For sheer artistry with a football, it is hard to beat Robinho who, on the pitch during the half-time break, drew applause from the Portsmouth fans for a series of flicks, juggles and – no joke – cannoning the ball off his own backside. But when it comes to the more prosaic business of winning football matches away from home, there are few better than Emmanuel Adebayor.
Mark Hughes is spoilt for choice when he selects his attacking options – for an awkward win on the south coast yesterday it was the £25m man from Togo who he picked ahead of Robinho. Robinho might have the tricks but Adebayor has the power and the presence to make Manchester City effective away from home. He delivered again yesterday.
Adebayor's third goal in three league games was a classic centre-forward's header; left alone at a corner he powered through the crowd to meet the ball. It is not as if Adebayor lacks the grace of a truly great striker – you could see that in the way he weaved through two defenders to shoot from the left in the second half. But when it comes to these tricky away games that City have to mop up if they are to be serious contenders, Adebayor is invaluable leading the line.
There will be more severe tests for City than this, most notably when they play Arsenal at home on 12 September, their first game back after the international break. Adebayor talked afterwards about reacquainting himself with "old friends – Gaël Clichy, Alex Song, Emmanuel Eboué" although you get the feeling the Arsenal fans will not look upon him so fondly. He is, however, quickly establishing himself as a favourite with City.
This was not the stroll that it might have been given the difference in the finances of these two clubs. Impoverished Portsmouth, with debuts for Tommy Smith, signed from Watford in the Championship, and Michael Brown, on loan from Wigan, were good enough to merit a draw. And if substitute David Nugent had not squandered an ideal chance on 88 minutes, they would have got a point.
There was a deliciously awkward moment before kick-off when Peter Storrie, the chief executive, arrived in the directors' box before kick-off. Having launched a withering attack over the weekend on former owner Alexandre Gaydamak for selling the club to Sulaiman Al-Fahim he did not look upon his seat next to Al-Fahim with much relish. As it turned out, Storrie only had to spend the first half next to the man who bought the club out from under him.
Dressed in a Portsmouth baseball cap and replica away shirt – complete with his name and No 37 on the back – Al-Fahim was at the ground well before kick-off giving interviews to television crews and signing autographs. Having paraded around the pitch at half-time, Al-Fahim did, ill-advisedly, sit with the Portsmouth fans for the second half, the kind of naff PR stunt that Mike Ashley once considered a good idea at Newcastle. The same Portsmouth fans who booed their manager Paul Hart and embarked on a brief verse of "You don't know what you're doing," when, in the second half, he replaced striker Frederic Piquionne with Kanu.
That was harsh treatment of Hart because the fact that Pompey stood up to City and their £200m-plus side was quite a conjuring trick. Nugent had only been on the pitch a matter of seconds when he struck his volley into the ground from six yards out but either way it was pretty unforgivable.
City are a long way from the polished, all-conquering outfit that Hughes envisages. Portsmouth, without the injured David James, and Aaron Mokoena co-opted into defence now that Sylvain Distin has gone, might have been beaten more heavily by a more cohesive side. In the end, Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy were subdued and the best of City's performance was in their midfield.
Gareth Barry was excellent, just shading Adebayor as City's best player and Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips were impressive too. Micah Richards was carried off with what Hughes described as a "platella" injury, kneecap to you and me.
Their goal came on 30 minutes when Barry's corner was met powerfully by Adebayor who had lost Mokoena in the penalty area. Richards had another disallowed for offside 10 minutes later when Barry strayed forward before Bellamy crossed.
It was a bright start from Portsmouth: Piquionne was the liveliest of any striker and the first to shoot at goal. On loan from Lyons, he faded later in the game but there is more to come in the shape of Kevin-Prince Boateng, signed for £4m, and loanees Aruna Dindane from Lens and Jamie O'Hara from Spurs.
For now, Portsmouth are bottom with no wins in four and they look like they might lose James to Spurs. Hart did not look particularly gleeful at the options left open to him at the fag-end of the transfer window.
Quite what he thinks of an owner who revels in his newly-acquired public profile is another matter. Of course, Al-Fahim was involved in City's takeover last year but was soon shunted aside. At Fratton Park he is here to stay.
Portsmouth (4-1-4-1): Begovic; Vanden Borre, Kaboul, Mokoena, Belhadj; Hughes (Nugent, 87); Smith (Utaka, 68), Brown, Mullins, Kranjcar; Piquionne (Kanu, 73). Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Hreidarsson, Basinas, Ward.
Manchester City (4-3-3): Given; Richards (Zabaleta, 60), Touré, Lescott, Bridge; Wright-Phillips, Barry, Ireland (De Jong, 76); Tevez, Adebayor, Bellamy. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Onuoha, Robinho, Petrov, Weiss.
Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).
Booked: Portsmouth Hughes, Mokoena; Manchester City Zabaleta.
Man of the match: Barry.
Attendance: 17,826.Reuse content