Manchester City 3 West Ham United 0: City canter past West Ham to ease crisis talk

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The Independent Football

Suddenly Manchester City's horizons look several shades brighter after three goals in quick succession midway through the second half provided an answer to suggestions that the club are in meltdown. Following defeats against Midtjylland and Aston Villa, this was a thoroughly deserved victory, one that sends them to Denmark this week in much better heart.

It being City, there was still a downside, with Micah Richards taken to hospital with a worrying head injury in front of the England coach Fabio Capello. But West Ham will also have a king-sized headache after two goals by Elano and one from Daniel Sturridge took full advantage of Mark Noble's 37th minute sending-off.

City made a major pre-match attempt to present an air of normality – if the surprise appearance of their chairman Thaksin Shinawatra and members of his family can be described as such.

The Thai appeared full of smiles as he took his seat despite being ready, in the words of his executive chairman Garry Cook on Friday, to stand down from the board following the "indignity" he had brought on City and the Premier League.

As supporters absorbed newspaper suggestions that an Arab consortium was considering a takeover bid, Cook was at pains to point out in the match programme that there was no financial crisis at Eastlands. And the outlook certainly looked brighter on the field as City did everything but score in the first half.

With Mark Hughes deciding that central midfield was the correct starting place for his midweek signing Vincent Kompany, the home side moved the ball with pace and purpose.

West Ham enjoyed their first major escape when Calum Davenport routinely headed Stephen Ireland's chip off the line and, in the flurry that immediately followed, the same defender deflected Tal Ben Haim's shot against the bar with his thigh.

The woodwork denied City for a second time six minutes later, Robert Green barely twitching a muscle as Martin Petrov's splendid 30-yard free-kick curled over a five-man wall and struck the outside of his left-hand post.

City had never lost the opening two games of a Premier League campaign and they continued to give the impression that they considered the four straight League defeats they had suffered going back to the spring to be quite enough.

Daniel Sturridge displayed quick feet before slicing wide after an exchange of passes with Ireland, and then brought a comfortable save out of Green.

The last thing West Ham needed in their grim battle to stay afloat was the rush of blood in the dying minutes of the first half that left them with ten men.

The grounded Noble was booked for thrusting out a hand to stop Kompany escaping him in the centre circle. He then compounded his brainlessness only four minutes later by lunging in late on Michael Johnson and earning the inevitable second yellow from Howard Webb.

The official was less observant when Lucas Neill misjudged his jump and clearly handled Petrov's corner, and a one-sided half ended with Green taking off to his right to superbly beat out Johnson's well-struck 25-yarder.

Freddie Sears, on for the injured Carlton Cole, quickly became West Ham's fall guy when he was in turn replaced by Hayden Mullins. At least Alan Curbishley had a choice. When Richards and Ben Haim sickeningly clashed heads in going for the same loose ball, the acting captain came off much worse. The game was held up for eight minutes as paramedics treated him and placed him on a stretcher, with a breathing apparatus clearly being used. It was quickly reported by City that Richards had regained consciousness and his visit to Manchester Royal Infirmary was precautionary.

The breakthrough finally came, though, and West Ham collapsed by conceding three times in 13 minutes. First, Sturridge was perfectly placed to lash a left-foot shot over Green from 15 yards when Petrov's 64th minute cross brought a poor clearance from Matthew Upson.

With space opening up, City made the game safe. Ireland had ample time to pull back Vedran Corluka's fine ball for Elano to control and steer past Green. Elano then smartly tucked away Ireland's cross from the byline to put the seal on an excellent performance from the home side.

Goals: Sturridge (64) 1-0; Elano (70) 2-0; Elano (76) 3-0.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Hart; Corluka, Ben Haim, Richards (Hamann, 54), Ball; Ireland, Kompany, Johnson, Petrov (Etuhu, 77); Elano (Evans, 77), Sturridge. Substitutes not used: Schmeichel (gk), Garrido, Fernandes, Caicedo.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Behrami, Davenport, Upson, Neill; Faubert, Parker, Noble, Etherington (Boa Morte, 74); Ashton, Cole (Sears, 31; Mullins, h-t). Substitutes not used: Lastuvka (gk), Reid, Bowyer, Spence.

Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).

Booked: West Ham Behrami, Noble.

Sent off: Noble (38).

Man of the match: Ireland.

Attendance: 36,635.

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