Manuel Pellegrini had mixed emotions after West Ham United’s Premier League Asia Trophy semi-final defeat by Manchester City.
The Hammers were impressive for long periods of the first half in the Chinese city of Nanjing and took a deserved lead through Mark Noble’s penalty.
However, two goals in the space of three minutes turned the game before a second-half brace from Raheem Sterling – one of a four top-class substitutes Pep Guardiola sent on at half-time – completed a 4-1 win for Pep Guardiola’s side.
“I think that was a clear game of two different matches of 45 minutes,” Pellegrini observed, pointing to the succession of early opportunities created by the likes of Felipe Anderson, Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio. “In the first half we played well and created chances in their box, but then we conceded two goals in two minutes and, of course, when you are playing against Manchester City you cannot afford to concede those goals.
“In the second half, they improved a lot when they changed some players, while we wanted to give some minutes to some players and we had some players who have just returned from long injures, so they made a difference. Also, I thought we made some mistakes in our defending and they capitalised.
“I was happy with the offensive system and the way we played in our attacking, yes, because we created more chances than Manchester City, but we must be more concentrated in our defending.”
I was happy with the offensive system and the way we played in our attacking, yes, because we created more chances than Manchester City
Pellegrini will hope his team are more clinical at the attacking end of the pitch and more robust at the defensive end when they take on Newcastle United in the third-place play-off in Shanghai on Saturday, and when the 2019/20 Premier League season kicks-off with the visit of the champions to London Stadium on 10 August.
“We are trying to put together a good squad,” the Chilean confirmed. “We are still in the preseason and are working to prepare, which is why we made so many changes in this game.
“We are working on our technical side and it’s important that we have Wilshere, Lanzini and Yarmolenko this season as we didn’t have them for long periods last season due to injury.
“With them, we will have more balance in midfield and I think we are going to be a good attacking team. We are going to create chances, but we need to improve our defending.”