Hull City recorded their first win in 10 Premier League games yesterday as Wayne Bridge's return to the field for Manchester City was largely overshadowed by goals in either half from Jozy Altidore and George Boateng.
Bridge had not played since December, before the mother of his child's private life became front and back-page news, but a second-half goal from Emmanuel Adebayor was not enough to give the full-back a positive return to the professional sphere.
For the first half an hour, Bridge cut a pretty lonely figure in his left-back position as a determined Hull City focused on the visitors' right flank, with Stephen Hunt and, in particular, Altidore giving Pablo Zabaleta and Dedryck Boyata a torrid time.
Roberto Mancini fielded arguably his strongest side except for Boyata, who deputised for the injured Joleon Lescott in the centre of the defence, and his inexperience showed. But the 20-year-old was not the only one to struggle to contain Altidore. Kolo Toure was booked in the fourth minute after obstructing the on-loan striker. Boyata followed him into the book on 20 minutes after dragging the inspired American back.
Altidore worked well with Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink in a classic big man-nippy striker combination. The Dutchman volleyed wide from inside the area on 21 minutes and three minutes later nodded the ball down for his compatriot Boateng, who volleyed just over from 20 yards.
The visitors recorded their first shot in anger just before the half hour, with Zabaleta shooting over after some sharp movement from Carlos Tevez and Stephen Ireland. Two minutes later Phil Brown's men were ahead --Altidore curling a right-foot shot into the bottom left-hand corner after Vennegoor of Hesselink tapped a Boateng pass back to the American on the edge of the area.
The following few minutes were tough on Bridge, who became subject to some semi-humourous chants from the emboldened home crowd, lost his boot and found himself marking Hull's resident Tasmanian dust devil, Hunt, as the Ireland international switched wings.
Bridge almost silenced the terrace wags with a goal in injury-time but after playing a smart one-two with Ireland, the full-back's fine left-foot shot was well saved by Boaz Myhill at his near post.
The second half continued with a creaking Man City defence struggling to cope with Hull's relentless tempo. A second goal was no surprise but its sheer quality was jarring. A Hunt corner was headed clear by Toure only to be returned with extraordinary venom via the right foot of Boateng. The ball swerved past Shay Given's despairing dive.
Cue the arrival of Manchester City. Adebayor and Tevez had half-chances before the Togo player bundled the ball home after a cleared corner from debutant Adam Johnson was returned to the six-yard box by Gareth Barry.
Patrick Vieira was reintroduced to English football as his team-mates celebrated. The 33-year-old Frenchman was booked for a foul on Hull midfielder Tom Cairney, 14 years his junior. Another substitute and Premier League recidivist, Hull's Amir Zaki, shot tamely at Given after being sent clear by Vennegoor of Hesselink. Bridge was replaced by Martin Petrov in the final five minutes.
At least he has returned to the reality of his day job -- however unpleasant that may be when he plays away.