Manchester City 2 West Ham United 0
Wednesday, 19th February 2020
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham United were soundly and easily beaten by Manchester City this Wednesday, a 2-0 stroll that gave Guardiola's men an evening to dust off the stresses of their Financial Fair Play drama.For West Ham, David Moyes set out the team to stay solid and protect themselves. If the goal was to reduce the scoreline to something respectable, maybe that was achieved. Very little else was.
With what looked like a half-empty stadium, the fans were treated to a glorified training session, the visitors setting ten behind the ball for the most part and looking to suffocate the reigning champions into submission.
It wasn?EUR(TM)t quite the masterplan the manager had hoped, City used to attacking defensive sides and looking to make the breakthrough with patient passing football.
It took two minutes to settle into a pattern, West Ham with a set of five defenders, four midfielders prowling in front of them and Antonio chasing any clearances to try escape and offer some relief.
Five minutes in, City should have scored. David Silva slipped Gabriel Jesus in behind the West Ham defence and into the area, but the Brazilian striker took too many touches, tried to round Fabianski and was then tackled easily.
The game was played in the West Ham half primarily surrounding the penalty area. It was always a case of when the home side would score, not if. The counter-attacking threat carried in the defensive display at Chelsea was not there, the onslaught just kept coming back.
Luckily for West Ham, Jesus was the man who all the chances fell to, and the striker lacked any clinical edge.
It was he again who wasted a glorious chance on thirteen minutes. A deflected pass from De Bruyne on the edge of the area fell straight back to the Belgian, who instinctively poked a pass through to an unmarked Jesus. Eight yards out and in the centre of the area, the Brazilian again took too long, Cresswell darting back to block the shot. It fell to Jesus again, but his shot was once more blocked by Cresswell, who likely saved a certain goal.
These warning signs did seem to be noted by West Ham, spending the next 15 minutes quite comfortably defending the threat, although Ogbonna was lucky not to be punished for impeding Aguero in the area when the Argentinean was in on goal. The flag had gone up, but Ogbonna could be relieved not to have his defending examined further by VAR, Aguero shown not to be offside on replays. The Italian was probably clever to commit a series of little fouls, rather than bringing the striker down.
There was nothing really for the away fans to cheer, except those with an enthusiastic joy for clearances. West Ham had come to be difficult, making sure City either had to do something brilliant or punish a mistake.
It will be no surprise then that there was a huge slice of the latter that cost Moyes?EUR(TM)s side. A corner whipped in flat and low was flicked on at the front post by Rodri. His header was point perfect, flying across the face of goal and bouncing into the inside of the side-netting.
The Spaniard had sauntered unmarked towards the ball, with Ryan Fredericks totally unaware. As he leapt to clear, he was beaten with ease by the midfielder; the right back had no idea what was around him.
The game plan was based on a solid defence, it was all too easily destroyed by poor defending.
The procession remained, Manchester City on the ball and West Ham with as many bodies as they could behind it.
Half time came, the score still at 1-0. The break changed little, the game returning to the same pattern of the first half.
With little action to describe, it is worth noting the effort and drive offered in midfield by Declan Rice. With very little else to cheer, it was the young midfielder?EUR(TM)s desire to burst out of midfield and try make something happen that offered some relief for the travelling fans. It is one of the few real pains of relegation that the progress of Rice will be for other fans to enjoy.
It was seemingly a change of personnel that brought the next and final goal. Fredericks fell heavily on his shoulder after a challenge with Rodri, going off with what looked like a dislocation.
On came Pablo Zabaleta, the former City player returning to his old stomping ground. His appearance raised the quiet crowd, struggling to build any atmosphere with so many empty seats.
With a bit of noise and enthusiasm finally behind the home side, it was only five minutes after Zabaleta came on that City got their second.
Soucek was guilty of a lazy pass deep from midfield, giving the ball away under little pressure. They worked the ball from the left to the right, where it was down to City?EUR(TM)s best player to break the West Ham defence once more.
Passing into the area for Bernardo Silva, he followed his pass and collected his teammate?EUR(TM)s poor touch, hammering the ball first time at goal, beating Fabianski at his front post. It was another disappointing way to concede; the Pole will know he should have done better.
