Premier League
Manchester City 3 West Ham United 0

Sunday, 24th August 2008
by Alex Shilling

United travelled up to Manchester for this late afternoon kick off with more hope than optimism, for traditionally away trips to City have not been profitable for the Irons, with only two wins at Maine Road or The City of Manchester Stadium since 1993. The second win came as recently as March 2006, when a Dean Ashton brace saw West Ham through to the FA Cup semi-finals via a 2-1 victory.

Manager Alan Curbishley stuck with the same starting eleven that saw off Wigan last Saturday, and both Scott Parker and Dean Ashton, who had been injury worries in mid-week, made it onto the team sheet. Making his first appearance in the first-team squad as well, was 18-year-old Jordan Spence, a product of the Academy, with European Under-17 Championships and reserve football under his belt. Also on the bench were Spence's fellow academy products Freddy Sears and Kyel Reid, along with Hayden Mullins, recent signing Jan Lastuvka, Lee Bowyer and Luis Boa Morte.

The game kicked off in decent weather, which quickly changed to sunshine, and the Hammers began to knock the ball about well in the early stages, but after about 10 minutes it became obvious that City would create the more chances. Matthew Etherington and Julien Faubert got to the byline well, but delivered few crosses of any quality, and when the ball did fall to Ashton or Cole inside the 18-yard box, they were quickly surrounded by City defenders. Meanwhile, down at the other end, the home side began to press for the opening goal, and forced several corners.

Lucas Neill, played out of position once more in the absence of George McCartney, was having a torrid time against the pacy Elano, who could whip in a mean cross or corner too. From one of these set-pieces, West Ham struggled to clear their lines and Calum Davenport was forced to head out from under his own crossbar. The ball was still not cleared, and City hit the crossbar itself. Finally Upson got it clear for West Ham, but the signs were there that the home side were on top.

Things got worse for the Irons after Carlton Cole succumbed to injury after half an hour, and 18-year-old Freddy Sears came on to partner Dean Ashton.

Valon Behrami wasn't having the best of times either against Martin Petrov, and was conceding too many free-kicks. Eventually, the right back was cautioned for a body-check on the Bulgarian international. The whole team, not just Behrami, was struggling to contain Petrov, and he almost scored when a free kick from about 25 yards out struck the foot of the post. A few minutes later, Mark Noble, already on a yellow card for a handball more out of frustration than anything else, crunched into Michael Johnson for a tackle that would have got a yellow card in any situation. It was mistimed rather than reckless, but to even go for that tackle when the ball was virtually gone was naive of the England Under-21 midfielder, and he was rightly sent off.

The home side had a decent appeal for a penalty turned down when Neill controlled the ball with his arm from a corner, but it was turned down, resulting in mass shouts of 'handball' from the travelling supporters whenever a City player touched the ball. Minutes later, Johnson's swerving shout was superbly turned round the post by a diving Green.

The start of the second half was delayed while Micah Richards of City received treatment for concussion after a clash of heads with Ben Haim. However, west Ham looked no better in the second half than they did in the first, despite Curbishley bringing on Mullins in place of Sears to fill the midfield gap left by Noble's dismissal.

It had been coming for practically the whole game, but City finally got their noses in front when Petrov ran at Behrami after good work from Elano, his cross was half cleared, and young striker Daniel Sturridge controlled the ball, and fired it past Green into the roof of the net. It was completely and utterly deserved,

Almost immediately however, there was action down the other end as Etherington and Faubert fashioned a chance, but they dithered over the ball, and the chance was gone in an instant. City doubled their lead soon after when Johnson gathered the ball in centre midfielder, played it out to wantaway Corluka, making a run from right-back, who knocked it down the line for Stephen Ireland, the Eire international drew Green out of his goal and lobbed it back for Brazilian Elano to finish into the bottom corner with Davenport on the line unable to stop the ball's progress as it hurtled into the net.

Six minutes later, the home side finished the job as Ireland again rampaged down the left side, and once more knocked it back for Elano, who finished emphatically. And just to rub it in for West Ham, after the game Alan Curbishley revealed that the board had accepted an offer from Sunderland for young defender Anton Ferdinand, and he had little say in the matter. Anxious times at Upton Park.

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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Made one outstanding save at the end of the first half from Johnson. No chance with the goals.

Valon Behrami
Both he and Neill were taunted by the City wingers. Time after time crosses flew into the box unhindered.

Lucas Neill
I'm being generous with this. I didn't see him win the ball against Elano once the whole game.

Calum Davenport
Decent showing by the sixth choice centre back. Pretty solid overall, felt he could have done more in second half to stop the second goal.

Matthew Upson
Seemed pretty solid in the first half, less so second half. Poor performance by full-backs let whole defence down.

Scott Parker
Failed to stamp his authority on the game.

Nark Noble
Rightly sent off. Seriously needs to work on his tackling, it's a liability and is he, while he continues to tackle like that.

Julien Faubert
Probably the most creative player we had on the day. Tried to make things happen.

Matthew Etherington
Has belatedly mastered the lost art among left wingers of actually closing a player down. Long may it continue. Made some good runs and used the ball well.

Dean Ashton
Didn't have much to work with, was starved of service for pretty much the whole game.

Carlton Cole
Worked hard all over the pitch until injured. Hopefully not serious.


Fred Sears
(replaced Cole, 31) Didn't have time to make much of an impact. Subbed for Mullins at half time.

Hayden Mullins
(replaced Sears, 46) Kept midfield together well in second half, but defence always likely to ship goals in second half with only one central midfielder on the pitch.

Luis Boa Morte
(replaced Etherington, 74) Seems to have improved in recent games, almost conjured up a consolation goal in the 16 minutes he was on for.

Jan Lastuvka
Did not play.

Jordan Spence
Did not play.

Lee Bowyer
Did not play.

Kyel Reid
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Robert Green, Valon Behrami, Lucas Neill, Calum Davenport, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Nark Noble, Julien Faubert, Matthew Etherington, Dean Ashton, Carlton Cole.

Goals: None.

Booked: Calon Behrami 23 Mark Noble 33        .

Sent Off: Mark Noble 38    .

Manchester City: Hart, Corluka, Richards, Ben Haim, Ball, Ireland, Kompany, Johnson, Petrov, Elano, Sturridge.

Subs not used: Schmeichel, Garrido, Fernandes, Calcido.

Goals: Sturridge (65), Elano (70, 76).

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Howard Webb.

Attendance: 36,635.

Man of the Match: Julien Faubert.