Eriksson sees vindication in a convincing victory
Manchester City 3 Portsmouth 1
Sven Goran Eriksson could not really have hoped for better than this from his Manchester City side in response to the doubts hanging over his future at Eastlands. Although they were given a generous start in the form of two gift goals in the opening 14 minutes – plus the added bonus of playing against 10 men for more than half the game – City produced football reminiscent of their vibrant early-season form.
Moreover it lifted their points tally for Eriksson's first season to 55, the club's highest yet for a 38-match Premier League season. City could have won by a greater margin, creating numerous chances even before Benjani wrapped things up with their third goal 16 minutes from time. In any event, it was enough to give Eriksson the confidence to reassert his self-belief, whether the club's owner, Thaksin Shinawatra, has his eye on Luiz Felipe Scolari or not.
"I'm not worried about my job," Eriksson said. "You cannot spend your life worrying about things like that. I expect to be here next season. This is a new team, a young team, and to finish in the top eight, nine or 10 would be a good result. But today we played some good football and we still have a chance to qualify for the Uefa Cup."
Salvaging something from the match was always going to be a challenge for Portsmouth after their calamitous start, more so when the defender Hermann Hreidarsson was sent off five minutes before half-time, even though by then they had pulled a goal back. Defeat meant their designs on fifth place suffered a setback. Should they lose the FA Cup final to Cardiff they may wish they had entered the Intertoto Cup, along with Aston Villa, Blackburn and City.
After three games without conceding, Pompey's defending was unusually shaky. A comical misunderstanding between David James and Sol Campbell led to Darius Vassell scoring City's opener, although the former England defender seemed more at fault than the current England goalkeeper. Campbell's decision to let a long ball pass him for James to clear allowed Benjani, their former team-mate, to intercept and slip the ball to Stephen Ireland, whose low cross to the far post was slid home by Vassell. The furious James had barely stopped shouting before the ball was in the Portsmouth net again, with Campbell the villain again, albeit unwittingly.
Controlling Elano's cross from the right, Martin Petrov tried to make room for a shot with his left foot, settled for a toe poke with his weaker right, and was delighted when it struck Campbell's leg and went in.
Pompey must have felt they were back in with a chance after 24 minutes when Joe Hart seemed to have Jermain Defoe's looping header covered but, perhaps distracted when John Utaka's boot appeared in his eyeline, allowed the Nigerian to flick the ball past him. Even before Hreidarsson's red card, for hauling down Vassell as the last defender, James had made critical saves from Benjani (twice) and Vassell, and there were further chances for both those players before Benjani, receiving Ireland's pass, wrong-footed Sylvain Distin before driving the ball wide of James.
Goals: Vassell (11) 1-0; Petrov (13) 2-0; Utaka (24) 2-1; Benjani (74) 3-1.
Manchester City (4-3-2-1): Hart; Elano (Caidedo, 90), Corluka, Dunne (Williamson, 54), Ball; Johnson, Ireland (Geovanni, 75) Fernandes; Vassell, Petrov; Benjani. Substitutes not used: Isaksson (gk), Castillo.
Portsmouth (4-2-3-1): James; Lauren, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson; Diarra, Muntari; Utaka (Baros, 75), Bouba Diop (Aubey, 75), Kranjcar (Davis, 83); Defoe. Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Nugent.
Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).
Booked: Manchester City Williamson; Portsmouth Lauren.
Sent off: Hreidarsson (40).
Man of the match: Ireland.