Date: 3rd December 2017 at 10:37pm
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The footballing world has now seen the way to play City. It started with the gospel according to David Wagner, progressed through the not so saintly Southampton and was continued by Moyesout’s new charges, West Ham United.

All three have proved one thing. If you sit back, strangle the game with a packed defence and negative tactics, you get beat 2-1. Shame isn’t it? They work so hard, they keep to their game plan, they waste time, roll around on the floor, get no sanctions from lily-livered referees and then lose. What’s it all for?

City have found many doors apparently locked tight this season, but eventually they have found a way to prise them ajar and then blow them wide open. Pretty it might not be, but pretty effective it is.

It was no different yesterday at the Etihad. Moyesout must have gone around his training camp looking for a team of basketball-like giants and detailed them to knock City off their stride by right means or wrong. And for most of the first half it worked. Guardiola took no chances with Fernandinho or Kompany, both one yellow card away from a week off, although Sane, in a similar boat was risked.

The back division had an unfamiliar look about it with Walker, Mangala, Otamendi and Danilo in tow.

Delph was given Fernandinho’s hold-and-attack role leaving Sterling, Sane, Silva and De Bruyne to try to provide ammunition for Sergigol.

In the first half, the Hammers were camped in their own half for most of the time, but City were simply unable to penetrate a stubborn, dogged defence that took every opportunity to waste time from every dead ball situation and roll over if they went close to a City player. Unlike Southampton, they did harbour some ambition going forward but in essence lacked the kind of quality striker that might have made a difference.

City were unable to make any headway. If they did get a shot away it was always at the right height for Hart’s replacement, Adrian. Silva and Sane made him work, but Aguero played too much with his back to the defenders, a route that never really finds him at his best.

With City seemingly always available to give the opposition chances from corners, it was unsurprising that this was, once again, going to prove to be their undoing. Every time the Irons got a corner it seemed that the player furthest away from the ball, usually Rice, went to take it. He usually slung it in to the far post causing some discomfort in the defensive ranks, but City were generally able to scramble it away. That was until just ahead of the break when Rice played it short, took the return pass and crossed it straight on to the head of Ogbonna who out-powered Otamendi to head it past Ederson who did get a hand to it but not one that was strong enough. It seemed to stun the Etihad faithful who are unused to being behind at any stage on their home turf.

Mr Dean did add on four minutes for Adrian’s incessant time wasting which should have seen him attain at least one yellow card, but the bubble merchants got themselves to the break in front at the Etihad. While the TV pundits were bracing themselves for a shock and the blowing open of the title race, down in the dungeons Pep had other plans and City, who had played the first half seemingly thinking it was a turn-up-and-win-easily kind of match suddenly had a burst of new-found energy, releasing Sane time and again against our one-time hero Zabaleta. The German got himself into good positions but every stinging shot he unleashed was at an easy height for Adrian and he simply couldn’t find the back of the net.

De Bruyne and Silva also emerged from the kind of slumbers that often saw their passes go astray and nothing was going right for Sergigol, Sterling or de Jesus when he was introduced at the break.

But one thing we have discovered this season is that City have re-discovered this never-say-die, fight-to-the-end attitude, attitude being the 100% word, and eventually things started to turn. City time had just about expired when City fashioned something themselves from a free kick. De Jesus got the run on a defence that was almost hanging round his neck and squeezed a pass through to Otamendi, who turned it into the net.

It was no more than City deserved for the incessant efforts to play their way through a solid-looking defence, but it was a bit sad that it took a defender to do it.

Now City were getting further on to the front foot and chances started to fall to de Jesus and Sane, but there was still no way past Adrian who for me will be taking juggling Joe’s place off him if he continues to play like this.

However, as I said in my recent Ped Report on the Southampton match, you get what you deserve in the Premier League and all the time-wasting, feigned injuries, roly-polys and any other devices West Ham deployed to try to strangle City, came to an abrupt end with less than ten minutes to go. De Bruyne started the move bringing in Silva who played in Delph who continued his run into the box. Delph played it back into the path of De Bruyne who flicked it up and over the Hammers defence, but behind Silva who somehow contorted his body to hook it past Adrian and to put City into the lead.

It was amazing how quickly Adrian could take goal kicks now! But as with Southampton in midweek it was finally to no avail, despite Dean adding another four minutes for time-wasting, City got to the finishing line and banked another three points to maintain the eight-point gap over the Stretfords, who City visit next week, after their midweek visit to the frozen wastes of the Ukraine.

With City setting records for their period of being undefeated, the Stretfords are lying in wait to disturb that, albeit without Pogba, red-carded for an appalling foul on Bellerin which could easily have ended up with an ACL problem for the Gooner. No doubt he will be replaced by another person with a similar approach when they play City.

Reading Andy Dunn’s report in the Mirror today, there is an implication that Pugba made a comment about City players and injuries in a TV interview. If that did happen then it is simply shocking and should be taken up with the Football Association. Quite how that sort of thing can be condoned at any level is beyond me. Anyway, justice has a funny way of delivering itself sometimes, and maybe Mr Marriner’s red card was his just desserts.

I have to add that today I though Mangala had a good game. He is a much-maligned footballer that has never lived up to his potential, but I can see some improvement in his football. He was just about robust enough today and it was a bit of a shame he got rocked-and-rolled by Arnautovic towards the end of the match today. He looked to be struggling but I hope for his sake it’s not serious because he should get another outing in midweek in Donetsk.

Speaking to dear Susan, still revelling in Liverpool’s 5-1 demolition of Brighton, she doesn’t share the same view of this match as me. Such are the joys of football. Still, it’s great to have a beautiful partner who does share a passion for the beautiful game.

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