x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Happy Hughes has no problem with Petrov

Mark Hughes hails Martin Petrov's first Manchester City start and plays down the Bulgarian's goal celebration in a 3-1 win over West Ham.

Mark Hughes hailed Martin Petrov's first Manchester City start and played down the Bulgarian's goal celebration in a 3-1 win over West Ham. Petrov was disappointed at not getting a deadline-day move to Tottenham and felt he would be a peripheral figure at Eastlands this season. However, he started after Stephen Ireland was ruled out through illness and responded by setting up the first of Carlos Tevez's double before ramming home a free-kick after Carlton Cole had equalised. Petrov immediately ran towards Hughes and pointed to his name on the back of his shirt, as if to remind his boss who he is. Not that Hughes was too concerned. "He does it all the time," shrugged the Welshman. "He was a really positive influence on the game, which is what we need. "I don't want players who sit in the stand feeling sorry for themselves. They have to be ready to come on and perform. "When opportunities present themselves you have to be able to make an impact. That is what Martin did." The result, which leaves City in fifth with a game in hand over all the sides above them while dropping West Ham into the relegation zone, completed the Blues best start to a top-flight season since 1961. Given the riches at Hughes' disposal it could get much better as well. With victory secured, he was able to hand £17 million (Dh99m) signing Roque Santa Cruz a debut before introducing Michael Johnson, who has spent the last 18 months battling to combat an abdominal injury. Their arrivals ensured the disappointment of that derby loss at Old Trafford is now consigned to the history books. "People seem to forget what an outstanding team Manchester United are," said Craig Bellamy. "We were disappointed but we have some very good players here, which bodes well for the future. We have started the Premier League very well and hopefully we can get better."

Hughes confirmed Robinho will be out of action for at least another three weeks with the ankle injury he suffered on international duty with Brazil last month. "It is still in pot (plaster), so he is not training, just doing work in the gym," he said. In the meantime the Blues can rely on Tevez, who scored his first league goals of the season, completing his brace with a close-range header. His reaction to his first goal, scored directly in front of the Hammers supporters, brought an almost apologetic wave of acknowledgement from the South American, which Gianfranco Zola felt was in keeping with his general attitude towards the Londoners. "Great players like him are true gentlemen," said Zola. "Our supporters appreciate him for what he did for the club and his contribution for City was outstanding." Aside from his warm tribute to Tevez, Zola was not happy at the end. Although the Hammers have suffered financially over the past 12 months, the Italian feels they should be much higher in the league than their present position. "I am angry with myself and the team," he said. "I do not think anyone, including myself, is giving, or doing, what they are capable of. It is as simple as that. "I expect much more."

* PA Sport