MANCHESTER — In the first game after being banned from European action by UEFA for two seasons, Man City eased past West Ham United 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday as they recorded an eighth-straight Premier League win against the Hammers.
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In a rearranged game from Matchweek 26 after Storm Ciara called the original clash off, Pep Guardiola‘s side dominated from start to finish. Rodri headed home Kevin De Bruyne‘s corner in the first half and the Belgian wizard scored the second on his own in the second half as the Hammers barely threatened.
Anti-UEFA chants were heard throughout from the home fans who witnessed a routine win after a tough few days for everyone connected with Man City.
The win keeps City in second place on 54 points, four points ahead of third-place Leicester City, but they are 22 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool. David Moyes‘ West Ham remain in serious trouble and occupy the final relegation spot on 24 points and are one point from safety.
3 things we learned
1. Defiant atmosphere in first game since ban: There were the predictable chants against UEFA and City’s fans and players were in a defiant mood. They meant business and even though Guardiola was irate with a few missed chances by Gabriel Jesus and loose passes, he will have been pleased with their reaction after all of the negativity around the club over the last week. Maybe Man City will use the uncertainty around their European future to finish the season with a flourish?
2. De Bruyne’s brilliance hard to stop: All season long KDB has been like this. The Belgian ace was in sublime form, pulling all the strings in his 78 minutes on the pitch as he was subbed off and given a standing ovation. If it wasn’t for Liverpool’s historic season he would win the Player of the Year award and his precision passing, driving runs and clever flicks were the difference. Not only was he quality in attack but he also ran back to win the ball off Michail Antonio at a pivotal moment. De Bruyne has been touted as the first player to leave Man City if their European ban is upheld but this display suggests he is fully committed.
3. West Ham’s lack of ambition sums up their season: As good as Man City were, West Ham lacked any ambition and since David Moyes returned his debut win against Bournemouth has proved to be a false dawn. The Hammers are in 18th place, are winless in six PL games and have the worst form in the league over the past nine outings. Antonio was their only hope on the counter and they showed no interest in attacking despite being 2-0 down. Sure, they were playing Man City but West Ham have 12 games to get themselves out of the bottom three and their next six see them play Liverpool, Southampton, Arsenal, Wolves, Tottenham and Chelsea. Ouch.
Man of the Match: Kevin de Bruyne – When isn’t he Man of the Match these days? Despite City being miles away from Liverpool throughout this season the Belgian playmaker has been fit and on fire.
24 – Kevin De Bruyne has had a hand in 24 Premier League goals this season (8 goals & 16 assists), three more than the closest player (Jamie Vardy, 21). Zenith. pic.twitter.com/zrEp5H6gVz
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 19, 2020
Jesus, starting on the left, had the first big chance as he went clean through on goal but instead of having a shot cut back around Fabianski and lost the chance to open the scoring.
Aguero had the next chance as he used the outside of his right boot to bend a shot just wide of the post.
De Bruyne’s deflected shot was saved by Fabianski’s leg and then Jesus had his shot blocked by Aaron Cresswell when he looked certain to score. Aguero felt he should have had a penalty kick after being grabbed by Angelo Ogbonna in the ground but he was flagged offside. However, replays showed that was incorrect and Guardiola was not happy on the sidelines.
Wave after wave of Man City attack pinned West Ham back in the first half as Michail Antonio cut a lonely figure up top for the Hammers. Eventually City took the lead from a corner as De Bruyne whipped in a delicious set piece to the near post and Rodri flicked home a wonderful header to make it 1-0.
David Silva and Jesus almost doubled their lead just before the break as City totally dominated but Antonio whipped in a dangerous cross to give the hosts a warning.
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The second half saw West Ham have a bit more luck on the break but Man City continued to look the more dangerous as Aguero flashed a shot inches wide which rolled along the touchline and was only kept in play as a ball boy mistakenly fetched the ball before it went out of play.
Moments after that City doubled their lead as De Bruyne played the ball into Bernardo Silva who flicked it around the corner and KDB ran onto it before smashing home at the near post.
Fabianski then saved from Jesus as Man City eased to victory with West Ham so far off the pace it was scary.