Stones shines as City go 13 points clear
Manchester City’s incredible centre back partnership were the difference in a fascinating encounter against an in-form West Ham side at the Ethiad Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
West Ham came into the game knowing that to make it 3 consecutive league wins, they would have to defeat a formidable Manchester City side who were hoping to extend their winning streak to 20.
The first fifteen minutes proved to be an intriguing, tactical affair with the league leaders dominating possession. Regardless of the hosts’ domination of the ball, David Moyes would’ve been left encouraged with the fact City created no chances early on.
To add to this encouragement, West Ham had the first chance of the game as they found themselves in the Manchester City box with half chances from Antonio and Lingard being blocked by a City defence that has seemed almost invincible in recent months.
Despite a promising opening half an hour from West Ham, David Moyes, like any opposition manager, would know a team of City’s quality only need one chance to break the deadlock. And this is exactly what happened with the home side deciding to play West Ham at their own game. An exquisite 40 yard ball from Kevin De Bruyne with his so called weak foot found the head of Ruben Dias who powered home his first Manchester City goal.
After finding themselves going one down, The Hammers didn’t let their heads drop as they continued to get numbers forward in attack. This time, Antonio found himself in plenty of space in the City box but struck the ball against the wrong side of the post.
It was evident that Oleksandr Zinchenko had been instructed to play as an additional central midfielder in possession, but with West Ham capitalising on a turnover of possession, Vladimir Coufal took advantage of the space left by the Ukrainian and picked out Lingard in the box who arrowed his effort towards goal, with Antonio tapping the ball home on the stroke of half time. This is the first goal Manchester City have conceded at home since Mohammed Salah on November 8th.
The second half began much more open and it only seemed a matter of time before one of the sides scored from a counter attack. City came the closest on the hour mark, with De Bruyne bursting through the West Ham half before not being able to pick out Agüero in the 6 yard box.
This opportunity brought confidence to the champions elect who from then on went up a gear and began to pile on the pressure. It was no surprise that the host’s were celebrating a second goal after their pressure was rewarded with a vintage City goal. After patient play around the West Ham box, Riyad Mahrez picked out John stones on the penalty spot who found the bottom corner with a tidy first-time finish.
From then on, City controlled possession and looked almost certain to see the game out. However, with almost the last kick of the game, West Ham looked like they were about to take all three points away from City with Issa Diop unable to divert his header on target from a few yards out.
The run goes on and the title gets closer for Manchester City who have now won 20 successive games in all competitions.
After all the praise thrown towards the partnership of Ruben Dias and John Stones defensively in recent months, it is with great irony that their goals are the difference between the two sides on Saturday lunchtime.
Ederson (6), Walker (7), Stones (8), Dias (8), Zinchenko (7), De Bruyne (8), Fernandinho (7), Gundogan (6), Mahrez (7), Agüero (6), Torres (6)
Subs: Foden (6), Jesus (6), Rodri (N/A)
West Ham United:
Randolph (5), Dawson (6), Diop (5), Cresswell (6), Johnson (6), Coufal (6), Rice (7), Soucek (6), Fornals (6), Lingard (7), Antonio (8)
Subs: Benrahma (6), Bowen (5)
Manchester City will now turn their attention to Tuesday night when they welcome Wolves to the Ethiad Stadium. (BT Sport, 20:00 KO)
As for West Ham, they now have a long rest until Monday 8th when they will face Leeds United at the London Stadium.
Written by Thomas Barnes