Classic Match

In the first-ever edition of our Classic Matich series, we delve through the archives to take you through a memorable West Ham United clash from down the years, this time around, the opponents were Sunday’s Premier League visitors to London Stadium in Manchester City.

Cast your minds back to the mid-winter of 2016, “Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber was at the very summit of the British Music charts and Storm Imogen was about to batter Britain, causing much disruption and leaving thousands without power.

Meanwhile in the world of football, and more specifically, the Premier League, West Ham United were enjoying their final season at the Boleyn Ground and their first under former player and Croatian manager Slaven Bilic.

They were celebrating the landmark year by having one of their best seasons of the PL era and headed into a Saturday night visit of Manchester City to Upton Park in fifth position, fresh from a rare defeat to soon-to-be-relegated Newcastle United at St James’ Park the weekend before.

Meanwhile, Manuel Pellegrini’s City were too enjoying a successful campaign and had led the division for much of the early part of the season, falling away slightly by the time the new year came around and occupying second place ahead of the encounter.

The Citizens were in four competitions at this stage in the term, the league, the FA Cup, the League Cup which they would triumph in and the UEFA Champions League where they reached the last four, and were journeying to the capital off the back of a 4-0 Etihad Stadium thrashing of Crystal Palace.

The fixture was to be played out on a chilly evening in East London and eagerly-anticipated by many, as is the case with most top-six matchups, this one would be no different as fans were treated to a four-goal thriller.

When the two starting Xls were announced in E13, an hour prior to the scheduled kick-off time of 5:30 PM, the danger men could be clearly spotted in both teams, the players with the capabilities to impact the match profoundly.

For the hosts, these included the likes of the man taking English football by storm in France winger Dimitri Payet and speedy English winger Michail Antonio, another summer signing proving a revelation, whereas, for the visitors, names such as Argentina striker Sergio Aguero and Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne needed no introduction.

When the match could finally get underway against the backdrop of a trademark electric Upton Park atmosphere, the ground in its final year, proceedings very much began with a bang.

The Hammers broke on the City defence straight away, Senegal International midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate bombing down the left side and crossing dangerously.

His delivery flicked off a Fabian Delph and into the path of Ecuadorian striker Enner Valencia, who had netted twice in the 1-3 victory at AFC Bournemouth just over a week earlier and he volleyed goal-bound.

The powerful effort was enough to squeeze the ball underneath Joe Hart between the sticks and into the back of the net, sending the Claret & Blue Army, encompassing all four corners of the stadium, into delirium.

The early goal helped to ramp up the already deafening noise inside the ground, although those home supporters were soon reminded of exactly who their opposition was.

The ever-present Aguero managed to get in down the left and lob the onrushing Adrian San-Miguel in the home goal, his delicate effort somehow striking the inside of the post and coming back out again.

However, the visitors wouldn’t have to wait for much longer to draw level, Aguero exchanging passes with David Silva and charging into the penalty area, to be apprehended by Carl Jenkinson.

Replays showed that Jenkinson failed to get any of the ball with his risky challenge as referee Craig Pawson pointed to the spot, the man who made the penalty stepped up and dispatched it home calmly, sending Adrian the wrong way.

Two goals inside the first ten minutes very much set the tone for the rest of the affair, chances flowing at both ends during the remainder of the first-half, but one team having the better of them.

That side was the Irons and they came the closest to restoring their lead before the break through the aforementioned Payet, one of his trademark free-kicks from just outside the area was miraculously kept out by Hart.

However, the two teams would go into half-time level and evenly poised for another entertaining 45 minutes and yet one more half that would produce early drama.

But, it looked like it would come at a different end this time with Delph coming within inches of completing the comeback for the away side, his strike from range striking the post.

Although the East Londoners were very much in a taking chances mood and on 56 minutes, preyed on a sleepy City defence to restore their goal advantage in the freezing temperatures.

A deep throw-in was won on the right side of the Manchester club’s half and Antonio was quick to take it, looping a long throw over the top of the visitors’ defence to Valencia.

The agile forward was able to hold off pressure from Otamendi to let the ball fall and strike it home past Hart on the volley to, once again, raise the roof on the ageing Upton Park.

The Irons now had to hold out for a half-hour against the might of Pellegrini’s team’s attack and that was a task that would just prove too much for them in the end.

Substitute Kilechi Iheanacho brought the away side new pace in the final third and it would be him to force reigning Hammer of the Year Aaron Cresswell into clearing the ball in the box straight into the path of Aguero.

The prolific front man needed no second invitation to finish accurately past Adrian, who was rushing off his line and give the visiting supporters something to cheer about.

A draw was no less than either team deserved, though there would be one last chance for the hosts to take the three points, Payet picking out Kouyate with a free-kick on added-time the African’s header agonisingly striking the bar and going over the top.

The close call was swiftly followed by the full-time whistle as both sides came away with a precious point, one that meant the outfit from East London fell a place to sixth and kept the Manchester club second.

West Ham would go onto finish seventh that season under Bilic, giving the Boleyn Ground a send-off by making it to the Europa League qualifiers for the second campaign in succession.

Man City’s finish to the term also saw them fall places from their January position, eventually finishing fourth under the guidance of Pellegrini, lifting the beforementioned League Cup as a consolation, however.

But, one question remains to be answered, will such an entertaining affair take place when David Moyes’ West Ham United and Pep Guardiola’s title-winning Manchester City meet in the Premier League at the London Stadium on Sunday afternoon?

Find out with us here at West Ham Matters as we bring you a Live Blog of the pivotal encounter, featuring live and exclusive build-up, text commentary and reaction, live from the London Stadium Press Box from 12:15 PM BST.