Three talking points from Manchester City’s record-equalling victory over West Ham
Manchester City restored their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League table over rivals Manchester United after coming from behind to see off a dogged West Ham on Sunday afternoon.
Despite dominating possession it was the visitors who had the better opportunities in the opening exchanges, with both Michail Antonio and Manuel Lanzini coming closest to breaking the deadlock.
And it was the Hammers who struck the first blow before the break when Angelo Ogbonna rose highest to head home from Aaron Creswell’s pinpoint cross, giving David Moyes’ side a shock lead.
It was little surprise that City came out stronger after half-time though, and just minutes after Kevin de Bruyne had forced Adrian into a diving stop from a thunderous free-kick defender Nicolas Otamendi found himself in the right place at the right time to tap home the equaliser inside the box.
Pep Guardiola’s side began to turn the screw as they went in search of a winner, with De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling all denied by an inspired Adrian between the sticks.
There was a sense of inevitability about the winner when it did come, then, with David Silva finding space inside the box to acrobatically finish from De Bruyne’s cross and break West Ham’s resistance.
The result signalled a record-equalling 13th successive league win for Manchester City, and they’ll have the chance to break this when they travel to Old Trafford for the Manchester derby on Sunday.
Guardiola’s men march on with another late show
There was more than just a sense of déjà vu doing the rounds on Sunday afternoon.
For the third time in the space of seven days Pep Guardiola’s side found a way to grind out some crucial points in the race for the Premier League title with a decisive goal coming late on in a match.
Against Huddersfield it came in the 84th minute, against Southampton the 96th and against the Hammers it was the 83rd; with these three goals the Citizens have claimed six points over the course of a week, points that have kept their lead over Manchester United a healthy one ahead of Sunday.
Add this to the 97th minute winner away at Bournemouth earlier on in the season and Guardiola’s side have developed a way of winning, even when it seems like there’s no way through opposition.
Guardiola himself picked up on this with his post-match thoughts, saying his side learnt to ‘attack differently’ when faced with a determined West Ham defence, and it’s this newfound ability to salvage victories from ‘impossible’ scenarios that is the hallmark of possible Premier League winners.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign at Manchester United wasn’t always an easy ride but his side seemed to grind out results when it mattered, from these types of matches – and it’s what City are doing now.
David Silva’s late winner completely changes the dynamics of next Sunday’s Manchester derby too, with Manchester United now knowing that anything other than a victory could end their title hopes.
Hammers show signs of encouragement in defeat
But whilst it can be said that Manchester City were far from their fluent best on Sunday, David Moyes’ depleted West Ham side deserve an awful lot of praise for their prolonged defensive efforts.
Prior to kick-off the bookies had a 6-0 home win at shorter odds than a Hammers victory at all such has been the gulf in class between the two this season, and arriving at the Etihad Stadium after a miserable 4-0 drubbing against Everton during the week nobody gave the visitors a glimmer of hope.
Any pre-conceptions of another Manchester City cricket score were firmly out of the window when Angelo Ogbonna popped up and put his side into the lead, and it’s fair to say that the Hammers could have – and should have – scored a second when Diafra Sakho fired wide in the dying moments.
At the other end West Ham were well-disciplined, compact and well organised, with the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva unable to exploit gaps between the midfield and the defence as there weren’t any, and not many teams can lay claim to keeping Sergio Aguero quiet for 90 minutes.
It was testament to the way that the Hammers kept concentrated on the task at hand, and they would no doubt have left Manchester after the match bitterly disappointed at leaving with nothing.
Based on Sunday’s performance there’s absolutely no reason as to why West Ham can’t avoid relegation this season, it’s now just about getting some consistency on the pitch week after week.
Adrian heroics leaves Moyes with dilemma
In a week of outstanding goalkeeping performances in the Premier League, West Ham number one Adrian certainly gave David de Gea a run for his money with an inspired individual display of his own.
It seemed for all the world that it would be a long, tough afternoon for Adrian considering that City had already scored 24 goals at the Etihad Stadium so far this season in just seven top-flight matches.
But, awarded his first Premier League start of the season due to Joe Hart’s ineligibility against his parent club, the Spaniard was almost single-handedly responsible for keeping his side in the match for as long as they were, producing a string of acrobatic stops to deny the hosts on several occasions.
His opening save was a particularly excellent one, palming away David Silva’s effort after it took a horrific deflection, whilst his one-handed save from Leroy Sane’s curling strike was equally as good.
But more than that he commanded his penalty area well, having a 100% success rate for both claiming the ball and punching the ball away, and he communicated exceptionally with his defence.
With Hart coming under fire so far this season for under-par performances there’s now a big decision for boss David Moyes to make before Chelsea take the short trip across the capital to the London Stadium next week – and on Sunday’s showing, it would be very hard to leave Adrian out.
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