West Ham United 1-1 Manchester City
Saturday, 24th October 2020
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham's fine form continued as Manchester City visited the London Stadium and could only gain a point.
It was a very level game, each team will feel they controlled a half each, with the late City pressure making it a tight finish and a good point for Moyes's men.
To come away with eight points from the four games against Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham and Manchester City will feel a remarkable achievement, especially after the tumultuous start and unrest around the club's recent business. It is even more impressive considering how this game usually goes, with City scoring 17 in the last four games at the London Stadium and with nine wins in a row against West Ham.
The only notable team news for the home side was the omission of new signing Said Benrahma on the bench, with the starting eleven unchanged and no place for the Algerian in the squad.
It was a tight start to the game, and City never really created a chance to threaten in the opening 45. If anyone looked a flowing and comfortable attacking side, it was West Ham. And after a tense open, it was Antonio who brought some life to the game with an outrageous opener.
With nearly 20 minutes on the clock, Soucek miscontrolled a ball down the right of the City box and did well to keep the ball in and set it back to compatriot Coufal. The wing back bent in an excellent cross, but what Antonio did with it was brilliant.
Backing in to his defender, he created the space to let it drop lower and then guide it towards goal with an acrobatic overhead kick. Only eight yards from goal, the power and ingenuity was enough to beat Ederson and give West Ham a 1-0 lead.
And as the half went on, it looked more and more deserved. Frankly, City looked shocked with how difficult they found it to play against the organised hosts, whilst struggling to contain the attacking threat. It was most notable as they failed to counter attack multiple West Ham attacks, with more players behind the ball than they are used to.
They were right to take fewer risks, such was the quality and confidence in the West Ham forward play. Rice and Cresswell both whipped in beautiful and dangerous crosses not long after the goal that forward runs were very close to.
Antonio might feel he could have had a second, a long ball over the City defence enough to get Antonio in behind, but Spaniard Garcia got back just in time to challenge the forward as he looked to shoot. There was little fuss around the challenge, although some may question on replay whether the defender fouled Antonio before then taking the ball.
The half instead ended 1-0, and it can only be seen as a sign of how well the defence were playing that Sergio Aguero was withdrawn at half time for Phil Foden.
The change was smart, and helped City take control back of the ball and the game. Foden was excellent throughout his 45 minutes, finding dangerous positions, passing and beating players in tight spaces and linking wonderfully with Sterling.
And it was the precocious youngster who equalised for the away side. Cancelo took advantage of the space in front of him down the left to accelerate at and beyond Coufal before cutting a ball into the box for Foden to take.
The Englishman gathered the ball from behind him and spun to shoot low and hard into the corner, Fabianski left with no chance and a worrying equaliser with 40 minutes on the clock and City with the momentum.
Even worse for West Ham, it came moments after Antonio had pulled up hurt, the striker brought off before the game restarted again. It was notable that Yarmolenko was the man to replace him, Jarrod Bowen moving up front.
He arrived 15 minutes later, coming on for Bowen as Guardiola also rolled the dice and introduced De Bruyne from the City bench. It was a cameo somewhat doomed to failure, the West Ham defence getting deeper and deeper as City pushed for a winning goal. It was made harder by the quite majestic mess of a performance Yarmolenko was having, a man who looked like the football itself was trying to trick him.
The pace taken away from the side, with both Bowen and Antonio off the pitch, combined with Yarmolenko's continued troubles doing anything at all meant that there was no counter threat at all, and it really became a case of Haller winning headers from clearances and Fornals occasionally being a nuisance don the left.
At the other end, entrenched defending started to get a little more desperate. Last-ditch defending was more and more evident. It was the Frenchman Haller who saved a certain goal as a De Bruyne cross looked to land on Sterling's head yards from the goal. The big striker got his head to it first, reacting to Sterling's movement better than any of the defenders.
It was as if West Ham felt all they could do was hold on to a point because it was Manchester City, showing them far too much respect and forgetting how regularly they threatened when on the front foot themselves.
There was always one chance left in them, the break still a viable outlet even with the lack of real pace going forward. Masuaku saved a certain goal as Mahrez got into the box behind the defence, and then the big West Ham chance came.
Running from the halfway line, Fornals got behind the defence and to the right side of the City box with Ederson out a long way from goal. The Spaniard tried the chip but he merely dinked a ball into the Brazilian's waiting grasp. Initially, he had looked a long way offside, but replays appeared to show Fornals was in his own half as the ball was played.
