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West Ham 1 Manchester City 3 match report: Sam Allardyce's false nines fall to a real one

There was no repeat miracle for Sam Allardyce’s strikerless West Ham yesterday as Manchester City moved into the top four with their first away win of the league season.

A slick attacking performance was highlighted by two goals from Sergio Aguero and one from David Silva. The only blight on City's display was a return of the complacency that sometimes afflicts them as they allowed Ricardo Vaz Te to give Hammers brief hope at 0-2 down.

That was extinguished by Silva's strike, leaving City in a confident mood for this week's vital Champions League trip to CSKA Moscow.

"It was very important to get that first away win," said City manager Manuel Pellegrini. "One point from nine was not enough. But for the West Ham goalkeeper it might have been five or six."

Allardyce, whose team are a point off the relegation zone, said: "Manchester City were better than us. With their front two, and Yaya Touré and Silva passing the ball the way they pass it, it frightened us a bit and we were on the back foot. The annoying thing was we made basic errors for the first two goals."

While Allardyce, that gnarled old dug-out veteran of the English game, had sent out his players in the à la mode 4-6-0 formation with a phalanx of false nines spinning off the front line, Pellegrini, the newcomer from Chile via Spain, arranged his as the old-fashioned Anglophile 4-4-2.

This was not so hard to explain. City had a £64m strike partnership in Aguero and Alvaro Negredo with another £47m pair of Edin Dzeko and Stefan Jovetic on the bench. When a manager has that many high-class strikers he really ought to try and play one or two.

West Ham's resources were rather more limited. In the absence of the continually injured Andy Carroll their forward options were reduced to the lightweight Modibo Maiga, who was dropped, and a pair of free agents. Mladen Petric and the returning Carlton Cole were thus left on the bench. True, West Ham won 3-0 with this formation at White Hart Lane before the international break, but only the most rabid fan would say that score reflected the game. To counter, Pellegrini changed his entire back four from the side that beat Everton 3-1 last time out, and replaced James Milner with Samir Nasri.

For 15 minutes West Ham's flooded midfield not only kept City at bay but threatened to create chances of their own. Then City began to pick the Hammers off. The problem with 4-6-0 was there was no pressure on passes from deep, so Touré and Fernandinho began to dictate play.

It was from this position that Fernandinho rolled a pass towards Negredo, who casually let the ball run past him. Aguero read it, Winston Reid and James Tomkins did not. As they stood aghast, Aguero calmly slid the ball home.

It could have been all over within five more minutes. Negredo headed down a Silva chip but Aguero shot at Jaaskelainen, then the keeper shovelled another Aguero drive into traffic and was grateful for Reid's block and Guy Demel's clearance as Negredo and Silva followed up.

Jaaskelainen denied Touré again before the break but the game looked settled six minutes after when Aguero stepped off Vaz Te and Kevin Nolan to head in unchallenged from Silva's near post free-kick. Yet with Vaz Te in a more advanced role, West Ham got back into the game. Joe Hart saved at Mohamed Diamé's feet but then Razvan Rat's cross was only half-cleared, Ravel Morrison (otherwise relatively quiet) flicked the ball on, and Vaz Te surprised Hart with an acrobatic overhead kick.

After Negredo struck the bar and Aguero tested Jaaskelainen, Touré fed a clever pass through to Aguero. His backheel released Silva, who dummied himself a yard to score. This time West Ham had no reply.

Line-ups:

West Ham United (4-6-0): Jaaskelainen; Demel (O’B rien, 65), Tomkins, Reid, Rat; Downing, Morrison, Noble, Nolan (Petric, 83), Diame, Vaz Te (Jarvis, 65).

Manchester City (4-4-2): Hart; Richards, Javi Garcia, Nasri (Milner, 74), Clichy; Silva, Y Toure, Fernandinho, Nasri; Aguero (Jovetic, 82), Negredo (Kolarov, 66).

Referee: Michael Oliver.

Man of the match: Aguero (Manchester City)

Match rating: 7/10

Swansea 4 Sunderland 0 match report: Swansea hand Gus Poyet agonising debut

Gus Poyet saw his Sunderland managerial debut end in disaster, but the Uruguayan declared their relegation scrap has now become a “mental” challenge for his players, who have made the worst start to a Premier League season.

