Man City 3-1 Portsmouth
City of Manchester Stadium
20th April 2008
Harry Redknapp made three changes from the Pompey side following Newcastle's visit to Fratton Park. Out went Johnson (virus) Davis and Kanu, in came Lauren, Diarra and Utaka.
With Pompey playing in their all black kit, Jermain Defoe was charged with playing up front on his own.
The game started brightly and after just 30 seconds Diop hit a shot from fully 30 yards that was turned behind for the first corner of the game. The game is real end-to-end stuff in the first ten minutes and it was Petrov who has City's first shot of the day on 9 mins, only to blaze it wide. On 10 mins there was another big mix up between Sol Campbell and David James. Neither seemed to want take responsibility and the energetic Benjani was on hand to capitalise from their indecision. He robbed the ball from James, and squared it to Steven Ireland. His shot was going wide, but Vassell had gambled far post, and had the simple task of tapping the ball home. Almost straight from the kick off, City crossed the ball into the box where Petrov got on the end of it. He turned Lauren left and right before toe poking a tame shot toward goal that took a wicked deflection off Campbell and wrong-footed James. 2-0 City 12 mins gone.
During the first 15 mins Defoe was having to drop deep to get a sniff of the ball, and it was the defender Hreidarsson that was most willing to run past him. Just past the 15 min mark it was indeed Hreidarsson that crossed only for Diop to head over from 3 yards. Benjani is causing the Pompey defence as many problems as any forward I've seen this year, and on 20 mins could have had a penalty claim when Campbell went to ground and the ball hit his arm. On 23 mins Utaka goes on a menacing run and lays the ball to Muntari who's shot was deflected for a corner. The initial cross was punched by Hart only for Hreidarsson to cross Defoe heads and Utaka shoots home, 2-1. For the rest of the half, the two opposing forwards have differing fortunes. Defoe looks isolated up front, with Pompey playing long ball Defoe unable to win any headers. Benjani is a constant threat to the Pompey back line. Utaka is showing much more determination than of late, but Petrov is the pick of the wide men, turning Lauren inside out at every opportunity.
On 39 mins Hreidarsson hauls down Vassell. The challenge was rash, needless, as Vassell was not going to get the ball. The referee decided however that the challenge was worthy of a Red Card, Pompey down to ten men.
A great first half that had the lot. Benji is running the show for City.
No subs made, Muntari is the man replacing Hreidarsson at left back.
Distin pops up on the left wing and crosses for Defoe who goes down under pressure from Dunne. The Ref waves away any penalty claim, although replays may suggest otherwise. Distin must have been told to go forward with every opportunity, and passes to Kranjcar who blazes his shot over the bar. On 54 mins, Benji controls exquisitely on the edge of the area, and turns to shoot just over. From the goal kick, Muntari gains possession and forces a good save from Hart who palms onto the inside of his post, the rebound finds it's way to Utaka who shoots and hit's the other post.
The determined Utaka was soon upended by City's young debutant Williamson (on for Dunne) which brought Joe Jordan to the touchline, and he voiced his displeasure at the City bench. Lauren was booked soon after for a clumsy lunge on Williamson, which, on another day, could have seen worse punishment. Benjani, who is a real threat today, has two chances in quick succession. the second of which he hits very early, and beats James at the near post with a blistering strike. As promised though the humble Zimbabwean would not celebrate against his previous employers.
On 80 mins Baros (on for Utaka) is in on goal, does everything right, and forces a fine save from Joe Hart in the City goal. Aubey replaces Diop, and for City, ex Pompey trial list Giovanni replaces Ireland. Kranjcar makes way for Davis.
Soon after there is yet another misjudgement at the back and Campbell plays a badly weighted pass to James. The ever-willing Benjani is on it like a flash, but Jamo is alert and clears. Late in the game, following good work from Aubey down the line, Sean Davis hits well from 18 yards, which Hart turns behind for a corner. Either side of the young keeper and it would surely have scored? Defoe soon after finds the net, but is correctly ruled offside.
Final Score: Man City 3 Pompey 1.
A lively entertaining encounter, with unfortunately the wrong scoreline for the Pompey faithful.
My Man of the Match today was Benjani by far. A sad way to be reminded of what we really lost in him.