|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Manchester City get back to winning ways with victory over West Ham
Jamie Jackson at Etihad Stadium
Published Sunday 19 April 2015 15.45 BST
This was the easy and controlled performance that has been missing in action recently for Manchester City. True, West Ham United were the perfect patsies due to a quality deficit but, notwithstanding, the champions ended the game having convinced in all departments.
Eliaquim Mangala’s commanding display allowed his season-long struggles to be forgotten. Yaya Touré ran the show from midfield and was pivotal in City’s second goal. And the under-pressure Manuel Pellegrini could enjoy an afternoon when calm was restored and the awful run of six defeats from the last eight outings was arrested. Even when the Hammers rallied towards the close this merely allowed Joe Hart to illustrate again how he has raised his game as the goalkeeper repelled any threat.
“It was important to win because we came here from two defeats,” Pellegrini said. “We must continue working together and it is very important to finish as near to the top of the table as possible.”
City’s opener featured the sort of luck any team suffering a harrowing slump will gratefully embrace. Jesús Navas took possession near halfway and raced forward along the right. When he glanced up Sergio Agüero had peeled into space in the far corner of West Ham’s area. Navas pinged over a cross towards the striker but the winger’s radar was awry. The ball was at a height where James Collins felt he had to put a boot through it but in doing so the central defender could only lob Adrián and see the ball ricochet in off the frame.
It was fortuitous but deserved on the balance of play. West Ham were offering only rare moments of menace in an error-strewn display that showed why they arrived here having won only once in the last 11 matches. “You can’t make the mistakes we made and expect to get anything out of the game,” said Sam Allardyce, the West Ham manager.
The Collins own-goal came in the 18th minute. By the 36th Agüero had City’s second and his 20th in the league this season. The maligned (in some quarters) Touré was crucial. Without the Ivorian sticking out a leg to make a sliding interception inside his half, West Ham would have kept possession. Instead Agüero was able to race forward and swap passes with Navas before he pulled the trigger to beat Adrián and ensure the scoreline reflected how City had coasted through the opening half.
Pellegrini had a point beforehand when he suggested City played well in the opening minutes of last Sunday’s 4-2 derby defeat at Manchester United before the team tailed off. The manager was also honest enough to state: “We’ve been doing some things badly.” The chief fault might be a lack of sharpness, a vital edge missing from City’s in-game imagination and execution.
The opposite was the case on Sunday. When Fernando, playing alongside Touré in central midfield, raced back to catch Cheikhou Kouyaté and snap cleanly into a tackle that killed the threat, he showed what is needed.
City should have gone further ahead in the second half. Aleksandar Kolarov had a fierce shot blocked by Carl Jenkinson and the latter did the same when Agüero bore down on Adrián at close range after 49 minutes. There was also a long range shot from David Silva that flew over the bar, and a chance for Agüero from a Navas delivery that came to nothing, the Argentinian allowing the ball to slip under his boot.
As the hour passed and City continued to stroll in the Manchester sun, the sense that they were toying with Allardyce’s men continued. Silva saw a shot cannon off the West Ham defence and a few moments later, when Jenkinson found himself in City’s half, it felt like a collector’s item.
After 66 minutes Allardyce had seen enough. Yet to replace Carlton Cole, the lone striker, with Kevin Nolan hardly seemed the answer to West Ham’s ills. The manager also brought on Matt Jarvis for Alex Song, though as the latter had been among Hammer’s better players this may have been injury driven.
A minute or so later and there was no doubt Silva was in discomfort after Kouyaté’s flailing arm downed the playmaker, who required several minutes of treatment. The replays suggested it was unfortunate and innocuous, though Silva was taken off on a stretcher and replaced by Samir Nasri.
It was the only sour note of a match that by its finish had brought some desperately needed succour to City and their manager before Saturday’s visit of Aston Villa.
Man of the match Yaya Touré (Manchester City)