The returning Emmanuel Adebayor netted his seventh goal of the season
By Pranav Soneji
Manchester City closed the gap on fourth-placed Tottenham following a win over Portsmouth, whose problems on and off the field continue to mount.
The hosts took the lead in the 39th minute when Stephen Ireland's pass found Emmanuel Adebayor, who rifled a 20-yard strike beyond David James.
Vincent Kompany doubled the lead on the cusp of half-time with a powerful header from Martin Petrov's corner.
Carlos Tevez hit the post in the 80th minute with an eight-yard snap shot.
The victory leaves City level on points with fifth-placed Liverpool and only one point behind Spurs with two games in hand over both rivals, although boss Roberto Mancini will be grateful for three points following one of their less convincing performances of the season.
But the defeat compounds a debilitating week for beleaguered Portsmouth, who stay rooted to the bottom of the Premier League while off the pitch the multitude of financial problems continue to stack up.
Mancini cites tiredness despite win
Denied the services of defender Younes Kaboul, sold to Spurs in an effort to address the club's £60m debt, Pompey boss Avram Grant made seven changes - most of them enforced - from the team which started the 1-1 draw against West Ham.
The arrival of on-loan signing Quincy Owusu-Abeyie allowed the Israeli to name seven substitutes, one more than at Fratton Park on Tuesday, while goalkeeper James made only his second Premier League appearance in the last three months.
City, in stark contrast, saw captain Kolo Toure return following Ivory Coast's exit from the Africa Cup of Nations, while striker Adebayor made his first start following the deadly gun attack on Togo's team bus prior to the tournament
However, the return of over £40m of talent could not lift a first 30 minutes that was devoid of invention, flair and entertainment as both teams spurned possession with aimless balls into space.
A Jamie O'Hara shot easily saved by Shay Given and an Ireland strike following a sweeping move on the right flank were the only incidents to wake fans from their enforced slumber.
However, Anthony Vanden Borre brought the game to life when his deflected shot rattled the crossbar in the 36th minute.
The full-back latched on to John Utaka's intelligent back heel inside the box and rifled his shot into Kompany as the ball looped over Given and on to the crossbar, with Ireland clearing the danger with Danny Webber poised to pounce.
Portsmouth were left to rue that miss as, moments later, Adebayor took advantage of his only chance of the game by latching on to Ireland's floated pass and smashing a rasping drive past James from the edge of the area.
Portsmouth had reason to complain that Adebayor was offside when the pass was played and they suffered a further blow as City doubled their lead in the first minute of injury time.
Again, the marking was poor as Kompany easily outmanoeuvred Tal Ben Haim before powering an unstoppable header past James.
Grant annoyed by two goals
The goal was only the Belgian's second goal in the Premier League since joining City in August 2008.
The opening exchanges of the second half followed a depressingly similar trend to the first half, although Portsmouth's midfield began to impose more authority against their better-paid opponents.
Their best chance fell in the 65th minute when Given spilled a stinging 25-yard drive from Angelo Basinas into the path of Webber, but the striker embarrassingly missed his left-footed follow-up shot from six yards, much to the delight of the Eastlands faithful.
Tevez missed the opportunity to notch his 19th goal of the season when he rattled James' right-hand post in the final 10 minutes, but his rare moment of inaccuracy had no bearing on the final result.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini: "I'm satisfied for the victory, but for the play so-so. We were a little tired after Wednesday's match against Manchester United.
In the first half we did not play well, we did not move the ball quickly and were too slow when we lost possession.
The clean sheet is important, but it was more important that we won today. It's a good situation for us, we have 41 points and have two games in hand."
Portsmouth boss Avram Grant on the prospect of losing more players before January's transfer window closes: "I don't think so, but I did not think that we would before and we lost one of our best players (Younes Kaboul to Spurs). I don't think we will lose any more but I cannot guarantee this.
"They were not the better team. Their first goal was, in my opinion, offside while the second from a foul from a push on Tal Ben Haim. Their goalkeeper was more busier than our keeper.
"I was impressed with the players, the performance was better, it's just the position of the club off the pitch. The boys are trying their best, they showed character and if they show a little more concentration in the box, we can get results."
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.