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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 18 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Jul 26, 2006

Port Vale 0-3 Manchester City: Barton hat-trick

Joey Barton netted a first-half hat-trick to celebrate his new Manchester City contract in the best way possible.

Jeered by his own fans only six months ago after slapping in a deadline-day transfer request, Barton has now committed his future to the Eastlands outfit for another four years.

And, if any there are any Blues supporters still sceptical about the former England Under-21 international's commitment, they would surely have been won over by his one-man show against Port Vale.

Barton took just eight minutes to get on the scoresheet, tapping home from close range after Georgios Samaras had provided the knockdown.

There was more than an element of controversy about City's second as Paul Dickov took a quick free-kick inside the Vale box after keeper Mark Goodlad had handled George Abbey's back pass.

With the home defence caught totally unawares, Barton had the simplest of tasks to stroke home Dickov's square pass.

And, within nine minutes, the Huyton-born midfielder had struck again, stabbing a shot past Goodlad from 10 yards after Samaras and Dickov had unsettled the Vale defence.

Barton's goalscoring feats, allied to a generally composed performance which saw City dominate the midfield exchanges, suggest the 23-year-old is finally ready to step away from the controversies which have dogged his career and make a major impact on the Barclays Premiership this term.

With champions Chelsea lined up as their opening weekend opponents on August 20, Stuart Pearce's men clearly need to hit the ground running.

The City boss will have been pleased with the improvement showed by his side on earlier efforts during their pre-season campaign.

Aside from Barton, Samaras and Trevor Sinclair were also prominent figures in attack, while Micah Richards, who like Barton signed a new four-year contract yesterday, also impressed in central defence.

Understandably, given at one stage they made five substitutions at the same time during the second period, City were unable to maintain their momentum for the entire 90 minutes.

However, they still had enough in reserve to keep Vale at bay.

The hosts' best chances also came before the break but neither Leon Constantine nor Akpo Sodje were able to keep their nerve for the Potteries outfit, who open their League One programme against Leyton Orient on August 5.