Emmanuel Adebayor signalled his return to the Manchester City starting line-up with the opening goal as City defeated crisis club Portsmouth 2-0 at Eastlands.
Adebayor had not started for his club since returning home early from the African Cup of Nations earlier this month following the terrifying gun assault on the Togo team bus in Cabinda that left three backroom staff dead.
However, he told City manager Roberto Mancini on Saturday that he felt mentally strong enough to start the match and rewarded his manager’s faith with a 40th minute opener.
Vincent Kompany added a further first half goal in injury time which ensured City could bounce back following their shattering League Cup semi-final loss to Manchester United last Wednesday.
These two sides may play in the same division but they are in different leagues financially.
City are the richest club in the world whereas Portsmouth face the ignominy of a winding-up order to be served on the club on February 10 if they do not somehow resolve their dire financial situation before then.
Chief executive Peter Storrie also said last week that his role is becoming increasingly untenable because of the boardroom problems, summed up by news that Portsmouth were trying to sell Younes Kaboul and Asmir Begovic without his knowledge.
Matters are little better on the pitch either and they had won one of their last six before this encounter to leave them rooted to the bottom of the Premier League.
However, they surprised everybody at the City of Manchester stadium by starting as the brighter side.
After three minutes, Danny Webber delivered a cross which Shay Given juggled to the feet of John Utaka close out but he wasted the glorious chance by firing over.
Jamie O’Hara, who has rejoined Portsmouth on-loan from Tottenham Hotspur, then also went close as he drove a low shot into the City goalmouth which Given did well to smother.
In what was generally a disappointing opening period, both sides were happy to merely amble along but City were not helped when they lost Pablo Zabaleta to a suspected broken nose after a heavy aerial challenge with Kevin Boateng.
As they tried to temporarily readjust with only 10 men, Portsmouth had the best chance when superb interplay between Danny Webber and Boateng gave Anthony Vanden Borre the chance to shoot but he hit the crossbar.
And Portsmouth were left to almost instantly rue that miss as Adebayor chased down Stephen Ireland’s through ball and smashed past David James to open the scoring.
It broke Pompey’s resistance and before they knew it, they were a further goal down as Petrov swung a corner in during first-half injury time and Kompany rose unmarked to head past James.
Although City had a two-goal advantage, they by no means dominated the game following the re-start in an atmosphere that was generally flat. The loss to United had clearly deflated both the players and City’s supporters with both just happy to see a win and little else.
They were also up against a Portsmouth side that look far more composed and skilled than a team that has acquired just 15 points this season and certainly made the game harder than City were perhaps anticipating.
Yet real chances remained elusive although Webber did fall over at one stage when trying to shoot, much to his embarrassment.
As the clock ticked down, talking points remained virtually non-existent as City were willing to sit back and wait for the final whistle while the visitors failed to ask any serious questions and although Carlos Tevez hit the post with 11 minutes remaining, further goals never seemed likely.
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