Emmanuel Adebayor, making a rare start for moneybags Manchester City, scored his first goals of the season on Thursday to secure a 3-1 win over Lech Poznan and give his club an excellent chance of qualifying from Europa League Group A.
Spoilt for choice City boss Roberto Mancini brought in David Silva and Shaun Wright-Phillips and benched Carlos Tevez and James Milner with French veteran Patrick Vieira replacing Gareth Barry – but it was Adebayor who bagged the plaudits as he plundered a fine hat trick – his club’s first ever in Europe.
Poznan had held Juventus to a 3-3 draw in their opening group match, and Slawomir Peszko came close to giving the Poles a shock early lead. But good work by Adam Johnson and then Vieira set up Adebayor to draw first blood in the 13th minute, the Togolese forward spinning round and then firing a low shot beyond Poznan goalkeeper Jasmin Buric.
Poor marking then saw the former Arsenal man elude his marker to power home the second with a header on 25 minutes. But spurred on by 5,000 visiting fans, Poznan made a game of it after the break and Joel Tshibamba fired them back into the contest five minutes after the restart.
City, level with the Poles on four points from their opening two encounters and hence needing the win to go clear, promptly stepped up a gear and, after Tshibamba had first missed a sitter from eight yards, Adebayor volleyed in from close range after a superb pass from Silva set up the chance on a plate.
Liverpool, currently joint bottom of the Premier League and also having to make do with Europa League fare this term after failing to bag their annual Champions League berth, retained their two-point lead in Group K with two home games to come after a gutsy goalless draw at Napoli in Italy.
With Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres rested and not even brought to Italy, young guns Jonjo Shelvey, Jay Spearing and Martin Kelly were given the chance to impress at the San Paolo stadium and acquitted themselves well, adding to the optimism sparked by the new United States ownership of the club.
The five-time European champions’ manager Roy Hodgson indicated that the gloom of recent months was lifting despite seven winless games as he said: “The new owners have already done a little for the club, they’ve given us a lift.
Other highlights of Thursday’s action saw two-time European champions Porto make it three wins in three games as they triumphed 3-1 at Turkey’s Besiktas – despite having two men sent off. Paris St Germain have disappointed on the European stage since a 1996 Cup Winners Cup win – although Manchester City’s sole European triumph in that now defunct competition was fully 26 years earlier.
But the French outfit are going well in Group J where they remain unbeaten following Clement Chantome’s late equaliser against former European champions Borussia Dortmund of Germany. Zenit St Petersburg, the 2008 UEFA Cup winners, are six points clear at the top of Group G after beating Croatia’s Hajduk Split with Alexander Bukharov and Danny on target while Anderlecht beat AEK Athens.