Well the omens were good before the start of today’s game. Spurs had lost to two terrible mistakes by the match officials yesterday and Arsenal had put a smile on all our faces before kick off today (judging by the huge cheer in City Square when the result was announced).
Statistics were also on City’s side today: City had won one and drawn five of their last six meetings at home with West Ham and West Ham have never won at The City Of Manchester Stadium. City have also won twelve and drawn one of their last thirteen home games, scoring thirty six goals on the way.
City started well enough with corners and shots in the first few minutes controlling the play nicely despite the blustery conditions. Silva continued where he left off last week pulling the strings in midfield.
West Hams first serious chance came on seven minutes with a free kick twenty five yards out on the City left after a foul by Kompany. Lescott dealt comfortably with the in-swinging ball.
First blood came to City on ten minutes….a corner from kolarov was half cleared by West Ham the ball falling two yards outside their area. Up stepped the most unlikely of scorers the form of Nigel De Jong…putting his laces through the ball, he shot through a crowded area and the net bulged as a despondant Rob Green looked on. The crowd went wild as fan favourite De Jong scored his first Premier League goal for the club.
Hart`s kicking again let him down in the thirteenth minute miss-judging a simple tap to Zabaleta putting the ball out for a West Ham throw. The defence held firm though and seconds later Silva chipped a floated ball over the flat West Ham defence for Zabaleta to run on to. He held his nerve and hit a right footed shot which crossed the goal line with a little help from the West Ham centre half Tomkins.
Unfortunately, the match now fell into a familiar pattern, with City dominating possession and Silva at the heart of everything but City being profligate with that possession. On nineteen minutes Silva again split the West Ham defence but the ball was just too hard for Ballotelli to run onto.
Every player in the city team seemed to be giving 100%. Even Ballotelli was back defending when called upon and the team was really starring to look like a team….at just the right time in the season.
Disaster struck for the Hammers on 25 minutes when Upson was withdrawn after a collision with Balotelli leaving West Ham with an inexperienced back line.
West Ham had a great chance to pull a goal back on thirty two minutes, as Robbie Keane found himself through one-on-one against Joe Hart. Keane failed to make the most of the opportunity as Hart got down to save, but moments later the visitors did make it 2-1 through Demba Ba. Lescott`s one mistake in the game leading to Ba beating Hart.
This was quickly followed by the the first yellow card of the game as Zabaleta was booked on 34 minutes for a tackle from behind.
West Ham started to up their work rate and were seeing more of the ball but fourteen shots to four in the first half speaks for itself.
Thirty eight minutes saw a succession of City corners on the West Ham right but each one was cleared easily. As the half drew to a close we once again saw City seemingly ease the foot off the gas.
Half time saw James Milner warming up alone on pitch. The suprise was that he replaced De Jong rather than the hapless Johnson who whilst not invisible as he was against Blackburn seemed to make the wrong decision most of the time.
West Ham were without doubt coming into the game but City were breaking quickly when regaining possession and this tempo was suiting the Blues.
Silva wasn’t getting the time on the ball he had been afforded in the first half and this showed as the ball was being played more in the centre of the park and less in dangerous areas.
Silva did find himself through on 55 minutes but chose to pass when a shot looked the better option. Then seconds later Ballotelli struck the cross bar with a powerful shot and Toure should have scored when the ball rebounded to his feet but he shot straight at the advancing Green.
With 15 minutes gone of the second half West Ham lost possession in the City half, City broke quickly and Silva again found himself through one on one…he over-elaborated but still managed to find Ballotelli who`s shot was weak.
Don’t get me wrong City weren’t being over tested but this game should have been out of reach of West Ham by now. Individual errors were creeping into the game and Joe Hart`s kicking was once again poor and on numerous occasions put his teammates under unnecessary pressure.
Nineteen minutes to go and Dzeko was striping off as Bobby Manc tried to improve the flagging City. Strangely it was Barry and not the visibly tiring Toure who was withdrawn for Dzeko as City went four four two.
West Ham should have drawn level on seventy five minutes when a long ball dropped nicely for Carlton Cole`s head but Hart got to the ball just before Cole.
This was followed by a spell in which City could have scored a a hatful. First Silva then Ballotelli should both have scored.
Obina then came on for West Ham replacing Boa Morte as West Ham launched long ball after long ball into the city box looking for the equalising goal.
The last five minutes saw a period where city could have scored more had it not been for poor decisions and tired legs.
Vieira came on for Ballotelli with three minutes to go but the match was all but over. A shot by Silva and some poor first touches by Dzeko apart. There must also be some question marks over Toure`s fitness as he looked visibly tired towards the end of the match.
City won but how they didn’t score more I am not sure. But well done Mr Mancini this is clearly not the City of old as we won when once we would have lost and two wins on the trot without Carlos?.Carlos who?
Hart – 6.5
Wasn’t at fault for the goal but put his team mates under unnecessary pressure with some woeful kicking.
Zabaleta – 8
Close to being my man of the match, worked tirelessly for the team putting in some outstanding crosses and got a goal to boot!
Kompany – 7
Once again calm when City came under pressure but was outshone today by his centre half partner.
Lescott – 8.5
My man of the match today. Wasn’t scared to put his head and body on the line winning important headers and tackles that kept West Ham down to one goal.
Kolarov – 6.5
Was good going forward today and did his best work in the opposition half but he is a defender and is that what I should be saying about a defender.
De Jong – 8
Worked tirelessly and scored a blinder. Was taken off early in the second half in what hopefully was a precautionary move my Roberto.
Barry – 7
Once more did what was asked of him and distributed the ball well.
Toure – 7.5
Ran his socks off almost literally but ran out of energy in the last ten minutes and looked clearly tired out. This is a ninety minute game though and he should be able to last that length of time.
Silva – 8
Ran the game for thirty minutes and then had two men marking him. Still was at the centre of everything and should have had at least two goals.
Johnson – 6
Wasn’t the invisible man last week and saw a lot of the ball….it was a shame he didn’t do more with it.
Balotelli – 7.5
Got his usual booking and went down theatrically when gently brushed near the face but he got back and defended and put in a ton of effort.
Milner – 7
Came on for the injured De Jong and added some pace to the seemingly tired midfield. Didn’t give the ball away and had one or two good forward runs.
Dzeko – 6.5
His first touch was poor and he needs more game time. Did well to hold the ball up intelligently in the last few minutes.
Came on too late to mark.
Not the best game to watch for the fans (first thirty minutes aside) but this is a results business and Bobby got the three points needed today. Rating – 7
You have to feel sorry for Avram Grant with a side full of injuries and no cohesion. Rating – 6
We play better football without Carlos and Silva and Balotelli in particular are flourishing without our bustling Captain. Will you miss him if he goes.