Manchester City 3 Lech Poznan 1
Emmanuel Adebayor made a compelling case for a start against his former club Arsenal on Sunday by firing Manchester City to a Europa League victory with his first Blues hat-trick.
The former Gunners star enjoyed a stormy appearance against the north Londoners last term, scoring, winning, but getting the Arsenal fans upset with his celebration, then picking up a three-match ban for an ill-advised tackle on Robin van Persie.
It has not been plain sailing for Adebayor since. But on this evidence he would relish an appearance against the club who collected £25million when he left to join City last year.
Adebayor’s show, aided by cameos from David Silva and Adam Johnson, was certainly too much for Lech Poznan and put City in line to tie up a place in the final 32 with plenty to spare.
Even on a night when Adebayor took centre stage, Wayne Rooney was not far from anyone’s thoughts.
City boss Roberto Mancini does not believe he will leave Old Trafford, former strike partner Carlos Tevez is less convinced.
City officials were unable to confirm, or completely reject, speculation that Tevez had spoken on the phone with owner Sheikh Mansour about Rooney’s potential.
But if the conversation did take place, Tevez would unquestionably have provided a positive reference given they were team-mates in 2008 when Manchester United won both the Premier League and Champions League.
Where Rooney’s arrival would leave Adebayor is open to question.
The Togo striker has never hidden his dissatisfaction at not being part of Mancini’s first-choice line-up and his qualities are such that a background of disruption will not put many suitors off.
He is certainly capable of igniting a team, as he did against Arsenal last year, and as he did again tonight, three days before his former club head to Eastlands with Arsene Wenger desperate to avoid a repeat of the crushing defeat his old striker inflicted upon him 12 months ago.
Adebayor’s opener required an excellent piece of skill, which took him past Poznan skipper Bartosz Bosacki as he collected Patrick Vieira’s pass, before calmly stroking into the bottom corner.
For a man of such imposing size, it was a reminder of his golden touch, his first goal of the season accompanied by a celebration akin to dusting off the cobwebs, presumably from the number of times he has sat on the bench this term.
Far more typical was the towering header he applied to David Silva’s well delivered left-wing cross, which arrowed into the same part of the goal.
City could have had more before the break, with Silva hugely impressive in a floating role just behind Adebayor, flanked by Shaun Wright-Phillips and Adam Johnson.
The visitors offered little, although their supporters – who turned up in huge numbers – made a great impression thanks to their noise and amazing backs-to-the-play dance, which their home counterparts mimicked after Adebayor had struck for the first time.
All that changed within four minutes of the re-start, when Joel Tshibamba struck.
Joleon Lescott spent so much time pleading his innocence when Slawomir Peszko went down under his challenge that he forgot to complete the clearance.
Pablo Zabaleta got himself into a tangle too, so somehow the ball was allowed to roll kindly for Marcin Kikut, whose off-target shot fell perfectly for Tshibamba.
The striker wasted little time in firing past Joe Hart.
For a time it appeared Poznan were going to complete an impressive rescue act.
A couple of fortunate ricochets presented Tshibamba with a golden chance to equalise.
But to the clear frustration of coach Jacek Zielinski, he skied his effort over the bar.
It was the cue for Silva to deliver the pass of the night, curled delicately around the visitors’ back four, perfectly for Adebayor.
The striker had already failed to convert one excellent chance to complete his three-timer. He was not about to do it again.
Shortly afterwards, Silva departed to a standing ovation, then an only marginally less impressive Johnson clipped the crossbar.
Rooney should probably think carefully before committing to coming here. He might not get a game.