|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Phil Foden rescues point for out-of-sorts Manchester City against West Ham
Jonathan Liew at the London Stadium
Date Published: Sat 24 Oct 2020 14.37 BST
Something really needs to be done about these humdrum mid-table Premier League games. Perhaps the next mutation of Project Big Picture will have something to say about fixtures like these: two flawed, ambition-free sides in pure survival mode, both ultimately grateful for the point. Maybe it’s time for the likes to Everton and Aston Villa to cut the Manchester Citys of this world loose.
We’re joking, sort of. But it said a good deal, not just about this game but about the trajectories of the two clubs involved, that at full-time both sets of players looked equally disappointed. West Ham may have ridden their luck a touch. They may have spent most of the last half-hour defending. But this was a game that could just as easily gone their way. They know, as do most of their rivals, that this City is currently there for the taking.
This is not a new story. Their decline over the past 12 months has been gradual, inexorable and naturally still punctured by moments of real translucent inspiration, great performances, towering individual flourishes. But at the moment they feel like a half-present team: a team against the tide, drifting in and out of their old selves, able to glimpse it in parts, but never the whole thing for the whole time.
The second, following the introduction of the sugary Phil Foden, was better. And yet here again, missed chances and imperfect decision-making proved the difference between one point and three. Sergio Agüero’s hamstring injury again leaves them without a recognised striker. In his place Raheem Sterling missed two fine chances to win the game late on.
For David Moyes’s cautiously evolving squad, meanwhile, another half-step in the right direction. Having taken an early and spectacular lead through the flying boot of Michail Antonio, they withstood the inevitable second-half backlash with guts, organisation and judgment. Declan Rice was colossal in midfield. Lukasz Fabianski’s saves kept them in it at the death.
“We could have played much better,” Moyes said. “But brilliant character by the players. We defended really well.”
Antonio’s goal was a piece of art: using the heft of Rúben Dias to winch his body into position and uncoiling a bicycle kick past Ederson, who was unsighted. City howled purposelessly for a handball by Tomas Soucek, but the blame was their own: João Cancelo finding himself isolated, with too little pressure on Vladimir Coufal’s cross.
Moyes’s gameplan was working a treat: a deep, well-drilled back five, the pace of Jarrod Bowen on the break and with Antonio as a barrelling one-man agent of chaos up front there was always a pressure-release available.
Two key moments changed the course of the game: Antonio’s injury on 52 minutes and just before that the equalising goal from Foden.
His energy was just what City needed: a little human bath bomb, fizzing and effervescing and zipping across the surface, sweetening City’s attacks and finding his way into West Ham’s vital nooks and crevices.
It took him six minutes to put City back on track, turning and finishing after Cancelo had surprised Coufal with a scintillating burst of pace. With Antonio’s replacement, Andriy Yarmolenko, offering no threat, and with Kevin De Bruyne entering with a quarter of the game remaining, West Ham settled in for a dogged rearguard.
And yet in the end-to-end pandemonium of the finish, it was telling that West Ham were just as prepared to throw numbers forward as City. Pablo Fornals could have snatched the game in the dying minutes when he tried to lob Ederson and ending up chipping it straight into his arms.
Honours even, then, and on a chilly afternoon in east London you would struggle to argue either side deserved any less.
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS
West Ham (5-4-1): Fabianski 7.5, Coufal 7, Balbuena 6 , Ogbonna7 , Cresswell 7, Masuaku 7, Bowen 7 (Haller 6 69mins), Soucek 6.5, Rice 7, Fornals 5.5, Antonio 7.5 (Yarmolenko 5 52mins)
Subs not used: Lanzini, Noble, Diop, Fredericks, Randolph
Scorers: Antonio (18)
Booked: Coufal, Balbuena
Man City (4-3-3): Ederson 6.5, Walker 6 (Zinchenko 78), Dias 6.5, Garcia 6, Joao Cancelo 6, Bernardo Silva 6 (De Bruyne 6.5 68mins), Rodri 6, Gundogan 6.5, Mahrez 5.5, Aguero 5 (Foden 8 46mins), Sterling 6
Subs not used: Stones, Steffen, Torres, Palmer
Scorers: Foden (51)
Referee: Anthony Taylor