West Ham United 0-2 Manchester City 

Saturday, 11th August 2007
by Jacob Steinberg

New season, same old story for West Ham. After the bluster, the promises and the Five-Year-Plans, it's taken just one game for a worrying reality to step in. Sven Goran Eriksson's new look Manchester City administered the dosage, providing a telling reminder of last season's woes.

And yet there had been so much optimism emanating from the club this summer, with chairman Eggert Magnusson's Biscuit Fund supposedly there to attract high quality players to Upton Park.

West Ham have had a whole summer to do their dealings, but they remain short of where they should be. Just two of their signings managed a place in the squad here- Scott Parker and Julien Faubert are injured- and Freddie Ljungberg and Craig Bellamy failed to make an impression. West Ham need strengthening all over the pitch on this evidence.

Is Alan Curbishley the man to do it? Former left-back Paul Konchesky doesn't think so, claiming today that Darren Bent and Carlos Tevez snubbed moves to West Ham due to Curbishley's presence. It is hard to take Konchesky's comments at face value, as the pair notoriously do not see eye to eye, but the feeling persists that Curbishley will not satisfy Magnusson's long term aims.

His performance in the transfer market certainly suggests so. By contrast, City's managed eight signings in just two weeks. Eriksson may not have identified any British players for his team, instead looking to the continent to vitalise his side, but any rumblings that Sven's Foreign Legion would not adapt to English football were quickly dismissed here.

City, with a blend of overseas stars and home-grown talent, were miles ahead of their opponents in terms of desire, teamwork and talent. City started brightly, and Martin Petrov had already screwed a shot wide before the inevitable opener arrived on 18 minutes.

Luis Boa Morte, who endured a torrid first half, lost the ball, allowing the excellent Brazilian Elano to maraud upfield. A quick turn of pace embarrassed Matthew Upson, and his cross-shot was met at the far post by another new boy, Rolano Bianchi. A simple tap in for him, a great way to mark his debut.

Petrov then stung Robert Green's hands, the goalkeeper gathering the ball at the second attempt and the home crowd were restless. Their team huffed, puffed but never looked likely likely to blow the City wall down, especially not when its solid foundations were based on the rock that was Micah Richards in the heart of the defence.

West Ham simply had too many poor displays from too many members of the team. Curbishley could justifiably have taken any player off in the interval- instead, on came Matthew Etherington and Hayden Mullins for Boa Morte and Lee Bowyer.

The changes at least made some difference to West Ham's attacking thrust. Bobby Zamora, an otherwise indifferent presence up front, might have done better with a right-footed effort. Then Etherington fired across goal, Ljungberg missing his touch by inches.

Soon Dean Ashton, the returning hero after a year out through injury, came on to send home hopes soaring. Yet his introduction for left-back George McCartney was baffling as Etherington found himself stationed there instead. Curbishley had shown a wanton disregard for formation or shape.

Ashton had one presentable opportunity, meeting an Etherington cross with a volley that was just too high but he mostly lacked sharpness. His miss deflated West Ham. With three minutes remaining, Nedum Onuoha rampaged down the right, held off three defenders, played it back to substitute Geovanni and he rattled the ball into the bottom corner.

En masse, the home crowd departed- if they'd stayed, they would have only seen Green just about deny Geovanni a third for City. It would not have been undeserved for other side.

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Player Ratings

Robert Green
No chance with either goal as he was sadly let down by those in front of him. Made a couple of decent saves to preserve dignity.

Jonathan Spector
Lucas Neill's absence was felt here. Spector is willing but he is far from good enough, particularly his ability on the ball.

George McCartney
He's not bad and shouldn't have gone off - but he's a squad player. A better left-back is a must.

Anton Ferdinand
Poor. Out of position too often and caught out, while his distribution was careless.

Matthew Upson
Worryingly slow, couldn't handle Bianchi and is another who cannot pass the ball.

Mark Noble
Perhaps his poorest ever display but at least he tries to play football. His passing was so laboured and easily cut out.

Lee Bowyer
His presence in the team baffles me. What is there for? He has to go as I cannot put up with much more of his weak, slow and dirty style.

Freddy Ljungberg
Invisible at times and it's hard to see what he brings to a side which doesn't have Dennis Bergkamp creating his chances. Offers no width.

Luis Boa Morte
A winger is surely there to take on his man, isn't he? Go figure. Terrible.

Craig Bellamy
Lots of running but often into dead ends with his head down. Is he the answer? Time will tell.

Bobby Zamora
One of those days for Bobby- it's hard to think of anything he did right and we'll struggle if he starts week in week out. Tevez would have been the making of him.


Hayden Mullins
(Replaced Bowyer, 45) A vast improvement on Bowyer but no more than that. Average.

Matthew Etherington
(Replaced Boa Morte, 45) At least tries to take his man on and put a cross in, even if he lacks quality. But Alan, please, he is not a left-back, you buffoon.

Dean Ashton
(Replaced McCartney, 62) Painfully unfit, his touch betrayed him. When will we see him at his best again? One thing's for sure, we can't wait for it because as it stands, we're not going to score many goals.

Richard Wright
Did not play.

Danny Gabbidon
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Robert Green, Jonathan Spector, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, Matthew Upson, Mark Noble, Lee Bowyer, Freddy Ljungberg, Luis Boa Morte, Craig Bellamy, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: None.

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Manchester City: Schmeichel, Richards, Corlunka, Dunne, Garrido, Hamann, Johnson, Petrov, Elano, Ireland, Bianchi.

Subs not used: Hart, Gelson.

Goals: Bianchi (18), Geovanni (87).

Booked: Garrido (23, unsporting behaviour), Ireland (30, unsporting behaviour), Elano (73, unsporting behaviour), Geovanni (88, unsporting behaviour).

Sent off: None.

Referee: P.Walton.

Attendance: 34,921.

Man of the Match: Robert Green.