What a game. Six goals, the crossbar struck three times in 15 minutes by the visitors, a brilliant strike from 30 yards controversially ruled out for offside, a former England goalkeeper departing with a suspected broken shoulder. And an astonishing, intemperate outburst directed at Kevin Keegan by a player he discarded... to yesterday's opponents.
Who knows the repercussions of Eyal Berkovic's words - not least his claim that Keegan has lost the dressing room - but, at present, City are in a dangerous spiral. They hoped for excitement but it was a tilt at Europe not a battle with relegation they wanted.
Who also knows what Keegan's defence will be. For here he simply, on the field, had no defence. His centre-backs, Richard Dunne in particular, were ripped apart. Despite Berkovic's headline-grabbing intervention, the game belonged to Yakubu Ayegbeni - incidentally, like the Israeli, a former Maccabi Haifa player.
The Nigerian scored two, now four in three, and wrought havoc - inadvertently hospitalising David Seaman in a collision. Portsmouth simply relied on long balls and he did the rest. His pace and power were unleashed. It was a case of feed the Yak and he will scorch.
Infuriatingly for Portsmouth's manager, Harry Redknapp, the striker will soon depart for the African Nations' Cup and, with injuries and the imminent loss of the on-loan Jason Roberts to Wigan Athletic, Harry is again down to the bare bones. Old bones at that - one fit striker in 37-year-old Teddy Sheringham. Today Redknapp goes scouting in Italy. Still, the points drew Portsmouth level with City and out of the bottom three. On this form it will still be a roller-coaster on the south-coast but they should stay up.
They took the lead with ease as City sleepwalked in the opening minutes. A routine free-kick from Patrik Berger found Dejan Stefanovic and he headed nonchalantly beyond stand-in goalkeeper Kevin Stuhr-Ellegaard who was frozen in the headlights. It was a pose he held throughout. But the lead was short-lived as City countered.
Portsmouth had the Yak, City had the gazelle and Nicolas Anelka gracefully side-footed a volley after a cushioned header by Trevor Sinclair. Belief drained from Portsmouth and an instinctive, thumping shot from Robbie Fowler came back off the bar. He then clipped the goal-frame with a header before Antoine Sibierski's free-kick also smacked the woodwork. After Berkovic was up-ended - and denied an obvious penalty - Sibierski added further hurt by deservedly snatching the lead on half-time. The French midfielder stole in as the ball was crossed by Joey Barton and he finished forcefully.
Just as Pompey appeared punctured, they were pumped up again. Seven minutes after the interval and Sheringham stole the ball from Dunne before cleverly slipping it to Yakubu who - unexpectedly - showed the composure to steer it in from 20 yards.
Crucially, Barton's long-range shot was then ruled out - again seconds after a goal - with Anelka offside. But was he interfering? Keegan was distraught. City were wounded and after Dunne was harshly judged to have pushed Yakubu over, another free-kick by Berger found Sheringham - one of four unmarked this time - to glance in a header. Portsmouth pressed their advantage. A long punt from Richard Hughes allowed Yakubu to outstrip Dunne, again, and the equally shell-shocked Sylvain Distin and poke home to exuberant scenes. "It was a case of slugging it out," said Redknapp afterwards. Little did he know the blows being landed by Berkovic.
Stefanovic 19, Yakubu 52, 77, Sheringham 58
Manchester City 2
Anelka 21, Sibierski 45
Half-time: 1-2 Attendance: 20,120
- More about:
- Kevin Keegan
- Nicolas Anelka
- Portsmouth FC
- Premier League
- Queens Park Rangers
- Robbie Fowler
- Sylvain Distin
- Wigan Athletic