City saunter to vic­tory

West Ham’s Premier League sta­tus look­ing ever more pre­car­i­ous

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Soccer - Do­minic Fi­field at the Lon­don Sta­dium

The lo­cals were pour­ing away from this arena long be­fore the fi­nal whis­tle, with West Ham’s Premier League sta­tus feel­ing ever more pre­car­i­ous. The gap from the bot­tom three has been shaved to an un­nerv­ing three points over the week­end and while there is no dis­grace in los­ing to the cham­pi­ons, the man­ner in which Manch­ester City saun­tered to this thrash­ing was dis­turb­ing. The near si­lence in the stands was sig­nif­i­cant.

This ac­tu­ally felt like an es­cape given how many op­por­tu­ni­ties were cre­ated but passed up by Pep Guardi­ola’s side. City vir­tu­ally de­clared in the lat­ter stages with Yaya Touré strolling around cen­tral mid­field and the teenage Eng­land youth in­ter­na­tional, Lukas Nmecha, lead­ing the line on his league de­but, for all that the ball still rarely left the home side’s half.

West Ham, chas­ing shad­ows for all but a brief pe­riod ahead of the in­ter­val, had been pum­melled into sub­mis­sion. David Moyes must some­how raise spir­its for next week­end’s trip to Le­ices­ter, oth­er­wise this sea­son could have a sting in its tail.

It was the kind of mas­ter­class City tend to im­pose in this arena. Last sea­son they had pros­pered 4-0 and 5-0 here, play­ing on West Ham’s in­se­cu­ri­ties and rel­ish­ing the wide open spa­ces on of­fer. They should have rat­tled up a sim­i­lar tally in the open­ing half-hour, so dom­i­nant were they tear­ing into jit­tery op­po­nents.

Ilkay Gün­do­gan was close to con­vert­ing Ra­heem Ster­ling early cen­tre, though the home side had yet to en­joy any mean­ing­ful touches of the ball by the time Leroy Sané col­lected just out­side the cor­ner of the penalty area. Aaron Cress­well was re­luc­tant to en­gage, al­low­ing the Ger­man to cut in on his left foot and whip a shot which can­noned from Pa­trice Evra’s fore­head to nes­tle in the far cor­ner. Adrian, in for the in­el­i­gi­ble Joe Hart, had been ut­terly wrong-footed by the de­flec­tion.|

Cel­e­brated

Other op­por­tu­ni­ties were passed up be­fore City in­evitably cel­e­brated a cen­tury of league goals, al­beit with a re­ward ut­terly at odds with the beauty of so many of their tally this sea­son. Adrian had ac­tu­ally done well to sti­fle Ster­ling’s run just out­side his penalty area, but the vis­i­tors sim­ply kept com­ing. The Eng­land for­ward’s fol­low-up was blocked by An­gelo Og­bonna, but Gün­do­gan calmly found Kevin de Bruyne on the over­lap with the Bel­gian’s cross flick­ing off Adrian’s fin­ger­tips to bounce in off De­clan Rice and Pablo Za­baleta. The Ar­gen­tinean spent nine years at City, but he took no joy in registering their ton.

This had al­ways felt a rout in wait­ing. West Ham are the di­vi­sion’s most por­ous de­fence and had been be­calmed, sit­ting deep and per­mit­ting City their pos­ses­sion when other teams have shown in re­cent times that a more ag­gres­sive and smoth­er­ing ap­proach can yield re­ward against the cham­pi­ons.

Dy­namism

Per­haps Moyes de­ter­mined his side lack the dy­namism to swam into such a press, though they did muster a brief rally once the vis­i­tors, maybe overly con­fi­dent in their ad­van­tage or pos­si­bly merely los­ing in­ter­est at the lack of a con­test, al­lowed their up­beat tempo to drift just be­fore the break.

Marko Ar­nau­tovic was incensed to be pe­nalised for a foul on Eder­son which ruled out his tap into an empty net, but that at least woke up the home sup­port with his team-mates rejuvenated even to have come rel­a­tively close. Within min­utes, Gün­do­gan had tripped Edim­il­son Fer­nan­des just in­side the box only for the of­fi­cials to award a free-kick two yards out­side it. That felt a sig­nif­i­cant over­sight, only for Cress­well to belt the set-piece in­side the goal­keeper’s near-post and ap­par­ently gain the home side their foothold.

Ex­cept, of course, it ac­tu­ally only served to sting the vis­i­tors into a re­sponse. The majesty of their third goal took the breath away, from Gabriel Je­sus’ won­der­fully weighted and in­ci­sive pass which sent Ster­ling scur­ry­ing be­yond Cress­well, to the winger’s clar­ity of thought as he con­tem­plated his cen­tre while West Ham flooded their penalty area. In darted Je­sus un­no­ticed to col­lect from Ster­ling with a glo­ri­ous first touch, dis­ori­en­tat­ing Za­baleta in the process, then con­vert be­yond Adrian from close range. It was the 15th time West Ham had con­ceded at least three goals in a league game this sea­son.

There was no stem­ming the tide from then on in. Ster­ling should have been awarded a penalty as Cress­well slid in, then was de­nied by Adrian, be­fore turn­ing provider again. Fer­nand­inho had re­claimed the ball from Manuel Lanzini be­fore lib­er­at­ing the winger yet again down the right, with Ster­ling find­ing the Brazil­ian with the re­turn. The fin­ish was crisp with the goal­keeper hope­lessly ex­posed for goal num­ber 102 of this term.

– Guardian

PHO­TO­GRAPH: JOHN SIBLEY/AC­TION IM­AGES VIA REUTERS.

Gabriel Je­sus scores Manch­ester City’s third goal against West Ham at the Lon­don Sta­dium yes­ter­day.

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