For 57 minutes, Poyet, in the  hot seat following the sacking of Paolo di Canio, must have wondered what all the drama had been about at the Stadium of Light this season. The Black Cats were certainly holding their own at the Liberty Stadium before Phil Bardsley put Jonathan de Guzman’s corner into his own net.

With just one point secured from seven previous games, there was a negative reaction from Sunderland as the roof caved.

De Guzman scored a stunning 25-yard strike before Craig Gardner fouled Leon Britton to allow Wilfried Bony to beat Westwood before Chico Flores added a fourth for Swansea’s first home league win in 231 days – and leave Sunderland cut further adrift at the bottom.

Poyet said: “I spoke to the players for the last two weeks who had not been on international duty about what has been happened, especially in the second half for months. There are things that you can do in training and other things you need to talk about as you cannot recreate. But it happened again. Either we need to keep talking about it and do enough or we need to change the way. 

“The first half performance was alright, we were organised and gave little space away, but the second half was totally different – dramatically different. It’s difficult to explain. At this level when you play against good sides, it’s not going to be easy.

“I learnt a lot about my players – particularly in the second half. You know you can concede a goal, but you have to make sure and react in the best possible way possible. If not then you deserve to be at the bottom.

“We need strong characters mentally on the pitch. It’s all about concentration now. It’s mental.  You work as soon as possible to put things right now as time passes by quickly and we can still be at the bottom.”

Sunderland’s next fixture is the fierce north-east derby showdown with Newcastle next weekend. And Poyet insists that some of his under-performing players will face the axe following their limp Liberty Stadium showing.

Poyet added: “I said to the players, ‘Don’t give the chance as a manager to change the team and pick someone else. Unfortunately, they’ve given me the chance to do that.”

Michael Laudrup, the Swansea manager whose side now face Kuban Krasnodar in the Europa League on Thursday, said: “It’s a good start to what is going to be a big week for us.”

Line-ups

Swansea (4-3-3): Vorm; Rangel, Chico, Amat, Davies (Taylor, 51); Britton, De Guzman, Michu; Dyer, Bony (Vazquez, 75), Routledge (Pozuelo, 82).

Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Westwood; Celustka, O’Shea, Roberge, Bardsley; Larsson, Gardner, Cattermole, Johnson (Borini, 62); Giaccherini (Colback, 62); Fletcher (Altidore, 82).

Referee: Craig Pawson

Man of the match: de Guzman (Swansea)

Match rating: 7/10

Manchester United 1 Southampton 1 match report: Adam Lallana strike puts David Moyes under even more pressure

The brooding presence of Sir Alex Ferguson grows more and more remorseless in the eyeline of David Moyes. At moments the new manager gazed out on perimeter advertising, the main stand nameplate and the vast “Impossible Dream” banner which all proclaimed the man who was sitting behind him in the directors’ box.

The latest setback in Moyes’ attempts to drive for new horizons and leave the past where it belongs was nothing like so calamitous as the last time he sent out a team at Old Trafford, when a 2-1 scoreline against West Bromwich Albion might have been double that. There were pockets of what you might call the “old” United. But it was a desperate outcome, for all that.

For once, Moyes seemed to have written the script. He selected Adnan Januzaj, on the day when a new five-year contract for the 18‑year-old was announced to a sense of immense collective relief. He watched him provide a 40-yard pass which carved out a goal and seemed to have been the game changer. And then he saw it all cancelled out by a scrappy, last gasp six-yard box mêlée. The mess was so absolute that even Southampton’s manager Mauricio Pochettino didn’t know who had scored.

Moyes just didn’t know how his players had lacked the professionalism to defend to the death and hold their lead.

It would be tempting to say that the finale was another of the myriad ways in which United have become less fearsome. Moyes and Pochettino were both pressed hard in last night’s press conference on whether – “with the greatest respect,” as the notion was put to the former – Old Trafford is a less fearsome place, now Ferguson has gone. Pochettino, who talks a good game and fields teams who play an extremely good one, declared that “never do I face a game or play a game in a  fearful way.”

With mild indignation Moyes observed that “Sir Alex is a great history but the players are the ones who do it on the pitch.” The problem that faces the new manager, with Ferguson’s face still popping up here, there and everywhere at the ground, is that every setback will be attributed – over-simplistically – to the changing of the guard.

