Manchester City 2 West Ham Utd 0: Samaras double curtails speculation about Pearce's tenure
Sunday 24 September 2006
If Stuart Pearce pays heed to omens he will wonder whether this result will match the impact on his side's fortunes of West Ham's visit to Eastlands in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup last season, which proved the point at which City's progress under the former England defender's stewardship went into sharp decline.
The unhappy run of results into which City became locked in the wake of their defeat on that occasion, standing at a worrying 13 defeats in 16 games at kick-off yesterday afternoon, had brought a crisis point in Pearce's career that had led inevitably to speculation about the security of his job.
Another reverse here would only have led to more grim headlines this morning but two goals from the Georgios Samaras early in the second half lifted the cloud over the City manager as West Ham's own early season troubles continued and their high profile signings, Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez, again made little impact.
There was a cautiousness in City's early play that was understandable in front of a palpably nervous home crowd but West Ham are hardly flowing with confidence and once it became clear to City that they could afford to let themselves go a little the reticence began to loosen, to the extent that the best of the first-half opportunities were created by the home side.
Ishmael Miller, to whom Claudio Reyna had lost his place, set up the best, releasing an early pass along the left that found Samaras getting into his stride.
The striker's attempt to slide the ball across Roy Carroll lacked power but beat the Irishman anyway and grazed the foot of the far post.
Their ability to threaten the West Ham goal, particularly after Anton Ferdinand had withdrawn injured, encouraged a growing belief in Pearce's team, however, and they could have gone ahead in stoppage time when the long legs of full back Micah Richards carried him from the half-way line into the penalty area. But his pull-back to Bernardo Corradi bobbled horribly and the Italian's goal attempt was no cleaner.
The first of Samaras' goals was rooted again in City's ability to attack the flanks with pace and power as Miller surged past Hayden Mullins, the replacement right-back. Christian Dailly managed to get half a block on Miller's cross but the ball spun towards Samaras, who cushioned it on his chest at the edge of the box and struck it left-footed as it fell, giving Carroll no chance of making a save.
If Pearce was holding himself in check then, reluctant to trust in a slender lead gained with 40 minutes still to sweat through, he could allow himself at least a measure of optimism 12 minutes later as Samaras doubled the lead, his movement catching West Ham square and flat footed as Corradi chipped a pass over the top, his 21-year-old strike partner having the legs to beat Carroll to the ball and lift it over the goalkeeper's head into an unguarded net.
West Ham's manager, Alan Pardew, whose side now sits behind City in the table, hauled off strikers Marlon Harewood and Bobby Zamora in exchange for Carlton Cole and Tevez but there was no disturbing the home side's superiority and Joey Barton was close to adding a third goal in the last 10 minutes with a free-kick that had Carroll scrambling to push wide.
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