Poor Pedro Mendes. He hasn't even written a book and he finds himself hurting from the attentions of Joey Barton. Intent, in fairness, was impossible to discern, but, after Mendes had been carried off on a stretcher, his sock ripped down the back and blood dripping from his heel, the Manchester City midfielder found himself, once again, amid a storm of controversy.
The Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, not usually volatile when it comes to refereeing decisions, was angry enough to be sent to the stands for his half-time protests, but others were quick to leap to Barton's defence. "I know Joey Barton," said the Portsmouth goalkeeper David James, a team-mate of his at City last season, "and the one thing you will get from him is 100 per cent.
"Sometimes that can arguably be seen as going over the top, but he doesn't know any other way. I would go back to referees and the perception they get of players who are highlighted by the media. I just know Joey is a 100 per cent guy. He goes in exactly the same in training with a tackle as if it is the real thing, like you expect him to do as an England international."
Barton denied any intent - but then, as Redknapp said: "He's not going to say, 'I meant to do the bastard' is he?" - but the baffling thing was that the referee, Mike Dean, booked him for it. If he did just accidentally tread on Mendes' heel, then it should have been nothing; if it was a deliberate stamp, then it should have been at least a straight red.
To Barton's credit, he remained unfazed by the booing that greeted his every touch after half-time, and played his part in City's equaliser, picking out Darius Vassell who found for Bernardo Corradi to head his third goal of the season. "He's a big lad and he's growing up and we don't sit and bellyache about the treatment supporters on the road give a player," said the City manager Stuart Pearce. "He knows his job. I don't really think it bothers him, he's pretty hard-nosed and thick-skinned, like you haveto be in this profession."
Deliberate or not, Mendes' departure made a significant difference to the game. He had hammered Portsmouth into a fourth-minute lead with the sort of drive that has become his trademark against City, and had been a dominant presence. "He was fantastic, he was controlling the game," Redknapp said. "He was back to his old self for 35 minutes, everything was going through him. Once he went we didn't have someone to get hold of the ball." Or at least they didn't until Kanu came on. The Nigerian's intelligence turned the game back towards Portsmouth, and he slid home the winner with nine minutes remaining.
Goals: Mendes (4) 1-0; Corradi (62) 1-1; Kanu (81) 2-1.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): James; Johnson, Pamarot, Campbell, Traoré (Kranjcar, 71); O'Neil, Davis, Mendes (Lauren, 44), Taylor; Cole (Kanu, 71), LuaLua. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Douala.
Manchester City (3-5-2): Isaksson; Richards, Dunne, Distin; Jihai (Samaras, 87), Barton, Ireland (Beasley 61), Dabo, Ball; Corradi, Vassell (Miller 79). Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Hamann.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Booked: Portsmouth Cole, Pamarot, Kanu; Manchester City Dabo, Barton, Corradi.
Man of the match: O'Neil.
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