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.
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
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