Manchester City 2-1 West Ham United
Saturday, 27th November 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham suffered a second successive Premier League defeat today, a 2-1 loss at the hands of champions Manchester City in the late-November snow at the Etihad.It was a game the Hammers didn't deserve to win, keeping Guardiola's side at bay, but still being dominated and rarely doing anything to threaten goal. One early opening and a late Lanzini beauty were the sprinkling of action for Ederson to deal with in a game that was otherwise played in the West Ham half.
There was a surprise on the team sheet as Arthur Masuaku was brought in for his first league start of the season, Jarrod Bowen dropped to the bench as David Moyes looked to shore up the defence. It wasn't quite the back five it seemed by the names listed, West Ham setting up in more of a 4-4-1-1, but the Congolese international did drop deep beside Cresswell often when defending.
Manchester welcomed both sides with rain and snow, the latter of which grew stronger and stronger as the half grew on.
Before it settled, the West Ham danger was in Antonio turning, pushing the ball beyond an isolated defender and trying to used his pace and strength to get beyond them.
The forward has frustrated lately, dropping off too deep for some in his search to get on the ball. But it was this kind of play that gave West Ham their best opening of the game, five minutes into it, as he found space on the left and the Manchester City defenders gave him space to look up and pass.
From just outside the area, Antonio took the invitation and fed a firm pass into the box at the feet of Benrahma. The Algerian was only yards from goal with a little space, but the ball was too close to him, caught between his feet with too much speed on it for him to adjust. By the time he did, the opening was gone. Tight margins.
Masuaku started brightly, showing a returning confidence on the ball. A sharp cross from the left threatened, with Antonio and Soucek both close to getting contact from very close range.
Outside of that, Antonio turning Laporte and forcing the defender to bring him down. He did the same to Cancelo in the second half, both getting booked, and later to Dias too, although his cynical tackle went unpunished.
City controlled the ball, which was of course to be expected and will have influenced the team selection. Their first big chance, however, came from a corner. A poor kick out from Fabianski put the backline under pressure, and the corner from the resulting desperate defending was met by Laporte, with Soucek short reacting to it. The header glanced off the far post with Fabianski rooted to his spot.
The home side thought they had scored almost instantly after, a short pass from the goal putting West Ham in trouble. The ball out of defence was blocked by Sterling and dropped to Mahrez through on goal. He finished emphatically, but was soon denied by an offside flag, one which was proven correct by a quick VAR check.
As the snow piled on, it was hurting one team more than the other. West Ham, with the likes of Antonio and Masuaku wanting to knock and run, and a team that needed to be able to burst on the counter, were losing the run of the ball. With it not carrying fast to break, it became much more about how the home side kept the ball sharply at their feet and passed again and again to keep possession.
With that beginning, it was unfortunate for the Hammers that City broke the deadlock.
It came from the West Ham left, and exposed the risk and reward of Moyes's approach with Masuaku. Whilst he will get back and can slot into an added left back, his concentration is often poor. As a pass was fired down the Manchester City right, Cresswell was shocked to see Masuaku nowhere near the runner and Mahrez given the freedom to take the ball under no pressure and drive at the area.
Cresswell met him, but Mahrez had by that point got the ball into the box and had time to drive it towards goal. A deflection caught the defenders flat-footed and also let it roll perfectly to the feet of Gundogan only yards from goal. He flicked the ball in and with ten minutes remaining to the break, West Ham's resistance was broken.
Two minutes later, Ben Johnson was the hero as he saved on the line. Jesus's chance inside the box was too easy, and as his shot beat Fabianski, Johnson had made the decision to leave his man and defend the goal. It was the right one and stopped West Ham going from defending well to suddenly being two goals down.
The period from the first goal to half time was the hardest of the match, with City at their best and the away side really clinging on to stop the game going away from them. Mahrez had a big chance that he wasted after Fabianski had saved well from Cancelo, and the men in claret and blue were just struggling to get near their illustrious counterparts. The snow had descended, the ball struggling to really get moving on the surface and players visibly struggling to see as it whipped around them.
Making it to half-time at just 1-0 was a relief, and the break was extended to help the ground staff clear the snow, which abated over the break and was clear for the second 45.
The second half itself was fewer in incident and became a tale of one team comfortable in their possession and lead, and another happy with how they were defending without the ball. In a game where they created little, it is easy to just criticise this as a poor performance. But in truth, Moyes's side contained City very well, more convincingly than many in the league or in Europe. Had Antonio and Benrahma been sharper in possession throughout, as well as Soucek at times in the middle, this could have been a better counter attacking performance.
Unfortunately, the two leading the attacking threat were not sharp. Antonio was dispossessed too often, his passing again not to the required standard, and whilst Benrahma worked hard and defended Rodri well, he too had a pass accuracy in the 60% figure and needed to do more. In his defence, Antonio's recent woes directly affecting him as the player linking with him and playing off him.