With around 30 minutes remaining, the game was tied up, the contest over. Which is why the lack of movement on the bench was so disappointing. With a 2-0 deficit, many would have hoped to have seen the quick introduction of Bowen or Anderson, Haller or Lanzini.
There was nothing to hold onto, no hope or new idea introduced from the bench. It was 17 minutes after City?EUR(TM)s second that Moyes decided to make a change. The away fans were treated to a first West Ham shot before that, Antonio blazing high and wide from outside the area on 74 minutes.
Fabianski made a good save to somewhat redeem himself, Jesus again in behind the defence but only able to shoot straight at the figure of Fabianski rushing towards him.
Finally Bowen was brought on, replacing the ragged Snodgrass. No other change followed, leaving Noble again fighting through another 90 minutes. That he was often the figure on the wide left trying to burst forward on counter attacks was even more disheartening with a 2-0 goal lead to chase down.
For many, it will be a sign of what the manager wanted at this point. It appeared David Moyes was happy to take 2-0, having accepted a defeat but not wanting to lose too badly, a level of realism one can only imagine the travelling fans enjoyed greatly as they made their way home on a Wednesday night from Manchester.
What the night certainly didn?EUR(TM)t do was offer anything to suggest Monday?EUR(TM)s trip to Liverpool will be full of heroics or even a counter-punch.
The two-goal loss today kept the side above Watford with a goal difference that is one goal better. There will rarely be a sadder mini-victory to be claimed after a game of football. It?EUR(TM)s exactly the tone the game left the club with.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
One good save and generally solid goalkeeping was let down by being too easily beaten for the second goal.
His switched-off defending to blame for the first goal. Made a couple solid contributions at the back before a collision left him falling on his shoulder and taken off with what looked a dislocated shoulder.
Saved a certain goal with his double block on Jesus in the first half. Otherwise solid.
Gabriel Jesus probably could have had a hat trick, and they all seemed to be down Diop?EUR(TM)s channel of the back line.
Dealt with Aguero reasonably well and was strong defending crosses.
Was beaten once or twice one-on-one, but that?EUR(TM)s going to happen when you spend 90 minutes being told to defend. More switched on and prepared to defend than he has been recently.
The one bit of mild relief, making runs forward and actually showing the ability to compete with his opponents, but it wasn?EUR(TM)t a good game for him either.
Another who did his job reasonably fine, but it certainly was a game to show his limitations. Frankly, the manager?EUR(TM)s plan seemed to expose them. With Noble trying to support down the left wing, it was an indictment of West Ham?EUR(TM)s counter attacking threat.
He did make the effort to push forward and support Antonio at times, but it appeared too much after a while. One header in the area to Antonio was smart, he battled in the middle too, but it was a hopeless task.
He worked hard, up and down, back and forth. There was just little he could really do. We won no freekicks to threaten, rare counters were usually too few on numbers and pace to make any impact.
The last of all ten outfield starters who tried hard and worked hard. They all did. But Antonio had one opening for a shot, 74 minutes in. Otherwise he was running at four players who aren?EUR(TM)t slower than him, rarely with any teammate with him.
(Replaced Fredericks) He injected energy into the crowd. But for the other team. Not his fault but it was uniquely annoying. Made a couple decent challenges but forced a defensive team even further back as he has no counter attack threat.
(Replaced Snodgrass) Ran around with eagerness, did his defensive work when required. Nothing else to show in a cameo in a dead game.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Aaron Cresswell, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Arthur Masuaku, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Tomas Soucek, Robert Snodgrass, Michail Antonio.
Booked: Arthur Masuaku 0 .
Sent off: None.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Laporte (Stones 65), Mendy, Rodrigo, D.Silva (Foden 85), De Bruyne (Gundogan 79), B.Silva, Jesus, Aguero.
Subs not used: Bravo, Cancelo, Fernandinho, Mahrez.
Goals: Rodrigo (30), De Bruyne (62).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Kevin Friend.
Man of the Match: Lukasz Fabianski.