Hammers come up empty handed at the Ethiad

Posted by Peter Thorne

Sergio Aguero fires Manchester City ahead against West HamGettyImagesSergio Aguero fires Manchester City ahead against West Ham

There's little doubt that when this match at the Ethiad Stadium was selected for the TV cameras, the expectation was that Manchester City would be pushing for the title; probably searching for vital points against a difficult West Ham side who, just conceivably, might need some of their own in the relegation battle.

As it happened though, this was pretty much a dead rubber of little interest beyond the fans of the two clubs involved and there was a definite 'end of term' feel about the whole proceedings as the hosts ran-out 2-1 winners against a West Ham side who were enterprising, without ever really possessing the cutting-edge required to get a result.

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City have scored in every home league game since November 2010 and from the start there was a suggestion that West Ham would need to defend well and hope to hit City from a set-piece if they were to take anything from the match.

After 20 minutes of nothing very much, the match stumbled to life when a deflected cross from David Silva, that just touched Kevin Nolan, found Sergio Aguero who, hardly believing his luck, seemed to snatch at a shot that cannoned off the post.

Three minutes later, there was a nice touch as both fans rose to applaud the memory of the excellent Marc-Vivien Foe who tragically died in 2003 playing for his native Cameroon during the semi-final of a Confederations Cup match against Colombia. Foe represented both clubs admirably, and this tribute to a player who had much more to contribute to football when he sadly died with a cardiac arrest, was appreciated by both supporters. Marc had worn the number 23 shirt during his time with City and this was why the tribute time was selected. It was a nice way to honour an excellent player and City are to be congratulated on choosing to do it in this manner.

Back on the field though, West Ham had a reasonable chance on 24 minutes when Mo Diame shot through a crowd of players following a corner, but goalkeeper Joe Hart was well-behind the ball as he fell to gather.

On 28 minutes, City went ahead when some neat interplay both outside and inside the penalty area ended with Aguero firing the home side ahead from close range. The final shot came after a 17-touch move that pulled the Hammers defence every which way. Shortly after, Jussi Jaaskelainen had to be at his best to shovel out a Samir Nasri hard, low shot and the keeper followed it up immediately by denying Pablo Zabaleta from the rebound.

The match seemed to fall back into torpor after the goal with the Hammers offering little and City content to play the ball at their own pace. That changed after half-time though.

West Ham started the second half brightly when an O'Neill cross was just cut-out by Zabaleta as Carroll closed in. With Matt Jarvis finding space on the wings and Joey O'Brien breaking from defence, the game started to open up as City were also finding room to break as the visitors pressed.

Winston Reid superbly blocked a Carlos Tevez shot on 54 minutes before Carroll headed well wide from a corner after good work by Ricardo Vaz Te. The Hammers started to exert some territorial advantage leading up to the hour mark without really bothering Joe Hart before City showed a bit of class by playing possession football for several minutes before Collins was able to break play up.

Sam Allardyce tried to alter things by bringing on Jack Collison for Vaz Te but it was Joey O'Brien on 66 minutes who came to the rescue, stopping Tevez scoring against his old team by blocking another shot from inside the area. West Ham now pushed forward though, causing the home fans to step up the vocal support before Nasri wasted a glorious chance on 72 minutes, failing to make contact in the six-yard area.

When Diame was brought down on the edge of the area by Gareth Barry with ten minutes to go, Allardyce decided to make a double substitution bringing on Matthew Taylor and Carlton Cole for Kevin Nolan and Joey O'Brien. This enabled Taylor to instantly take the freekick, his mis-hit cross bouncing around the penalty area before James Collins drove narrowly wide.

It was to be the end of West Ham's minimal resistance as Yaya Toure then promptly scored a top-class goal on 83 minutes; striking hard with his left foot from the edge of the area, right into the top corner, with Jaaskelainen groping for air. It was a goal the match didn't really deserve.

There was time for a bit more aerial jockeying from Carroll at one end - again though Hart wasn't really called into action - and another superb block, this time by Guy Demel on Aguero. Meanwhile, West Ham were denied when Hart managed to stop a good Carroll header, which, in truth, was the only time the England keeper was called into real action all afternoon.

Jaaskelainen denied Aguero in injury time and a high Jarvis cross worried Hart before Andy Carroll got the goal his all-round play deserved, chesting down a deep Diame cross and hitting a hard shot that Hart allowed to slip through his legs. It was too late to make any impact on the eventual result but did make a more palatable scoreline and was probably a better reflection on the passage of play. Hart may feel aggrieved though, the keeper was holding his back before the shot and looked in some discomfort in the final minutes.

Later views suggested that West Ham may have earned a penalty - Zabaleta leaning towards the ball with his arm in the free-kick incident just before City scored their second - but it would probably have been harsh, both for the Argentine defender and for City, whose extra class undoubtedly showed in the end.

Sam Allardyce was happier with West Ham's second-half display suggesting that the team showed too much respect to City in the first-half, but the manager was left to bemoan again the fact that his team have the lowest scoring away record in the whole football league and sorting this out is going to be Sam's hardest task in the summer.

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