This outcome was certainly more complex than that. The match was the story of an individually very  talented Southampton – with Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana looking in their natural realm inside Old Trafford – proving a match for a United side for whom Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Januzaj and, intermittently, Luis Nani – all delivered in bursts. After a very challenging opening 10 minutes had been weathered and some of their carelessness in defensive possession under Pochettino’s pressing tactics had gone unpunished, United provided some of the finest class they have displayed since the managerial succession.

Michael Carrick lofted an easy ball for van Persie, who manufactured a looping shot with the outside of his boot which fell inches wide. Nani cut back inside a dazzled Morgan Schneiderlin, caught sight of the same Dutchman, who drove a shot at the generally impenetrable Artur Boric. And then Januzaj, whose notional five years here had started quietly, carved out the ball from inches inside the visitors’ half which sent Rooney careering through to shoot, with Van Persie alongside him to pounce on the rebound and score. “It was a great goal. He was part of our best passing movements today,” Moyes said of Januzaj who was booked for a second successive game

It was one of those relatively rare Nani multiple step-over days, when you realise why United have signed him on for another five years, too. He set back a ball which sat up beautifully for Rooney, who rattled it against the bar.

“We had some doubts at that time. We didn’t know how to go on from them scoring that goal,” Pochettino reflected. Southampton did find defensive order. There is a reason why Van Persie’s had been only the third they had conceded. And for as long as United’s pursuit of a second was thwarted – Van Persie guided a header against the crossbar; Nani and Januzaj both brought immaculate saves from Boruc – Southampton had the individual talent to find an equaliser. Opportunities were rare but after Luke Shaw’s corner was prodded by Lovren towards the goal, Lallana got the last touch from a position right in front of David de Gea.

“We had pockets when we were good but other moments where we were not so good,” Moyes reflected. “We had opportunities to get the goals and maybe see it off. We have to defence against the set piece.” Which might be a post-match script from any United game in recent years. United’s in-house TV station digested this, considered the result which leaves the club with only three wins from eight in the division, and cut to the night’s big event. The “exclusive interview” with Sir Alex Ferguson.

Line-ups:

Manchester United (4-4-2): De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Evans, Evra; Nani (Giggs, 68), Carrick, Fellaini (Welbeck, 76), Januzaj; Rooney (Smalling, 86), Van Persie.

Southampton (4-2-3-1): Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw; Wanyama (Do Prado, 82), Schneiderlin; Lallana, Rodriguez (Lambert, 56), S Davis (Ward-Prowse, 66); Osvaldo.

Referee: M Jones (Cheshire)

Man of the match: Artur Boruc (Southampton)

Match rating: 7/10

Fergie: Just one trophy will do

Sir Alex Ferguson believes it would be a “fantastic achievement” for David Moyes to win any trophy with Manchester United this season.

Moyes has not had the easiest of transitions after replacing Ferguson as manager. Yesterday's 1-1 draw at home to Southampton means United have won only three of their opening eight League matches.

They have already dropped eight points behind leaders Arsenal and it looks unlikely they will mount a successful defence of the championship Ferguson won for the 13th time in May before his emotional farewell. However, United have begun their Champions League campaign well and also defeated Liverpool to advance in the Capital One Cup.

Ferguson claimed any kind of silverware should be regarded as a success this term: “For David, winning a trophy would be a fantastic achievement. No matter what it is – the League Cup, FA Cup, European Cup or Premier League.”

Are the signs good for United's new Boy Wonder?

Come in No 44

After penning a five-year deal with United yesterday morning, Old Trafford stadium announcer Alan Keegan delivers the words “Number 44 Adnan Januzaj” with gusto prior to kick-off and the response is wildly enthusiastic. But the footballing welcome is more clinical. Within two minutes he is upended by right back Nathaniel Clyne.

Influential figure

After a quiet half-hour, he sets Old Trafford alight with a gorgeous ball from an inch or two inside the Southampton half, weighted immaculately across 40 yards for Wayne Rooney to gather and shoot. Robin van Persie collects the rebound to score.

Enough's enough

Moyes informs reporters after the game that he's told his prodigy that opponents will try to kick him. “You have to be ready for it.” But Januzaj has had enough of Clyne's “exuberant” treatment of him and slides into a rash tackle as the defender advances. Januzaj is booked, as he was against Sunderland last time out.

Always a threat

But the brush with authority does not affect his temperament. As United's attacking threat resumes, he fires a powerful, swerving effort from 30 yards which brings the best from Artur Boric, forced to react to the late dip on the ball.

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