Hapless Hammers Outclassed By Super Citizens In Emphatic London Stadium Thrashing
David Moyes’ West Ham United fell to their second 4-1 defeat on the spin at the London Stadium on Sunday afternoon when they hosted Pep Guardiola’s champions Manchester City, who recorded their second 1-4 victory in succession in Stratford.
The Citizens, two weeks to the day after they secured the title, raced into a two-goal lead early on in fortunate circumstances with Leroy Sane striking a deflected goal from range and Pablo Zabaleta putting through his own-net against the side he departed on a free transfer at the end of last season.
The Irons soon found a way back into the contest, however, Aaron Cresswell coming up with a moment of magic, but it wasn’t enough to mount any kind of serious comeback as Gabriel Jesus and skipper Fernandinho sealed the deal in the second half for the Blue Moon.
The costly loss saw the Hammers remain in their position of 15th, now just three points above the relegation zone with a mere three matches remaining after Southampton’s victory over AFC Bournemouth the day before, meanwhile, yet another three points meant the Sky Blues soared 19 points clear of Manchester United at the top, to be pulled back to 16 in the wake of their home triumph over Arsenal later in the day.
From the start in a freezing East London, home boss Moyes made three changes to his starting Xl that were well-beaten by the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium seven days ago.
The first was forced, with Joe Hart, on loan to West Ham from City, ineligible to face his parent club, meaning Adrian San-Miguel got a chance to impress, while Arthur Masuaku was dropped after a below-par display in North London, veteran Patrice Evra coming in, further forward, Manuel Lanzini made his full return from injury, replacing Joao Mario.
Whereas, visiting manager Guardiola opted for four alterations to his team from their 5-0 home thrashing of Swansea City at the Etihad Stadium, also last Sunday.
Departing from the Xl were full-back Danilo, unavailable Vincent Kompany and David Silva and Bernardo Silva, taking their places, the quartet of England defender Kyle Walker, centre-back Nicolas Otamendi, captain Fernandinho and German International winger Leroy Sane.
Right from the word go at the former Olympic Stadium, it was clear to see which team had just won the league and which was fighting relegation, something that was also evident in the eventual scoreline.
The tactic from the hosts was very much to sit back and try to hit the Manchester club, who are about to become the PL’s best-ever team in terms of points collected and goals scored in a season, on the counter-attack.
But, their plan of not conceding was quickly blown out of the sky by the Juggernaut that is Guardiola’s City as they struck first blood on 13 minutes after passing up a few decent half-chances.
A silky attacking move worked the ball out to the ever-present Sane on the right side, he quickly assessed his options and opened up his body for a shot from a distance he was unlikely to beat Adrian.
Although his effort would flick off the head of Evra, who’s seen his new team lose 4-1 every time he’s started for them since joining in February, and completely dumfound the shot-stopper, routing him to the spot as the ball, found the back of the net to his left.
Going a goal down almost woke up the home side and they managed to force a save out of Ederson a short while later, working the ball into City legend Zabaleta to flash a cross that the Brazilian parried away across the face of goal.
But, it wasn’t before long that the East Londoners would be the masters of their own downfall once again, cracking under the Blue Moon pressure in not the fashion they would have wanted.
The pacey Sterling was played in one-on-one with Adrian, he rounded him and looked to find the empty net, only for the head of Angelo Ogbonna to deny him, though the ball was soon with Kevin De Bruyne on the wing.
He skipped to the by-line and fired in a low delivery that touched Adrian on its way through and young Irish International Declan Rice, fresh from his match-costing mistake last weekend, couldn’t evade it.
The ball struck his shins and brushed Zabaleta en-route to the goal, the Argentine unlucky to have been accredited with the own-goal when in truth, neither of them could have done anything about it, such was the pace on the delivery.
A further period of backs to the wall time for the Irons would soon follow, though a long injury stoppage for home midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate did help to slow do the visitors’ momentum a little.
And after Rice’s back-pass error to allow the Sky Blues in on the keeper once more wasn’t punished, the hosts started to threaten in the final moments before the break.
Recently-crowned Hammer of the Year Marko Arnautovic thought he had given his side a lifeline when he had the ball in the net in the 39th minute, only for it be ruled out.
A back pass was played to Ederson and the Austrian applied the pressure to steal the ball and tap home into the empty net, being pulled back for a foul and replays showing he was unlucky to have been.
However, it wouldn’t matter to Moyes’ boys, with them soon making the score 2-1 anyway and it was no less than they had deserved for the daring late onslaught.
Edimilson Fernandes, starting for the fourth time in a row, was brought down by Ilkay Gundogan on the edge of the area having been involved in a swift break, although the contact did appear to first come inside the area.
Justice would be done by Cresswell, stepping up to whip the second free-kick goal of his Hammers career and his first in the Premier League in over two years, into Ederson’s near post.
The strike gave the strugglers some confidence before the break and while Raheem Sterling, ending up with three assists would still test Adrian in stoppage time, the Citizens were right under the cosh.
Soon enough, half-time arrived and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Guardiola’s men, who were somewhat fortunate to be heading in ahead, especially given that Nicolas Otamendi was only punished for one of his two bookable challenges late in the first 45.
But, like ant great team do, the visitors made the absolute most of their good fortune as Moyes’ men lost all their momentum over the 15-minute break, no longer in the mood when they came back out.
It would take the champions all of eight minutes to restore their two-goal advantage, Sterling being the man to assist it yet again for Jesus in the ground he made his full-debut in English football.
The Three Lions man was able to get down the right and lay it on a late for him, the striker gliding past Zabaleta to be left one-on-one with Adrian, easily finishing past the Spaniard.
City had scored at the perfect time to all but put the game to bed and of their third goal didn’t achieve that, their fourth on 63 minutes certainly would, Sterling again the provider.
Th ex-Liverpool star had missed a number of opportunities in the short period between the third and the fourth and even denied a stonewall penalty and it very much and his day in an assisting sense, not a scoring one.
He was found by Fernandinho after he pickpocketed Manuel Lanzini in the centre of the field, then returning the favour to lay it on a plate for the Brazil man, he only needed to stroke the ball home from inside the area and he did so with great precision.
Despite West Ham making a triple-substitution in the moments that followed the fourth and final City strike, the 25 minutes that remained were both more than a training exercise of defence against attack.
The Sky Blues were more than happy to tease their opponents by playing keep-ball and only rarely threatening to find a fourth in a near-empty London Stadium, many home supporters choosing to leave with the race run.
Very few were remaining at the blowing of Neil Swarbrick’s full-time whistle, bringing an end to a lopsided affair, which saw the triumphant Citizens move within touching distance of numerous Premier League records.
The defeat was only the third for the Irons under Moyes at home this campaign, but moved their defence down to being the worst in the league in terms of goals conceded, placing their Top-Flight status under real threat.
Next up, they will travel to the King Power Stadium next Saturday afternoon to face off with Leicester City in a match that could make or break their survival bid, their final away trip of the season.
For City, the visit of West Ham’s fellow relegation strugglers Huddersfield Town to the Etihad Stadium, a day later awaits, after which they will lift the Premier League trophy.
Hammer of the Match: Marko Arnautovic.
If you want to read more about West Ham United’s Premier League defeat to Manchester City at London Stadium on Sunday afternoon, you can check out the archives of our live text commentary, which we bright to you live from the Press Box of the former Olympic Stadium, or our Five Main Talking Points or Hammers Player Ratings, simply click on the links.