West Ham United 1-3 Manchester City
Saturday, 16th September 2023
In a fantastic game, West Ham’s unbeaten start to the season was ended as champions Manchester City came from behind to win 3-1 at the London Stadium.After a first-half goal for James Ward-Prowse, the away side scored within a minute of the restart, before two late goals took the game away from The Hammers and gave Guardiola's side their fifth win from the first five games of the season.
It was a truly brilliant game. Manchester City, so relentless, always probing, looking for gaps, moving the ball and shifting the defence, trying to force space between the lines. West Ham were brilliantly organised for 95% of the game, shutting those spaces as quickly as City found them, competing as a collective, but also in the one-on-ones.
One of the best battles of the game came between Doku, the summer signing both sides competed for, and the right back Coufal. The young Belgian winger announced himself to the Premier League with a vibrant and exciting performance, full of fast feet and direct running, but was mostly matched by the Czech defender. It was a real 50/50 fight and the kind of back and forth that encapsulated the game as a whole.
City were dominant, and will wonder how they weren't ahead inside 10 minutes as four chances fell from one corner.
The first was Rodri all alone at the far post, 10 yards from goal. His header back across goal was saved excellently by Areola, but it bounced back towards Foden, who had followed his corner in and met the ball just inside the box.
He clipped it in, Areola slapping it away from goal, only for the ball to fall to Rodri again. His shot was blocked, yet again it ricocheted back to the Spaniard. This time, his shot made it through, and was guided to goal by Haaland, only for Soucek to block the ball on the line. It bounced up to Dias, but his header was tipped over by a sharp Areola save. Frantic as it was, West Ham had survived it.
The Hammers did pose a threat of their own. They had their moments, and never really looked too uncomfortable with what the visitors threw at them. In time, they also began to play through City's press quite successfully, and much less directly than they did against Brighton. It's an interesting comparison, and one that should put to bed any idea that Moyes makes his players play the same way against any possession-dominant side.
Away at Brighton, it was about going to the front as quick as possible, but here West Ham were confident enough to take control of the ball. Whether it was to take the sting out of Manchester City's play, or just part of their own ideas of building an attack, it was great to watch Paqueta and Alvarez pull the strings in central areas during build-up.
Paqueta appeared to start in a nominal wide-left position, but the midfield shape was fluid. Soucek and Alvarez sat a little behind a three of Paqueta, Ward-Prowse and Bowen in possession, but as the game went on, Paqueta drifted to get more of the ball and the shape was flexible to accommodate that.
For as well as West Ham played, they were up against the best side in the world, and chances were always going to be forged. The foremost clinical striker was on the end of a few of them, but his scoring boots let him down. A big chance came on 15 minutes after Doku drew two defenders towards him.
The winger was smart flicking it between the pair and into the path of another new signing, the defender Gvardiol. His drilled ball across goal evaded everyone, all except Haaland at the back post, but the giant Norwegian could only guide it wide of goal, when it seemed he must score.
West Ham were shocked to life and almost instantly went down the other end to win a corner. The crowd rose in anticipation, and it seems each corner now will be met like they were back when Moyes's West Ham were at their peak.
Ward-Prowse and Bowen stood over it together, but it was the left footer who curled it in at goal. Soucek flicked it on at the near and Aguerd looked to meet it at the far, but he was not forceful enough, and could only glance wide from close range. The corner itself was on target, and it would have been interesting to see what might have happened had Soucek let it go.
Doku remained a threat, the young apprentice growing into the game and becoming City's main threat, all whilst Rodri controlled the midfield like a metronome, involved in everything, both in building from the back and playmaking around the box. But with Bowen ably supporting Coufal, and Foden, Bernardo Silva and the Argentine Alvarez all drifting into central space, West Ham had contained where City were their most threatening to a packed middle or out on the wing to Doku.
The home side grew in confidence as they found themselves comfortable repelling City, and also found possession of the ball easier to come by. Playing passes around the back and through midfield encouraged them to push forward. One such moment saw Emerson burst forward and lay off to Ward-Prowse on the edge of the box, but the midfielder's shot was weak and wide.
That glimpse of attack from West Ham at first appeared one of those moments of frustration, a rare opening barely taken advantage of. But from the goal kick, City were a little sloppy in possession, and Coufal pounced on a loose ball in the middle to get West Ham moving forward again.
Having played it inside to Bowen, the right back went on, but Doku didn't follow him. Bowen made sure the ball did, and Coufal was away and running at the City box from the right wing. He had two in the middle, Antonio between a pair of centre backs and Ward-Prowse pushing on into the left side of the box.
Coufal was smart, dinking the ball over the defenders and in front of Ward-Prowse, who got low to prod a diving header beyond Ederson and into the back of the Manchester City net, giving his side a precious 1-0 lead with eight minutes to go until half-time. It was reward for a disciplined and brave performance, more than just breakaways when the storm of City attacks broke.
It was also another goal contribution from Ward-Prowse, and one in a slightly different role. The English midfielder, overlooked by Southgate in favour of Saudi Arabia PR associate Jordan Henderson, has shown himself adept at playing a variety of ways in the centre of the park, and looks to have found more levels to his game playing alongside better players than he ever did at Southampton. He's shown himself adept in every third for West Ham, and possibly sent a reminder to the value of domestic transfers, such is the way he's hit the ground running for his new club.
West Ham visibly bristled with confidence having taken the lead, but the weapons available to the champions mean they are always capable of scoring, at any moment.
