager said.
It is hard to think who might have been more concerned about the manner of City’s second, James or Fabio Capello, the England manager. Elano played over a corner that James, at the near post, scooped into the path of a grateful Richard Dunne. It was a gift from which the visiting team did not recover.
Two became three shortly before the hour, when the imperious Ireland stroked the ball to Jô, who helped it on to Robinho. City’s new favourite son made no mistake with his finish, although it was an old favourite who added the fourth. Distin was again caught out by another pass from Ireland and Wright-Phillips raced through to score.
Five and six came courtesy of substitutes. Wright-Phillips bamboozled Distin when he backheeled Robinho’s pass into the path of Ched Evans, who stroked the ball home, before James made a hash of clearing a cross by Javier Garrido, affording Gelson Fernandes a simple finish.
Robinho milked the applause when he departed with four minutes remaining, but it was the sight of Wright-Phillips expressing himself in a manner rarely seen during his fateful spell at Chelsea and Ireland again looking masterful in midfield that most pleased Hughes.
“There were outstanding personal performances in a great team performance,” Hughes said. “Shaun was excellent and Stephen Ireland was exceptional once again and has been for many weeks, He’s on a run of form that we hope he can sustain.” Do not bet against it – or a new-look City for that matter.
BY JAMES DUCKER WRITING FOR THE TIMES 21/9/2008