Portsmouth 4 Manchester City 2
Yakubu Aiyegbeni powered Portsmouth to a thrill-a-minute victory against Manchester City at Fratton Park today, reminding lowly Pompey exactly what they will be missing when he jets to the African Nations Cup next weekend.
The striker, due to join up with Nigeria after next Saturday’s game at Bolton, netted a classy brace to settle this remarkable, hugely-entertaining contest in the home side’s favour.
Aiyegbeni’s seventh and eighth goals of the season, combined with Teddy Sheringham’s first strike for three months and Dejan Stefanovic’s header, stretched struggling City’s miserable winless streak to 14 games.
After a tame opening, this contest positively burst into life in the 19th minute.
Stefanovic nodded home when the City defence went AWOL from a Patrik Berger free-kick – but the visitors were level a minute later through as cracking goal by Nicolas Anelka.
Robbie Fowler crossed to Trevor Sinclair, who volleyed to Anelka – who volleyed into the net.
And Antoine Sibierski fired home an angled drive on the stroke of half-time to put the Mancunians in front.
It was no more than City deserved after a frantic 15 minutes in which they had struck the crossbar three times.
Fowler hit it twice – a thunderbolt shot and looping header – and Sibierski curled a free-kick against the goal frame.
But Kevin Keegan’s men were left to rue the crucial inches between the woodwork and the net as Pompey scored twice in six minutes early in the second half to seize a 3-2 lead.
First, Sheringham outwitted Richard Dunne to tee up Aiyegbeni to tuck the ball home – and then Sheringham headed home Berger’s free-kick.
Aiyegbeni clinched victory and a priceless three points for relegation-battling Pompey with his second 14 minutes from time.
Eyal Berkovic had lined up for Portsmouth against City – just 24 hours after his £500,000 switch from Maine Road.
The Israeli midfielder started along with goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, back in place of Pavel Srnicek after two months out with a groin injury.
In the ninth minute, David Seaman injured his left shoulder challenging Aiyegbeni and was substituted – handing Danish shot-stopper Kevin Stuhr-Ellegaard his fourth appearance in a City jersey.
The new keeper was beaten seven minutes after coming on – due to non-existent marking in the City defence.
Berger’s free-kick from the right drifted into the danger zone and both Stefanovic and Aiyegbeni leapt unchallenged to head the ball, with Stefanovic applying the finishing touch.
But Keegan’s side were level just a minute later, through a peach of a goal by Anelka.
Fowler crossed to Sinclair, who fired the ball back across the box and Anelka sent a measured side-foot volley into the roof of the net for his 15th goal of the season.
It was all action and Fowler slammed a 20-yard piledriver against the face of the Pompey crossbar as the visitors pressed, and hit the woodwork again when the home defence made a hash of clearing a cross, the striker headed onto the top of the bar.
Anelka flashed another header wide and Sheringham should have scored at the other end but completely missed the ball when all he had to do was side-foot Berger’s flicked header into the net.
City incredibly hit the goal frame for a third time six minutes before the break when Sibierski curled a 20-yard free-kick against the bar.
But the French midfielder did hit the net on the stroke of half-time, rifling home from 14 yards when Anelka nodded the ball on to give City a 2-1 interval lead.
Aiyegbeni hit back in the 50th minute, latching onto a pass by Sheringham - who had expertly evaded Dunne – and slotting into the bottom right corner to tie the score at 2-2.
City thought they grabbed an immediate response for the second time in the game – but Joey Barton’s thunderbolt was ruled out as Anelka was in an offside position
And Pompey surged into a 3-2 lead after 56 minutes when Berger whipped in a right-flank set-piece and Sheringham rose unmarked to head home, ending his 14-game goal drought stretching back to October 4.
There was no let-up in the action and Stuhr-Ellegaard had to block Sheringham’s fierce free-kick before Hislop parried Fowler’s shot.
Fowler spurned a decent chance to level, lifting a 12-yard shot over the top when Anelka laid the ball back to him.
And Aiyegbeni made sure of victory for the home side when he raced onto a long punt upfield, burst through the City defence and fired past Stuhr-Ellegaard to make it 4-2.