Manchester City blew a hole in 10-man Portsmouth’s chances of claiming a UEFA Cup spot via the English Premier League with a 3-1 victory at Eastlands on Sunday.
A defensive mix-up saw Darius Vassell score in the 11th minute and Martin Petrov made it 2-0 two minutes later with a deflected shot.
John Utaka pulled one back for Pompey on 24 minutes before Hermann Hreidarsson was sent off five minutes before the break for bringing down Vassell.
Benjani Mwaruwari playing against Portsmouth for the first time since his farcical transfer in January which left neither club sure who owned the striker, sealed victory for City with a 74th-minute goal.
Portsmouth could still secure a UEFA Cup berth by winning their FA Cup final clash with Championship side Cardiff City at Wembley on May 17.
The result leaves City eighth in the table, one place and two points behind Portsmouth, who remain four points behind Everton, who occupy the fifth place, which brings with it UEFA Cup qualification. Both sides have three games remaining.
Elano played at right-back for City, a position he has filled for Brazil and at club level in his homeland.
Portsmouth shot themselves in the foot for the opener. England goalkeeper David James came rushing out of his goal, causing centre-half Sol Campbell to ease up instead of clearing the ball.
Stephen Ireland took full advantage and played the ball across for Vassell, who slid in at the far post for his sixth league goal of the season as James trotted back into his penalty box.
There was barely time for Campbell to dwell on the mix-up before Petrov piled more misery on him.
The Bulgaria attacking midfielder beat Lauren in the box and toe-poked a shot which deflected off the inside of Campbell’s left thigh, wrongfooting James and leaving the visitors stunned.
However, Nigeria striker Utaka got Portsmouth back in the game with his fifth league goal of the season.
City failed to clear Lassana Diarra’s inswinging corner and when the ball came back into the box, Jermain Defoe headed it goalwards and Utaka helped it on past goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Utaka wondered whether he was offside but he was being played onside by the sleepy City defence.
When it seemed Portsmouth had got themselves back in the game, Iceland defender Hreidarsson made matters much harder for the visitors by getting himself sent off.
Though it was debatable whether the former England forward would have got to the ball, Hreidarsson was shown the red card after putting his arm across Vassell’s throat and bringing him down.
Hreidarsson was furious as he stormed down the tunnel.
Just before the interval, James pulled off an excellent fingertip save to keep out Vassell’s curling shot.
Portsmouth hit both posts in quick succession in the 55th minute as they put up a spirited fight in the second half. Sulley Muntari hit the inside of one post with a shot, then Utaka hit the outside of the other with the rebound.
Benjani scored his second goal in city colours in the 74th minute, with Ireland again the provider.
The Zimbabwe captain twisted and turned Sylvain Distin before firing his shot past James.
The former Pompey hitman did not celebrate his goal, but there was plenty to celebrate for his team-mates as they wrapped up a victory.
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