Although Manchester City took part in the Champions League earlier this week, there was another game on the same night that fans may have been watching.
As City won 1-0 overnight against Atletico Madrid at the Etihad Stadium to put themselves in the driver’s seat to qualify for the semi-finals of Europe’s premier club competition, some 19 miles from Bolton, a glimpse of the future was on full view.
It was not City’s youth teams in action, but two big names in English football who were now facing each other in the third tier of English football and looking to move up the divisions.
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Bolton Wanderers and Portsmouth have faced each other regularly in the Premier League in the past, but both sides are now in League One and trying to move up the divisions.
Having both been in administration for the past few years, times have been tough for fans of both clubs, but things are looking up now for both teams.
Wanderers were promoted from League Two last season and look set to challenge for the top 10 in their first campaign back in English football’s third tier, while Pompey still has a chance of making this play-off. season, although they seem unlikely. Next season will likely present a bigger and better opportunity to do just that for both sides.
And two City loanees were in action against each other in the form of James Trafford for Wanderers and Gavin Bazunu for Pompey.
Trafford spent the first half of the season at Accrington Stanley, before moving to Wanderers in January. Since then, he has played every game he was available for as he became Wanderers’ first-choice.
But Trafford is not the only City goalkeeper to attract attention and applause in Ligue 1.
Gavin Bazunu is on loan at Portsmouth and is receiving rave reviews for Danny Cowley’s side.
Trafford is under contract until the summer of 2023, with Bazunu a City player until 2024, and the pair clashed when Pompey traveled to face Wanderers at the University of Bolton stadium.
Bazunu was first in action as he was shut down after two minutes by Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and had to clear for a throw-in, while moments later Trafford’s clearance went straight to Joe Morrell but had too much of pace to be controlled near the halfway line in a slightly jittery start for both.
Bazunu was by far the busiest goalkeeper in the first half, having to make a save from Dion Charles and produce a fantastic low save to deny Bolton top scorer Dapo Afolayan as well as claiming a teasing low cross from Kieran Sadlier.
At the other end, Trafford picked up a header from George Hirst, while Bazunu saw a long ball forward intercepted by Kyle Dempsey as the deadlock remained at the break.
Shortly after half-time, Pompey took the lead through Aiden O’Brien’s finish and Trafford parried to keep the deficit just a moment later.
After the hour mark as Wanderers looked for an equaliser, Bazunu parried another effort from Charles while Trafford had to claim a low cross from Marcus Harness.
Bolton were level again when Sean Raggett knocked Elias Kachunga down in the box and Sadlier headed home, although Bazunu followed the right path but couldn’t stop the weak effort down his left.
From then on, Trafford claimed a cross from Portsmouth on the second claim in the last major action for both sides as the spoils were eventually shared.
Despite the odd moment, the young duo gave promising performances which should encourage that there is much to be excited about in City’s goalkeeping department when Ederson’s time at the club draws to a close and that the pair is still there.