It was the last chance West Ham had, six minutes left on the clock.
Instead, West Ham started to become their own worst enemy. Masuaku, as calm as ever, was dispossessed inside his own half with City flooding forward, De Bruyne instantly feeding the ball to Sterling whose heavy touch into the area was enough to give Fabianski a chance, the Pole in close range of Sterling as he blocked the shot. It was a massive chance and Sterling should have scored a winner.
Moments later, he was played through again. This time it was Yarmolenko, who dallied so long on the ball that he eventually tried to pass back to his own goal. Rather than finding Fabianski, he slotted through Sterling, but the forward could never really gather the ball properly as Ogbonna and Balbuena rushed back and circled him.
With the seconds ticking away, there was one more chance. Mahrez got in behind the defence once more and squeezed a shot in from tight angle. It was only a few yards from goal and squeezed through Fabianski's stop only to hit the outside of the post.
Instead it ended with a well-deserved draw for West Ham, a battling 1-1 with evidence of both the attacking quality the side have added in this run, along with the resolve and spirit to keep them defending to the death.
It was character, the same as last week, exhibited differently but character all the same. It appears to be flooding through this squad, even with substitutes on the fringes of starting able to fight hard when they came on. Yarmolenko and Haller may not have performed in the attacking play, but they clearly worked hard and Haller, his attitude questioned by some, made that vital defensive intervention when he easily could have been hiding from that work.
The champions next, but there really isn't a team in this country that West Ham will fear at the moment.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Some vital saves towards the end, Sterling and Mahrez in particular. Vital today.
Excellent defensively for all but one moment, and City punished him for that. But otherwise, he was dominant down defensively down his side and stepped into the middle to help well.
He?EUR(TM)s quite confusingly our best footballer. His footwork is, and was especially today, outrageous, especially in defence where he is never rushed or panicked. Even against City, he took the ball down in the box and ran out with it rather than just punting the ball.
One of his best performances. Considering the opposition, he looked composed and dealt with the pace of Sterling around him well.
Composed and calm in the middle, him and Balbuena were aerially dominant and should take it as a big compliment that Aguero was subbed off at half time.
He?EUR(TM)s very calm and accomplished, seems to have a good understanding with Masuaku and his crossing has been better with his usually deeper delivery position.
Excellent today. Dispossessing in dangerous areas, pushing forward rarely, but his composure on the ball in tough areas was incredible against a team of such quality and with pressure to hold on. Physically strong, mentally sharp.
Wasn?EUR(TM)t as ambitious going forward and sat deep. As ever, there?EUR(TM)s a weakness in his passing, but the little simple things go well and he does his job defensively.
Worked hard, covered his full back and travelled well on the ball to relieve pressure and start attacks. Didn?EUR(TM)t look overawed by the quality of opposition. Quality a little lacking on the ball, 50% pass accuracy in only 14 passes.
His hard work and front-foot defending were very important. Supported the striker, whoever it was, even when the rest of the team was defending. As ever, the aside is that Fornals was also back and working hard to defend. He just covers so much ground and his passing outshines Bowen?EUR(TM)s.
The goal was incredible, and he did scare City a couple times. But the most notable part of the game was the drop from Antonio leading the line to Bowen and then Haller. He works hard, bullies and gets in behind, no one else in the squad can imitate him.
(Replaced Antonio, 52) Yarmolenko was quite horrendous. He just couldn?EUR(TM)t pull off anything he attempted and nearly lost the game with a through ball to Sterling. It would have been hilarious if it wasn?EUR(TM)t making the game harder for everyone else.
(Replaced Bowen, 69) A little bit of sympathy for Haller, by the time he came on it was a defence vs attack game and the hard workers and support like Antonio and Bowen were off the pitch. He was just a head to hit with long balls. However, his header when Sterling looked in to score was vital defensive work.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Arthur Masuaku, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Michail Antonio 18 .
Booked: Vladimir Coufal Fabian Balbuena .
Sent off: None.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker (Zinchenko 78), Ruben Dias, Garcia, Cancelo, Rodrigo, Gundogan, Mahrez, Bernardo Silva (De Bruyne 68), Sterling, Aguero (Foden 46).
Subs not used: Steffen, Stones, Palmer, Torres.
Goals: Foden (51).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Man of the Match: Fabian Balbuena.