Vincent Kompany’s first Premier League goal for 20 months prompted an outpouring of relief and frustration after two injury-ravaged seasons for the Manchester City defender.
The 31-year-old’s 55th-minute header in a 3-0 victory at Southampton, in front of adoring City fans, sparked an emotional celebration from Kompany, who has started just 21 of City’s last 102 games.
“For me it’s always a long journey back,” Kompany told BT Sport. “I would’ve liked to be injured less in my career but every single time I’ve put in the hard work (to get back).
“When this happens I feel I’m giving something back to the fans. I’m finally giving something back to the team and that’s what you see in that moment… “It’s ups and downs in football, but ultimately what gets you up is you keep looking towards your objective. If I had to work 15 years to have just one moment like this I would do. “I scored in front of the away fans and for me it was a great feeling. I feel like I want to give so much but I am restrained at times, but I keep positive and keep going no matter what.”
Kompany will have garnered many headlines for his goal but it was his calming, imperious and faultless defensive display that will have been most pleasing for City manager Pep Guardiola.
Despite spending heavily in recent seasons, City’s title aspirations have been hampered by an inability to build a consistent, reliable central defensive partnership in Kompany’s absence.
John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi have arrived and, though each has shown glimpses of their undoubted quality, both are susceptible to the kind of mistake that was so rare from City when Kompany was at the peak of his powers.
“Every manager Vincent Kompany has played under knows what an important player he is,” Guardiola told the BBC.
“Finally, in recent games he has played he has delivered performances and hopefully he can stay fit. I want him fit enough to play every week — he has suffered for long periods but he is a real, real central defender.”
After a run of four league games without a win City have registered back-to-back league victories and face Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final next week.