Manchester City 1-2 West Ham United
West Ham United’s perfect start on their Barclays Premier League travels continued in style with a stunning 2-1 victory at leaders Manchester City.
Slaven Bilic’s Hammers went into the game on the back of outstanding victories at Arsenal and Liverpool – and a convincing home win over Newcastle five days previously – and pulled off another outstanding success through first-half goals from Victor Moses and Diafra Sakho.
City’s £55m summer signing Kevin De Bruyne pulled one back just before half-time, but Bilic’s brave heroes held on to collect three points and rise to second in the table.
Both managers made changes to their starting XIs, with Bilic forced to do without the injured Angelo Ogbonna and Cheikhou Kouyate, and also opting to bring Adrian back in place of Darren Randolph after the Spanish goalkeeper’s three-match suspension.
For City, Manuel Pellegrini had to do without injured skipper Vincent Kompany and playmaker David Silva, who was injured in the warm-up. The Chilean handed a debut to Argentina defender Nicolas Otamendi.
The first half was truly enthralling, with the home side – the most expensive starting XI ever fielded in the Barclays Premier League – enjoying the bulk of the possession and territory, but the visitors looking dangerous every time they attacked.
After Fernandinho had tested Adrian with a powerful header, the newly-extended Etihad Stadium fell into a state of stunned silence in the ninth minute, when West Ham opened up the previously watertight City defence in devastating fashion.
Manuel Lanzini lifted a cute pass into the path of Dimitri Payet, who turned and raced into City territory before feeding Moses to his right. The Nigerian took a touch, looked up and thumped a low drive past Joe Hart’s despairing dive and into the bottom right-hand corner.
It was yet another example of the lightning-quick attacking play that has already become a hallmark of Bilic’s reign.
The hosts went in search of an immediate response, only for Sergio Aguero to fire wide after rounding Adrian outside the penalty area, and the Hammers were able to build on that escape just after the half-hour mark.
Aleksandar Kolarov mis-controlled on his chest to concede a corner, which was delivered by Payet onto the head of Winston Reid. City failed to clear and Sakho pounced to bravely scramble home from six yards.
Two goals to the good, West Ham sat in, with Adrian parrying De Bruyne’s effort before making a fine double save to deny Aguero at the near post. However, City would not be denied a goal before half-time as the Belgian collected 20 yards out and fired an accurate low shot past the Hammers No13 two minutes into added time.
The second half was a totally different affair as City laid siege to the West Ham goal, throwing men forward and multi-million pound substitutes almost at will – first Martin Demichelis, then Wilfried Bony.
Adrian and Reid, in particular, produced immense defensive performances in the eye of the sky blue storm, but even they they relied on more than a little good fortune to maintain West Ham’s slender advantage.
Toure led the charge, firing two shots inches wide and seeing a deflected effort pass narrowly past the post. A series of penalty appeals were also turned down by referee Robert Madley, first for handball against Reid, then for a strong challenge by the same player on Aguero and thirdly for Sakho’s coming together with Kolarov.
The Hammers were finding it difficult to keep possession for any sustained period of time, although Moses curled wide and Sakho did escape on one further occasion, only to poke his shot past Hart and wide of the far post.
As his players grew tired trying to keep City in check, Bilic sent on Michail Antonio and Nikica Jelavic for their debuts, but the changes failed to stem the City tide.
With five minutes remaining, City’s 15th corner was met by debutant Otamendi, but his flashing header was pushed over the crossbar by Adrian.
There was still time for Payet to test Hart with a dipping shot from distance, but by then it was simply a question of seeing out time, which the heroic Hammers did with calm aplomb.
A third stunning away win also made it three straight victories for Bilic’s side, who will seek to extend that fine run when they entertain newly-promoted Norwich City at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday 26 September.
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Otamendi, Mangala (Demichelis 46), Kolarov (Iheanacho 84), Toure, Fernandinho, Navas, De Bruyne, Sterling (Bony 66), Aguero
Subs not used: Caballero, Fernando, Roberts, Maffeo
Goal: De Bruyne (45+2)
West Ham United: Adrian, Jenkinson (Collins 85), Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell, Noble, Obiang, Lanzini (Jelavic 69), Payet, Moses (Antonio 60), Sakho
Subs not used: Randolph, Oxford, Zarate, Carroll
Bookings: Lanzini, Obiang
Goals: Moses 6, Sakho 31
Referee: Robert Madley (Wakefield)