Benrahma was soon replaced, Lanzini entering the play. So too was Cresswell, although his came in different circumstances. After Antonio once more played a wayward pass in the attacking third, City countered at speed and had Sterling down the left side of the West Ham penalty area in seconds. His pass across the face of goal was a little weak, so that Jesus could only prod at goal with Fabianski there smothering the effort.
It cannoned off the goalkeeper, back off Jesus and towards goal, only for a last-ditch and desperate slide from Cresswell there to hook it away as it looked to roll in. He was rewarded with the sight of the ball flying away from goal and the post smashing into his back. It was reported later that spasms in his back had made it impossible for the full back to continue, and it says a lot that Coufal was brought on to replace him and play left back over the choice of moving Masuaku there.
As time moved on, Rice started to impose himself more in the middle and regain possession. Lanzini offered control of possession too, as he increasingly has done in his time on the pitch lately, whilst the introduction of Bowen showed Moyes wanted to push on with late pressure and try get something from the game.
Pressure did build, but it was still only the home side that made chances. Fabianski was again excellent saving a Gundogan chance, spreading wide in the area and getting off his line quickly to thwart the goalscorer.
In stoppage time, the game was settled. As City held the ball in the corner, West Ham regained possession and looked to pounce. Lanzini's pass in a tight area was a touch in front of Antonio, but had the striker taken it with his left rather than reaching with his right, he would have controlled it. Instead he was dispossessed, Jesus got into the area and cut it back for Fernandinho on the edge. The veteran Brazilian placed it into the bottom corner and wrapped up the three points, and three points they deserved.
It felt that a two-goal defeat was a touch harsh on the hardworking Hammers, supported vociferously throughout by a boisterous travelling army.
And it was not a deficit that was maintained. With seconds to go, a cross headed away by the City defence was pounced on by Lanzini, who won the ball back on the edge of the area, let it bounce then fired off an exquisite volley that richocheted off the inside of the post and into the back of the net to make it 2-1.
Having created absolutely nothing of note, it certainly wasn't a deserved goal, but it made the deficit much more reflective of a good defensive performance, and rewarded the fans for their efforts getting up to Manchester and Lanzini for his recent good performances.
It does leave the Hammers on two defeats on the spin, and with a tight and difficult schedule ahead of them. Brighton on Wednesday is followed by league leaders Chelsea at the weekend. December is coming.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Multiple excellent saves and has improved off his line so far this season. His kicking was not great though, especially a sloppy one which allowed a chance and a corner for City.
His one-on-one defending was again strong and Sterling got little joy out of him. But he does lack a little going forward, whether it's the ambition to join every attack or his crossing into the box. Would be harsh to drop him, but you can see where Coufal improves on him.
The slide saved a goal, and he was doing well out there until Masuaku lost concentration and left him completely exposed to Mahrez and acres of space too.
Good in the air and his basics, although sloppy on the ball. Protected well by a good midfield and whole-team defensive performance.
He isn't as comfortable over on the left but this was better than Wolves. City did have their chances and Fabianski saved this being much worse, even in a good overall defensive display from the side.
A reasonably good performance, although he is right to be frustrated that his dart into the box produced nothing. He had the time and space to do it, but lost it due to his own hesitancy. Won the ball well, passed with accuracy, his underlying stats were again impressive.
He was good defensively on the deck and in the air, but is going to get a harsher 6 because his passing under pressure was rarely good enough, whilst a few forward passes when he had time and space were a little lacking. He isn't having a bad season, that is people looking too heavily at the goals tallies, but he seems to have suffered a little without Coufal there and can be less than graceful.
Relatively good start on the ball but he isn't a wing wizard who will destroy Manchester City. With that negated, he did his job until he didn't, and that was killer. He was selected because of his balance in helping defend the wide areas and made a vital mistake that cost a goal.
As mentioned, his displays are hugely affected by Antonio and it is hard for him to create a lot with an Antonio that isn't on form. But he was poor on the ball and two big moments in the attacking third didn't go well.
Diligent in defence and was better on the ball this week. Did his job, it's just that his job was rather basic and boring, and the attacking side of the team just didn't work today for him to function in.
Had he not turned three of the four City defenders and exposed them to his ability on the run, he may have gotten a four. Just offered little as a striker.
(Replaced Benrahma, 58) Scored a beauty of a goal, knitted the team together centrally and again looked full of running and passing. It looks like there needs to be a place for him in the starting eleven on form.
(Replaced Cresswell, 60) Was reasonably fine, but it was so obvious that he cannot play on the left side.
(Replaced Masuaku, 73) Didn't really do anything.
Did not play.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ben Johnson, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Kurt Zouma, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Arthur Masuaku, Said Benrahma, Pablo Fornals, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Manuel Lanzini 90 .
Sent off: None.
Manchester City: .
Subs not used: .
Sent off: None.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Man of the Match: .