City exploit Redknapp uncertainty

Portsmouth 1 - Manchester City 3
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The Independent Online

It is 45 years since Portsmouth were last engaged upon successive seasons in the top flight. Three weeks ago they beat Manchester United, and yet Fratton Park on Saturday was awash with dissatisfaction.

It is 45 years since Portsmouth were last engaged upon successive seasons in the top flight. Three weeks ago they beat Manchester United, and yet Fratton Park on Saturday was awash with dissatisfaction.

So precarious is their manager Harry Redknapp's position seen to be, since his chairman, Milan Mandaric, appointedVelimir Zajec as executive director, that a club that should be bristling with self-belief is instead infected with uncertainty, and the result on Saturday was a lifeless defeat. "I don't think our frame of mind was correct," the Portsmouth captain Dejan Stefanovic admitted. "Maybe all the talk about what is happening at the club has affected us."

Pompey fans chanted Redknapp's name, but the rumours persist that he will resign this week, possibly as early as today. Redknapp himself insisted he was staying. "I'm fed up with it all," he said. "I just want to be left alone to get on with the job. His [Zejic's] job is nothing to do with me. I wish him well. He's got a hard job setting up the academy."

The message was clear: if he is not left alone, Redknapp will walk, bringing to an end a remarkable two and a half years in which he has taken Portsmouth into the Premiership and made possible the idea that they could establish themselves there.

Mandaric believes that to do that Pompey need to produce their own talent, rather than firefighting with a collection of has-beens, might-bes and misfits. It is on his ability successfully to patch together such players, though, that Redknapp has built his reputation.

If Zelic is to concentrate on foundingan academy, though, he could not have arrived at a better time. Portsmouth and West Bromwich Albion are the only Premiership clubs without such a facility, and Manchester City gave a clear demonstration of the benefits of home-grown players.

City's two young full-backs, Nedum Onuoha and Steven Jordan both had solid games, and Shaun Wright-Phillips, seemingly unaffected by his midweek ordeal in Madrid, was the academy graduate who most caught the eye. He scored the first after a slip from Arjen de Zeeuw and all but got the third six minutes from time, his shot bouncing off the shins of Jamie Ashdown for Paul Bosvelt to roll home, but just as crucial was Joey Barton.

Tireless on his return from ankle surgery, it was he who established control of midfield and ensured that City always looked likely winners, even after Gary O'Neil had glanced an equaliser. The reflexes of Ashdown threatened for a time to frustrate City, but he was eventually beaten by Antoine Sibierski's 78th-minute volley.

It is a measure of Portsmouth's problems that in three weeks they have gone from beating United to being beaten by City. It may be that posterity will view Zejic's arrival as a masterstroke and the upheaval the necessary cost of revolution; at the moment, though, it looks like bringing an end to an extraordinary period of success.

Goals: S Wright-Phillips (7) 0-1; O'Neil (8) 1-1; Sibierski (78) 1-2; Bosvelt (86) 1-3.

Portsmouth: (4-4-2) Ashdown; Primus (Griffin, 83), Unsworth, Stefanovic, De Zeeuw; Quashie, Faye, Berger (Taylor, 73), O'Neil; LuaLua (Berkovic, 26), Fuller. Substitutes not used: Wapenaar (gk), Cissé.

Manchester City: (4-4-2) James; Onuoha, Jordan, Distin, Dunne; Barton, Bosvelt, S Wright-Phillips, Sibierski; Macken, Anelka (Fowler, 27). Substitutes not used: Waterreus (gk), Sommeil, B Wright-Phillips, Flood.

Referee: M Messias (S Yorkshire).

Booked: Portsmouth: Faye, Unsworth, De Zeeuw.

Man of the match: Barton.

Attendance: 20,101.

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