|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Manchester City continue winning start as Raheem Sterling sees off West Ham
Daniel Taylor at the Etihad Stadium
Date Published Sunday 28 August 2016 18.08 BST
Perhaps the most daunting part for Manchester City’s rivals is that these are still the embryonic stages of Pep Guardiola’s reign, with the players slowly getting used to a new set of ideas, different tactics and a manager who gives the impression he is satisfied only by the highest forms of excellence. Five games, five wins – Guardiola has had an immaculate start, even if the latest is tarnished by the potential loss of Sergio Agüero to suspension.
Agüero will certainly be fortunate, to say the least, if the Football Association’s disciplinary department chooses not to punish the second-half elbow on Winston Reid. A charge of violent conduct is far more likely and that has obvious consequences when City’s first game after the international break is Manchester United at Old Trafford. Agüero, who also stands to miss the home game against Bournemouth the following week and the EFL Cup tie against Swansea City, had not had one of his better games and perhaps there was an element of frustration in the incident that meant a shaken Reid was unable to continue.
Otherwise, it was another satisfying day for City featuring another demonstration of Raheem Sterling’s renascent form since Guardiola’s arrival. Sterling scored twice and the England international looks rejuvenated at a time when it is difficult to think of another club in the Premier League era with a greater choice of creative players.
This victory concluded with Guardiola declaring Samir Nasri, an unexpected substitute, can stay in Manchester when last week it seemed certain that the Frenchman would leave. When and where he plays would be another matter. Nolito has slotted seamlessly into the left side of attack. David Silva, that gem of a footballer, is playing with distinction while Kevin De Bruyne always offers hope because of his rare ability to put the ball exactly where he wants it, epitomised by the free-kick for Fernandinho’s goal.
More than anything, there is the sense of a team who can still get better and that must be thrilling for City’s supporters when the improvement is already considerable. Leroy Sané, lest it be forgotten, has not had the chance to play a single minute yet. The same applies to Ilkay Gündogan, Guardiola’s first signing, while Claudio Bravo was in the stands after his £17m move from Barcelona.
Guardiola’s decision not to start his new goalkeeper was a perplexing one – better here, you might imagine, than a debut in the Manchester derby – and threatened to backfire when Willy Caballero came for a cross in the 59th minute, flapped at thin air and Michail Antonio headed in the goal that made it 2-1 and changed the complexion of this match.
The game had been so one-sided until that point it came as a jolt to discover that City were threatening to waste all their previous good work. They had been exhilarating in the first half but Caballero’s mistake contributed to a jittery half an hour before Sterling soothed the crowd’s nerves with the final goal.
For West Ham United, still missing the injured Dimitri Payet, there were times in the first half when they were completely outplayed. Guardiola’s players did not just move the ball at uncommon speed, they chased down their opponents with an urgency that was rarely seen under Manuel Pellegrini. If the players lost possession they did everything to get it back as quickly as possible. It is the mentality that helped make Barcelona such a formidable team under Guardiola’s guidance and, if anything, it was a surprise their superiority did not bring them even more goals.
Sterling’s first goal came in the seventh minute when Silva moved across the centre of the pitch, from right to left and slid his pass behind the visiting defence for Nolito to reach the byline. Sterling was unmarked in the penalty area and turned Nolito’s cutback beyond Adrián, West Ham’s goalkeeper, with a fine first-time finish.
After 18 minutes the victory had started to feel like a foregone conclusion. Fernandinho had headed in De Bruyne’s brilliant delivery and West Ham, with the 20-year-old Ashley Fletcher making his full debut, looked desperately inferior. Yet Antonio has now scored eight headers in the Premier League in the past year, more than any other player, and the latest one gave Slaven Bilic’s team new momentum. City were aggrieved that the cross came from Arthur Masuaku when, already booked, the player had brought down his studs on John Stones’s knee in a first-half challenge that went unpunished.
West Ham were reinvigorated, with Cheikhou Kouyaté increasingly influential and Guardiola looking agitated on the touchline. Ultimately, though, Bilic’s team could not capitalise on that period when the home side suddenly looked a little unsure of themselves.
Those were the moments that will encourage José Mourinho before the derby but, even then, City’s penetrative qualities threatened more goals. Nasri had a couple of chances to mark his return – the player was no longer overweight, Guardiola reported – with a goal.
West Ham had to take extra risks in the final exchanges and Silva also hit the post in that period before playing in Sterling to go around Adrián, steady himself and ensure another win by rolling in a carefully placed shot from a difficult angle.
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS, RATINGS, PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3): Caballero 5.5; Zabaleta 6, Stones 6 (Kolarov 59mins, 6.5), Otamendi 6.5, Clichy 5.5; De Bruyne 7, Fernandinho 7, Silva 7.5; Sterling 8, Aguero 6 (Fernando 88), Nolito 6.5 (Nasri 75, 6.5)
Subs not used: Hart, Navas, Delph, Iheanacho
Goals: Sterling 7 & 90+2, Fernandinho 18
WEST HAM (3-5-2): Adrian 6; Ogbonna 5, Reid 6 (Calleri 78), Collins 6; Antonio 6, Tore 5 (Byram 46, 7), Noble 6.5, Kouyate 6, Masuaku 5.5; Fletcher 6.5, Valencia 6 (Lanzini 60, 6)
Subs not used: Randolph, Obiang, Burke, Oxford
Goal: Antonio 58
Booked: Masuaku, Noble, Fletcher
Referee: Andre Marriner
Ratings by Jack Gaughan