I have to own up to having a soft spot for West Ham United. No matter what they are up against they always try to play some sort of football, never capable of playing for a 0-0 draw and have a following not dissimilar to City’s who go to watch them through thin and thinner.
I lived for a year in their hinterland when I was a teenager, Forest Gate, and when the lads at work were busily making their way to Highbury, White Hart Lane and Stamford Bridge, I opted for the Boleyn Ground on the basis that loyal football fans went there to support an understated team, and this just around the time of City’s last trophy success.
When we were at Maine Road both teams were of a yo-yo variety and there was great camaradeie between the fans as we wished each other an early promotion back to the Premier League – either them or us were perennially going down.
But how times and fortunes have changed. City are awash with loot and top of the league, West Ham have Brady, Gold and Grant and are heading for the Championship.
And that it precisely what it looked like yesterday. As predicted City were far too good for the poor old Irons, and once City got in front there was only one outcome.
Balotelli could and should have got the scoreboard moving even sooner, showing his class to lose his marker, opening his body, only to find the far post a bit closer than his radar suggested. But it was only a matter of time. Silva’s quicksilver movement
was too much for the beleagured Hammers midfield and Barry sprang the element of surprise by playing in Yaya Toure who’s first time screamer went like an arrow into the top corner not giving Green a sniff. This after just earlier missing a similar chance.
Although West Ham tried to stage some sort of attempt at a comeback,Obinna, known to have caused City problems in pre-season and Piquionne, a player I quite like, were hopelessly out of touch and never looked like troubling Kolo and Kompany, let alone Joe Hart.
As the second half got under way West Ham got a good shout for a penalty of the type that if it was the Ashburton Assassins or Stretford Steelers it would have been given.
You don’t get those when you’re bottom of the league.
For their part City got on with it leading to more petulance from Balotelli, who should have been having a field day, but wasn’t, getting frustrated by the referee to the extent that he decided to frustrate the referee into hunting in his pockets to signal the end of the day for Mario. Only yellow this time but Mancini took the correct step of ensuring that City, at only 1-0, finished the day with a full complement on the field.
Anything Tevez can do Mario can do better and he marched to the changing rooms without a sideways glance at his Manager, nor his Manager him.
Ten minutes later de Jong slipped the ball wide to Yaya Toure and he was off on the goal trail again. This time marauding down the left muscling Tomkins out of the way before unleashing a right foot shot near side, when Green might have expected him to go for the far post. Sadly for Green the ball hit the post rebounded on to Green and then into the back of the net. The records show Green o.g. but it really was Yaya’s own work.
The points in the bag City began to really look like potential top of the league material, none more so than with the clinching goal a few minutes later.
Mancini porbably still sees Johnson as a ‘super-sub’, an impact player who can affect matches late on. And so he was again yesterday.
David Silva’s exquisite through pass was one of the best passes I have ever seen, right on the pennies and right into the run of Johnson who took it in his stride, rounded Green and slid the ball into an empty net. 3-0.
Pundits say there is no team spirit at City. Well those viewing the goal celebrations yesterday will suggest otherwise and it was no different looking at Vincent Kompany’s reaction to West Ham’s consolation goal in the last minute. With the central marking gone awol, Tomkins free header simply had to find the net giving Hart no real chance. VK was hammering the floor with his hands clearly disappointed that the clean sheet had gone for this week. He can still be proud in the knowledge that City are amongst the clean sheet leaders in this season’s Premier League.
As I said, this result was probably predictable based upon the fortunes of the two clubs this season. City are looking like taking on the mantle of title contenders, with Mancini looking to be getting to know his preferred eleven and starting to get the best out of them.
On the other hand, Avram Grant has the haunted look of a Manager who knows he could be the next casualty as the transfer window approaches. His team look as though they will follow his last one, sliding through the Premier League trap door faster than a victim of Albert Pierrepoint.
This was a commanding City performance. Yaya was given licence to roam and made his presence felt at every opportunity, once more, like an Australian Rugby League Loose Forward. Silva was more like gold. Barry and deJong simply insurmountable. The back four solid as a rock, for 89 minutes at least.
Even Jo got in one paper’s ‘Team of the Week’. Mancini has seen something there he can work with, that’s for sure.
Mancini has been telling us for weeks that he needs more goals from his support players. He got them today from his midfield. How fickle is football and its writers? We have turned 360 and Mancini is once again a winner. We go to Turin this week. I for one hope that we beat Juventus. They may not be the power they once were but they are still a big name in world football and to beat them on their own patch will announce City’s arrival to the world. Then we play Moyes’s Manhandlers.
A draw today for Chelsea and one on Monday when the Assassins play at the Steelers suits me.
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