Here was a game to contradict the notion that from top to bottom this is the tightest Premier League yet. The table says there are only 20 points between Manchester City, who became joint leaders with the most straightforward of victories, and West Ham, who remain rooted to the bottom.
The football told a different tale, in which the home side were outclassed from the first minute until the 89th, when James Tomkins headed a goal of scant consolation to the depressed home crowd.
The goals that mattered, three excellent ones, arrived earlier than that. Yaya Touré, City's outstanding performer, scored the first before half-time and deserved to be credited with the second, although it will go down as an own goal by Robert Green. Adam Johnson, a lively substitute for the languid Mario Balotelli, finished a fine move for the third.
City did not miss the suspended Carlos Tevez, a popular figure here for having once saved West Ham from relegation. Whether anyone can do so this season is another matter. Although Scott Parker, watched by the England manager Fabio Capello, worked as hard as ever, Jonathan Spector alongside him was a shadow of the figure who stunned Manchester United in the Carling Cup, and there was nothing from the strikers Frédéric Piquionne and Victor Obinna.
City appear to be developing a welcome new approach after Roberto Mancini's earlier Italianate system featuring three defensive midfielders. He has not only released Yaya Touré to play further forward but Gareth Barry pushes on when he can, leaving only the combative Nigel de Jong as a real holding man. David Silva is finding his form and so Balotelli's lack of work ethic could be compensated for. Apart from one header cleared off the line, the headstrong young Italian had a forgettable afternoon, from a bad early miss via a booking to a sulk when replaced soon afterwards.
City's assistant manager Brian Kidd defended Balotelli, saying: "We're delighted with him", and adding his appreciation of the manager, who returned to Italy after the game to visit his father. "I'm delighted for him and the work he's put in, which is bearing fruit. But he's not happy, because we lost a goal at the end." Mancini can only have been happier than West Ham's man in black Avram Grant (below), who must nevertheless keep up morale and his own belief that "there is time to turn things round". He claimed to be without eight players yesterday and said that if some of the injuries proved long term there would have to be new signings in January.
His team looked anxious from the start, forcing Joe Hart into one save before falling behind after almost 30 minutes. The goal was well-worked, the ball reaching Barry in an advanced position on the left for a square pass that Yaya Touré hammered past Green with his left foot. Apart from Piquionne's header over the bar, Junior Stanislas produced the only worthy effort of West Ham's first half, cutting inside for a shot that had Hart at full stretch. Against that, Balotelli's header after being left unmarked at a corner had to be scraped off the line by Pablo Barrera.
There was little sign in the second half of West Ham finding a way back and in the 73rd minute, Touré took De Jong's pass, cut in from the left and hit Green's near post, the ball rebounding off the beaten goalkeeper and into the net. Another seven minutes and Silva's lovely pass between the static central defenders allowed Johnson to impress Capello with a cool finish. Many of the crowd had understandably disappeared before Tomkins' header deflected in off Yaya Touré.
Substitutes: West Ham: Dyer for Stanislas (65), Cole for Barrera (71), Hines for Piquionne (80). Manchester City: A Johnson for Balotelli (61), Milner for Silva (86).
Bookings: West Ham: Ben Haim. Manchester City: Zabaleta, De Jong, Balotelli.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the match: Y TouréReuse content