David Hautzig's Match Report
With so many of the pre-season matches televised over here on ESPN, it would have been a good idea for me to have my little pre-season and maybe do a report or two. You know, as a warm up. Obviously like any pre-season, the result of my writing would not have mattered. Just getting that game time in, letting both of my pointer fingers get some minutes under their belts would have been useful. It didn’t happen. Thankfully, the transfer deadline has passed. And with Iain busy up in Edinburgh chatting with movers and shakers he didn’t have time to line up a replacement for me from KUMB or Claret & Hugh.
So here I is, ready to rock and roll for my seventh season spinning my words for you folks.
August is not a time for optimism. The last time we won in the muggiest of months was in 2016 against Bournemouth. Gokhan Tore assisted on the goal, which should add perspective. So to expect more than a performance worthy of our praise would be a stretch to say the least. It’s arguable if we got that, even in spurts.
The first attempt of the match came in the tenth minute when Mahrez forced Fabianski into a diving save to his right. But the fact that it was the Champions first real look at goal, and that the Hammers had looked comfortable on the ball and even pressed City into a few mistakes was encouraging. I bet in their minds a few of the visitors were even annoyed we refused to let them do what they wanted to do.
Manchester City probably should have taken the lead in the 21st minute when Mahrez got the ball from Sterling inside the West Ham eighteen yard box, beat Cresswell, and had an open look at goal. He should have scored. He didn’t even hit the net. The Hammers countered moments later, but Wilshere tried to roll the ball to Anderson on the right but gave it away instead.
The inevitable happened in the 25th minute when Walker went past Cresswell like the left back was standing still. He latched on to a perfectly weighted pass and sent a low cross into the box. Diop tried to slide in for the block, but deflected the ball into the path of Jesus who flicked it past Fabianski.
West Ham 0
Manchester City 1
The goal seemed to wake up the title holders. They pressed Fredericks into a bad giveaway in the box, and then Walker fed Mahrez on the right but the ball into the box just missed Jesus for what very well might have been an early brace.
West Ham tried to assert some authority and get back into the match, and for a second it looked like the home side might have had a penalty shout when Zinchenko took down Lanzini in the box. But replays, both at home and likely in the new VAR headquarters, showed it was a good tackle. Moments later Haller got the ball ten yards from goal and tried a half bicycle kick, a bicycle kick with training wheels if you will, but it was an easy stop for Ederson.
City played their free flowing football as the opening forty-five minutes ticked on, and the Hammers on the whole looked a bit deflated. They put most of the side behind the ball, with Haller and sometimes Antonio up the field hoping for a long pass. De Bruyne tested Fabianski with a quick strike from 15 yards out, but the Hammer Of The Year made easy work of it.
In the 41st minute, West Ham won a free kick from just inside the Manchester City half. While the desire to play the ball on the floor to a goal scoring opportunity is laudable, at times a ball into the box is warranted. I, for one, was hoping for a hopeful delivery into the box. Instead we got three or four short passes before losing possession.
The one thing Diop needs to work on is his decision making. It’s as if his mind and his feet have regular arguments on the pitch, and those fractions of seconds lead to problems. In first half injury time, Diop got the ball in the West Ham box. Internal conflict ensued, and he gave the ball right to Jesus. The Brazilian tried to lob the ball over Fabianski but didn’t get the required height and West Ham were spared.
West Ham 0
Manchester City 1
I kind of expected a substitution for the start of the second half. Fornals coming on was one of them. But with Zinchenko looking vulnerable I thought Pellegrini would stick with Antonio a bit longer. That’s why I sell wine, I guess.
The Champions doubled their lead in the 51st minute when De Bruyne led an attack down the middle. His ability to hold the ball, to keep a run going until the last possible second is impressive. He rolled a pass to Sterling on his left, who calmly slotted it past Fabianski. Then, while writing this paragraph, history was made. Manchester City scored a third after some lovely work on the left. But there was a call for VAR, and the armpit…..yeah, the armpit….of Sterling was an armpit hair offside and the goal was disallowed. Technically, he was off. But in terms of the spirit of the game, it was so close and there is no way a human being could have seen that. Well, maybe Iron Man with those gizmos in his suit, but sadly he is no longer with us.
West Ham 0
Manchester City 2
Yet that moment in history may have also been a sneak peak into something many supporters of so called smaller clubs have said for years. The big sides get all those breaks, and now the playing field may have leveled a bit. You would not be wrong to wonder if the exact same play had been on the other side of the pitch, would the flag have gone up simply because the linesman would likely assume such a goal could not be scored against a behemoth like City?
West Ham had a free kick from the left side of the City eighteen yard box in the 60th minute, and Snodgrass was the man to take it. His delivery was good, Haller got on the end of it, but it went over the bar.
The home side made their third and final substitution in the 65th minute when Anderson came off due to an apparent injury. On came Chicharito in his shiny new number 9 kit. From a Man Bun to a platinum blonde from a bottle, that number has seen some interesting times.
As the second half moved into it’s final chapter, West Ham came inches from making the match interesting. Chicharito got on the end of a cross and forced Ederson into Good Save Number 1. The rebound came out to Lanzini who tried to head it into the near corner, but Ederson made Good Save Number 2 with his right hand, and even kept the ball in play to deny West Ham a corner.
Seconds later, Manchester City came back down the pitch. Mahrez sent a ball over the West Ham back line and onto the run of Sterling. The England international received the ball and cooly lobbed it over Fabianski. VAR took a look again, but this time the goal stood. The fine margins that could have seen it 1-2 with some excitement at the end turned on its head to 0-3.
West Ham 0
Manchester City 3
In the 83rd minute Fabianski made a very bad clearance right to Mahrez. Diop did the best he could I guess under the circumstances but it was still a penalty. Aguero did not strike the ball well, and Fabianski made the save. Buuuuuuuuutttttt. VAR saw Rice encroach, and the penalty was retaken. No mistake that time.
West Ham 0
Manchester City 4
In added time, Sterling scored again, sealing his hat trick. Diop was flat footed. Yuk.
West Ham 0
Manchester City 5
I’m going to go against my own grain here and throw some positivity out there. We played better on the attack against them than I can recall since Pep arrived there. We lacked that final ball into the area, but our possession stats suggest the style of play will work against the majority of the sides we will face this season. But the goals we conceded were partly due to our frailties at the back. It’s one thing to lose by two, even three, on the opening weekend. But five leaves a bad taste, even against these guys.
I’m glad we got this one out of the way.