Apparently there is no truth in the rumour circulating last night that rather than sign a goalkeeper to replace David Seaman, who is out for eight weeks with a shoulder injury, the Manchester City manager, Kevin Keegan, is to make a bid for John Hartson. Not that Keegan needs another striker - he just feels he owes Hartson a debt of gratitude for kicking Eyal Berkovic in the teeth in that infamous training ground bust-up between the players when they were at West Ham United.
Berkovic aimed his own boot at Keegan's molars - given the the Israeli midfielder's description of Keegan as a "big baby", milk teeth may be more appropriate - after helping his new club beat his old one on Saturday, pulling themselves out of the bottom three and consign City to their 14th League match without a victory.
It was ever thus. The vengeful former player is as ingrained as the myopic referee. But Berkovic's blast was more intemperate than the norm.
"Everyone knows I fell out with Keegan," he said in the ramshackle corridors of Fratton Park after this exhilarating match. "I didn't see another reason why he didn't play me as I was the best player in training for six months and everybody knows that. Forty-five thousand supporters knew that I had to play, but he was behaving like a big baby. I told him that. He deserves to be sacked." As he skipped happily down the rickety stairs, Berkovic added: "He has lost the support of the dressing-room."
Into this bear pit stepped Keegan. This was the last thing he needed, having seen his side concede three second-half goals, after leading, hit the woodwork three times and have an excellent goal ruled out for a contentious offside. And he lost his only fit, experienced goalkeeper after a collision. The City manager refused to rise to Berkovic's bait. "He should learn to keep his own counsel ... His comments don't bother me a bit, I've had worse things said about me," he said. The two fell out after Berkovic demanded a contract extension. Keegan gave him only one League start instead.
Just as it could not get any worse, up stepped the Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp. He wanted it known that no fee was paid for Berkovic - City had claimed £500,000 changed hands and tried to delay the move until after this fixture. Redknapp also suggested that a chunk of Berkovic's wages were being paid by the vendor.
Redknapp knows his signing well, having been his manager at West Ham, and he knows his propensity for aggravation. But in joining Redknapp's renegades Berkovic is another - like Teddy Sheringham, Steve Stone, Tim Sherwood - with a point to prove. It is part of the psychology Redknapp is nurturing at Portsmouth.
It may just work. There was enough vibrancy to suggest that they can survive although, crucially, they will lose their jet-fuelled battering ram, Yakubu Aiyegbini, to the African Nations Cup. With the on-loan Jason Roberts to be sold to Wigan Athletic for £2m, Redknapp says he is down to one fit forward, the 37-year-old Sheringham.
Despite Berkovic's intervention, this was Yakubu's match. He terrified a leaden, uncoordinated City defence, reducing Richard Dunne to a shell-shocked mess. Both sides tore at each other and despite protestations that City played well - they did at times - they simply cannot defend.
Defan Stefanovic opened the scoring, nodding in easily from a Patrik Berger free-kick before the visitors struck twice. Nicolas Anelka's silky volley was followed by a crafty strike from the impressive Antoine Sibierski on half-time. Before then Sibierski, with a free-kick, and Robbie Fowler, with a thumping shot and header, had hit the bar.
Portsmouth were rocked but soon regrouped with Sheringham teeing up Yakubu, who guided the ball in from 20 yards. The unmarked Sheringham glanced in another Berger free-kick, but before that Joey Barton's shot, from 20 yards, had been ruled out as Anelka stood near the goalkeeper. Other referees would have let it stand. Portsmouth pressed on and, having destroyed Dunne, Yakubu barrelled past Sylvain Distin to slide the ball in.
For City the woes continued. A plane carrying their directors back north had to make an emergency landing after an engine blew up. It just about summed up their day.
Goals: Stefanovic (19) 1-0; Anelka (21) 1-1; Sibierski (45) 1-2; Yakubu (52) 2-2; Sheringham (58) 3-2; Yakubu (77) 4-2.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): Hislop 6; Primus 5, Pasanen 6, De Zeeuw 4, Stefanovic 5; Hughes 5, Berkovic 6 (Harper 5, 74), Berger 6, Smertin 5; Sheringham 6, Yakubu 8. Substitutes not used: Wapenaar (gk), Taylor, Schemmel, Roberts.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Seaman (StuhrEllegaard 3, 13); Sommeil 3, Dunne 3, Distin 4, Tarnat 4; Sinclair 4, Barton 5, Bosvelt 4, Sibierski 7; Fowler 5, Anelka 6. Substitutes not used: Wiekens , Macken, McManaman, Tiatto.
Referee: M Messias (N Yorkshire) 4.
Bookings: Manchester City: Dunne, Fowler.
Man of the match: Yakubu.
Attendance: 20,120.Reuse content