|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Raheem Sterling hits hat-trick as Manchester City thrash West Ham
Barney Ronay at the London Stadium
datePublished Sat 10 Aug 2019 14.37 BST
Welcome to the new world. Which looks, it must be said, quite a lot like the old world. On a breezy afternoon in east London, Manchester City’s two-times champions kicked off the new season with a defeat of West Ham that barely required a shift out of second gear.
Raheem Sterling made it four goals in a week with a wonderful hat-trick. Riyad Mahrez was involved throughout, passing, moving and dribbling with a familiar elan, and taking a decisive hand in the first four goals. Kevin De Bruyne looked close to his hard-running best in midfield.
Inbetween this, VAR kept up a regular commentary on City’s dominance, disallowing one goal, retaining another and ordering a penalty retake.
This will surely become a feature of City’s matches given the rhythm of their attacks, the way cut-backs from the flanks and cute runs along the defensive line are key to their best moments. Otherwise it was a breathtaking show of controlled strength. Their opponents may come forewarned of the way City attack and facing essentially the same set of players. Trying to stop them is another matter altogether.
The stadium was full at kick-off, the skies above an autumnal grey, the atmosphere inside largely undetectable beneath the brain-mangling volume of the pre-match PA.
West Ham had seven players in their starting lineup who have joined the club in the past year. This included their record signing Sébastien Haller, who had previously mused on whether he might get a touch of the ball.
But West Ham did start brightly, with Jack Wilshere prominent in midfield, and Haller was sharp in the opening minutes, dropping deep at times and playing neatly with his back to goal.
Steadily, City began to exert their own patterns. With nine minutes gone, Mahrez had their first shot at goal, grooving in from the left and drawing a low save from Lukasz Fabianksi.
After 20 minutes Manuel Pellegrini appeared for the first time on his touchline, a small, sharp-suited figure in the middle of all that branded claret carpet, gesturing anxiously towards West Ham’s left.
Perhaps he was asking Michail Antonio to offer a little cover to his full-back. If so it went unheeded. Almost immediately Mahrez did his Mahrez thing, sitting Aaron Cresswell down on the turf inside his own area with that same old shimmy, but shooting into the side-netting.
The first goal arrived two minutes later courtesy of a lovely move down that side. De Bruyne carried the ball across from the left. Mahrez played a delightful through pass for Kyle Walker, tearing down the right. The cut-back was deflected on to Gabriel Jesus, who finished neatly.
It was a move City repeated throughout the first half. It seems odd that opponents still set up against them as though in fear of being pierced down the middle. One day someone is going to say hang it all and just play two full-backs instead.
On 32 minutes, there was a first intervention from VAR as a bored-sounding voice said: “They’re checking for a red card.” Followed, a few moments later, by “No red card”.
Ten minutes before half-time the home team had their first shot at goal, a hooked effort over the shoulder from Haller and City went to the break having barely broken into a collective sprint.
It was 2-0 five minutes after half-time. This was a glorious move down the right. Mahrez fed De Bruyne on the charge. He glided into space and played a perfectly weighted ball to Sterling, who veered in on goal and finished with ease.
Two minutes later it was 3-0, then 2-0 again as VAR scrubbed off the goal for a very narrow offside against Sterling’s shoulder; a moment of technical offside-dom that offered no advantage and a decision that penalised a fine piece of movement.
Clearly the offside rule needs to be tweaked for the post-VAR world. The best suggestion being: you are onside until the whole of you is offside.
For a while West Ham pressed hard again and after 72 minutes they should have pulled one back. Ryan Fredericks whipped in a cross from the right and Ederson pulled off a fine double save, first from Javier Hernández’s left thigh, then from Manuel Lanzini’s header. Moments later it was finally 3-0.
Mahrez cut inside and lofted a beautiful little pass over the defence. Sterling read it, stayed onside, then produced a lovely lobbed finish.
There was time for Fabianksi to save a weak 83rd-minute penalty from Sergio Agüero, on as a sub, before VAR ordered a successful retake for encroachment by Declan Rice and as the stadium began to empty Sterling completed his hat-trick with a lovely low finish after fine work from Rodri.
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS Ratings by Jack Gaughan
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Fabianski 6; Fredericks 5, Balbuena 5, Diop 5.5, Cresswell 4; Wilshere 5 (Snodgrass 56, 6), Rice 6; Anderson 4.5 (Hernandez 66, 6), Lanzini 6, Antonio 6.5 (Fornals 45, 6), Haller 6.5
Substitutes not used: Roberto, Ogbonna, Sanchez, Zabaleta
Booked: Balbuena, Anderson
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson 7; Walker 7, Stones 7, Laporte 7, Zinchenko 7; De Bruyne 8 (Gundogan 79), Rodri 7, David Silva 7 (Foden 80); Mahrez 9, Jesus 8 (Aguero 69, 7), Sterling 9.5
Substitutes not used: Bravo, Otamendi, Bernardo Silva, Cancelo
Goals: Jesus 25, Sterling 51, 75, 90, Aguero 86 (pen)
Booked: Walker, Sterling
Referee: Mike Dean 6