Two minutes before half-time, they looked like they had got that goal back, only for an incredible stop on the line by Aguerd. The Moroccan must have been exhaustedRef after an emotional week, following the catastrophice earthquake back home, but his focus was strong as he clawed the ball off the goal line when it looked like Haaland would get his goal.
It was Doku again, twisting Coufal inside and out to make space and drag a ball across the face of goal. It beat Areola's dive, and Haaland stretched to prod the ball home. He diverted it into the middle of the goal, but back stepped Aguerd, controlling on the line and clearing calmly.
That escape just before half-time might have felt crucial, had Moyes not seen his side come out for the second half in a dream. Their opponents were more focused, and it showed.
Inside a minute, City were level. There was no intensity to what West Ham did as the away side popped the ball about from kick-off. West Ham neither pressed the ball, nor got into their disciplined shape. There were gaps, and Pep Guardiola's teams exploit gaps.
From just moving the ball around the back, it was fired out wide from midfield, and now Doku had Coufal to himself, and space to run at him. He got into the box with the right back pedalling backwards, but it was the speed which he shifted it quickly to the side and unleashed his shot that beat Coufal, and beat Areola, too.
It was a subtle, yet sudden movement that Coufal had no answer to, no time to react to, and got him the space eight yards from goal to fire across Areola and into the back of the net in the blink of an eye. All game, West Ham had made sure these situations couldn't happen, that Doku couldn't isolate Coufal, that there was no space for him to be at full speed into the penalty area. A slack opening to a half and it was all exposed at once.
Whether by design or not, City had exposed West Ham by starting fast, albeit it took extraordinary skill to get the shot away so quickly. The shock brought West Ham's task back into sharp focus, and they went back to limiting space and opportunity for the Cityzens.
That's not to say they could stop the champions creating chances. Soon World Cup winner Alvarez had smacked a post from 25 yards with a delicious curling freekick, with Areola rooted to the spot and watching with the same fragile hope the fans were.
A minute later, Haaland had another glorious chance, this time created by the magnificent Rodri, who lifted the ball over the defence when sat on the edge of the area. Haaland took it in midair, leaping fully off the ground to try volley home, but Areola batted his effort away powerfully.
But it wasn't uninterrupted pressure, and had Antonio taken a better touch when played through on goal by a wonderful Paqueta pass, he may have given his side the lead once more. Instead, the striker played it too firmly ahead of himself and Ederson came sweeping out of his goal to take control of the ball.
Three minutes later, it was Emerson roaming forward once more who threatened goal, his blocked effort sneaking just wide.
The resulting corner forced the best from Ederson. Ward-Prowse swung the ball away from goal, and right to the head of the captain, Kurt Zouma. The Frenchman rose highest and powered a header down to Ederson's bottom-left corner, looking for all the world to have restored the West Ham lead. But the Brazilian flew across his line and met the ball with a firm hand, as fine a save as you'll see all weekend.
The visitors flew forward on the counter, but it was Bowen making his way back who slid in to take the ball, and the man, as Doku looked set to race behind them all and at goal.
It was a truly brilliant game to watch, two different styles, but two good teams. The passing was good on both sides; Paqueta looked a man proving his worth to the team who shied away.
Then came a big turning point. Kudus was readied for his home debut, Benrahma prepared, too, and the board was up for both Soucek and Antonio to be replaced.
But Alvarez was down clutching a thigh, and couldn't continue. The manager kept Soucek on and readjusted his midfield, but that key man in the middle was missing, and it was felt. Not just as the shield in front of the defence was weakened, it also restricted the freedom of Emerson and Coufal to advance.
His absence was keenly felt as Manchester City took the lead. It's all hypothetical, but with how he's been playing, Alvarez doesn't allow the pass into the box.
Instead, he wasn't there, and his Argentine namesake had a little too much time to scoop a high ball into the box from a central area. It was only a 5-10 yard pass, but Aguerd misjudged it, jumped too early, and let it loop over him.
Bernardo Silva was ready on the other side, and beat Areola to the ball, the goalkeeper too slow and not set to block a shot. It was poked past him in the air and bounced into the goal to give the away side a 2-1 lead.
West Ham began to chase a little, opening up space for the counter attack. Haaland should have scored pretty soon after, Walker bursting through midfield and behind the defence on the halfway line, crossing perfectly to the centre in the Norwegian's path, but his volley at goal was blocked excellently by Areola.
It mattered not. Five minutes later, with three minutes to play, the Viking robot had his goal.
A weak, staggered press gave City too much time to pick a pass through a team that had pushed forward. Suddenly, Silva had the ball running in off the right and it was four in City's white against two retreating defenders.
Rodri ran across his man, forcing a defender to follow, and the pass was easy to play to Haaland. He smashed it across goal and in for a 3-1 lead that West Ham did not deserve to suffer, putting an end to the match.
In the end, it was hard to be too unhappy. West Ham were good, and not just good defensively. They played the passing game well, were more than just direct counters, and defended stoutly. Sometimes, you're just playing the best team in the world, and there aren't many teams that the Irons will play that have over 100 charges against their name.
David Moyes 7/10
Should have been brave enough to take Soucek off if he wasn't playing well enough when the original decision to take him off was made. Team was good, the plans worked, and he was mostly let down by sloppy moments. But he also should be ensuring the players are on it once the ball is in play.
* Want to submit your match reports to KUMB.com? More details here ...
Click to view all West Ham United vs Manchester City match reports
Click to view all match reports by
Like to share your thoughts on this article? Please visit the KUMB Forum to leave a comment.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: , , , , , , , , , , .
Sent off: None.
Manchester City: .
Subs not used: .
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: .