Craig Bellamy set aside a family tragedy last night to plunder the goals that swept Manchester City into the last 16 of the Uefa Cup, where they will meet Danish opposition, in the form of Aalborg, for the third time in this season's European odyssey.
Bellamy, who struck twice in the final 17 minutes before Martin Vingaard's stoppage-time riposte for FC Copenhagen, was hit hard by the death of a 27-year-old cousin, James Reardon, on Wednesday after a long illness. The much-travelled striker had reflected on whether he was in the right frame of mind to play, but having decided to do so, his finishing prowess proved decisive. "Today was a hard day for me, for my family and his, too," Bellamy said. "I'll miss him dearly and I would like to dedicate this game and my goals to him."
Mark Hughes, who was Bellamy's manager with Wales and Blackburn, felt his capture from West Ham showed "great mental strength and character". He added: "It was touch-and-go whether Craig would play, but he wanted to, and we benefited from it. He showed a fantastic work ethic, no little skill and outstanding pace. Under difficult circumstances he has come through and made the impact we hoped he would. It's striking how much he has improved since I worked with him before."
Stale Solbakken, Copenhagen's coach, rightly identified City's capacity for counter-attack as their greatest strength. "They are a very good team on the break," the former Wimbledon player said. "When a team put 10 behind the ball, like Stoke did, they have trouble breaking them down, but I see no reason why City shouldn't have a chance [of winning the Uefa Cup]."
"Aalborg play 4-5-1 and like to sit back. They won't go far from their goal," he warned. What would they have to do that Copenhagen were unable to do? "They need to score first, like we had to."
City, bolstered by two away goals, came closer in the first half, Robinho seeing a header clawed aside by Jesper Christiansen and a shot parried by the keeper after a thrilling, twisting run. Bellamy, having played a one-two with the Brazilian, angled a deft shot against the far post just before the break, but the Welshman was not to be denied.
In the 73rd minute he sped past Mathias Jorgensen in pursuit of Pablo Zabaleta's long pass before firing City ahead with a right-footed drive. With 10 minutes remaining, Robinho's step-over mesmerised Zdenek Pospech and Bellamy, lurking by the penalty spot, controlled his cut-back before using his left boot to beat Christiansen for his fourth goal in seven games for City. Vingaard's 22-yard strike came too late to put Hughes' improving side under pressure.
The result was, as Hughes put it, another key step in this City side's development. "We keep trying to tell people we are very early in our progression but some people don't want to hear that," he said. "Where we are at the moment is right on track.
"My satisfaction comes with winning the game and progressing into the next round. We are delighted with that as some big names have gone out. I think we deserve a little bit of credit."
Manchester City (4-1-3-2): Given; Onuoha, Dunne, Richards, Bridge; Kompany; Zabaleta (Elano, 83), Ireland, Wright-Phillips; Bellamy, Robinho. Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Vassell, Garrido, Caicedo, Evans, Glauber.
FC Copenhagen (4-4-2): Christiansen; Pospech, Jorgensen, Antonsson, Wendt; Kvist, Kristensen (Sionko, h-t), Norregaard (Vingaard, 76), Hutchinson; N'Doye (Gronkjaer, 59), Almeida. Substitutes not used: Coe (gk), Jensen, Laursen, Nordstrand.
Referee: S Dereli (Turkey).Reuse content