Manchester City scraped past a resilient West Ham side, courtesy of a Sergio Aguero penalty on the hour mark as they kept the pressure on Premier League leaders Liverpool.
City dominated the opening 20 minutes and the hosts created a plethora of chances – perhaps unfortunate not to be leading, with only their shot accuracy letting them down. Riyad Mahrez, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne all missed vital chances to put the Citizens ahead.
Sergio Aguero was next to miss out. David Silva brilliantly cut the ball back to the Argentine, whose shot was blocked by West Ham defender Angelo Ogbonna. Riyad Mahrez had another chance to put City ahead on the half-hour mark. The latter received the ball out wide and cut in past the young Ben Johnson, who was making his West Ham debut. However, the Algerian could only hit his shot into Lukasz Fabianski’s gloves.
Despite the City domination, West Ham managed to survive to half-time without conceding and surprinsgly the second half started the other way, with West Ham beginning to venture forward. The Hammers created a great chance to score but Andy Carroll, acting as captain for the night, could only manage to force Ederson into a good save.
The Citizens then retook control of the game after earning a controversial penalty in the 59th minute. Bernardo Silva went over with minimal contact from Felipe Anderson and Sergio Aguero stepped up and dispatched the penalty for his 18th goal of the season.
City went on the search for a second goal but were unable to break down the resolute defence of West Ham. The Hammers did also try and get forward to force an equaliser, but Andy Carroll lacked good service all night and they ultimately failed to test Ederson in the City goal.
City won the game, keeping the pressure up on Liverpool at the top of the table, meanwhile West Ham sit comfortably in 10th – relatively safe from relegation – ahead of their game against Newcastle on the weekend.
City’s strength in depth
After winning the Carabao Cup on Sunday, City were still able to name an incredible starting eleven against West Ham. The resources at the Etihad Stadium are well known, but being able to name a team that includes Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, three days after a cup final is testament to the fitness regime of Pep Guardiola.
The depth city have is immense with Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva being replaced by Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez on either wing. There is no noticeable difference in quality between the two sets of wingers and this was seen in the match against West Ham as they consistently caused the oppositions full-backs problems.
Guardiola made just one change in midfield, Fernandinho was replaced by Ikay Gundogan, which in a game where City dominated possession, suited them better as Fernandinho’s defensive abilities were unlikely to be needed against West Ham.
Despite not turning over the Hammers by as many goals as some would have expected, City were dominant in their display and never looked in trouble of losing ground at the top of the table.
Ben Johnson, West Ham’s new star?
Declan Rice, Grady Diangana and now 19-year-old Ben Johnson have come into the first team for West Ham in the last year. Johnson made his debut for the Hammers against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium and many experienced professional players would be nervous at this proposition. But Johnson stood firm and delivered a brilliant defensive display and nullified much of the threat of Riyad Mahrez.
Manuel Pellegrini was forced to play Johnson as Aaron Cresswell has broken his toe and Arthur Masuaku has also picked up a knock. Therefore, Pellegrini went with young Johnson, who is a right-back by trade, and his decision proved correct. Johnson was rarely caught out by one of the best attacking teams in Europe. With injuries to West Ham’s two left-backs, Johnson has potentially cemented himself in West Ham’s starting XI for the remainder of the season.
Ryan Fredericks stakes his place
After a poor start to the season, it looked like West Ham’s punt on Fredericks wasn’t going to work. Fredericks was quickly replaced by veteran Pablo Zabaleta before having a three-month injury layoff.
After returning to action, Fredericks has stepped up and put in a string of impressive performances. In these displays, he has kept Sadio Mane, Wilfried Zaha and now Leroy Sane under wraps and has replaced Zabaleta in the starting eleven.
Fredericks also adds another attacking threat for the Hammers and was able to create a couple of chances for Andy Carroll using his blistering pace and crossing ability.
Another case for VAR?
City were awarded a contentious penalty against West Ham after Bernardo Silva went down due to minimal contact form Felipe Anderson which allowed Aguero to score the decisive goal. West Ham fans will feel aggrieved as it’s the second time in recent weeks that referees have let the Hammers down. The first instance came after Liverpool’s offside goal at the London Stadium.
This example of big teams getting decisions is further evidence of why VAR can’t come soon enough for the Premier League. The flow of the game will not be hindered as much as people believe if it is only be used for significant decisions. Furthermore, if the flow of some football matches has to be sacrificed for a correct game-changing decision, surely that is for the best.
City march on
Despite clearly being tired from their cup final against Chelsea on Sunday, City were still able to dominate against an impressive West Ham side. City fans probably aren’t used to beating a smaller club by a single goal, but games like these are what make a title-winning team.
City have shown time and time again this season that Liverpool have to remain vigilant if they want to win their first ever Premier League title.
Man of the Match: Ben Johnson
In a game of little quality one lone bright spark was the young 19-year-old Ben Johnson who was superb on his Premier League debut. The youngster was able to keep Riyad Mahrez quiet eventually leading to Mahrez’s substitution. Johnson’s positioning was rarely wrong, and he was impressive in the tackle as well.
Next up Manchester City travel to 12th placed Bournemouth and West Ham host Newcastle at the London Stadium.