MANCHESTER CITY 2, WEST HAM UNITED 1
Goals by Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure meant City comfortably beat the Hammers 2-1 without ever getting out of second gear despite an injury time consolation goal for Andy Carroll.
The title was back at Old Trafford and the early kick off, arranged well before the race for the league was over, had all the atmosphere of a dead rubber for much of the proceedings. Second place and Champions League football is not guaranteed at this stage but City played much of this match as though it didn’t matter against opponents who had the luxury of considering themselves above the relegation scrap below them if not mathematically safe from the dropzone.
City assistant manager David Platt was pleased with City’s response to United winning the league and their ability to put the game beyond a feisty West Ham side. He said:
“It was the response we expected. We’ve been saying for weeks that this football club has to win matches regardless of whether or not there’s anything riding on the game. We want to secure second place as soon as we possibly can.
“If we manage to do that with a couple of games to go it doesn’t negate the importance of those last two games.
“We expected Manchester United to get over the line at some point. Our disappointment was losing to Tottenham as it gave United a chance to close the title out.
“When you create the chances we did create you want to close the game off and we didn’t manage to do that. At 1-0 it’s always open.”
City had half a dozen gilt-edged chances to score but only scored twice although that was enough to earn another three points towards a second place finish.
“In the first half we had more control of the game because they were sat deep. They left more players up in the second half and gave us more space to exploit.
“Unless you get that second goal the game is still alive.”
He also addressed a late injury to Joe Hart that may have contributed to Andy Carroll’s consolation goal in injury time.
Platt explained: “His back spasmed as he kicked the ball. He’s a bit blocked up at the moment. It’s a bit sore at the moment but he’ll be ok for Monday.
“It might have been a factor in their goal. He couldn’t get down to the ball at the end.”
It might have been an end of season game without a title chase or relegation battle featuring but there was a healthy respect from both sides towards mentions of Carlos Tevez and applause for Marc Vivien Foe in the 23rd minute who died ten years ago and played for both clubs.
City manager Roberto Mancini paid his own tribute to the former City midfielder. He said: “I’m happy we remembered Marc-Vivien Foe, who was a great player for Manchester City.”
West Ham had started well and tried to exert their physical presence onto City with mixed results. David Silva was on the receiving end of several fouls while City asserted themselves on the game through a combination of passes and counter attacks although the pace of the game was well below City’s usual standards and passes were being wasted throughout by both sides.
West Ham’s physical approach was eventually punished when Andy Carroll was booked for a foul on Sergio Aguero. The Argentine almost had the perfect riposte but could only guide David Silva’s deflected pass onto the post.
City were in full control, with only a shot by Mohamed Diame which was easily saved by Joe Hart to show for the Hammers’ efforts.
City finally had the goal that their efforts deserved when Aguero nailed the opening goal in the 28th minute. Samir Nasri exchanged passes with Silva going into the box on the left flank and squared the ball for the lethal Argentine to place past Jaaskelainen.
Pablo Zabaleta almost made it a quickfire second for City after Nasri’s shot was parried into his path by Jaaskelainen but the Argentine was denied by the veteran ‘keeper.
The Hammers were improved after the break, providing more of a challenge for the cruising Blues but City had the clearer chances with Nasri testing Jaaskelain before Carlos Tevez was thwarted by a goal line block by Joey O’Brien and Nasri had his manager grimacing in disgust as he he missed a second half chance to extend City’s lead after mistiming his sidefoot shot on goal in the 72nd minute.
West Ham could have made City pay for their profligacy – James Collins could had levelled the scores for West Ham after a loose ball from Matthew Taylor’s free kick fell to him but he sent his shot wide
City finally got the vital second goal in the 83rd minute when substitute James Milner’s lay off to Nasri was pushed on to Yaya Toure and the Ivorian unleashed a massive shot from the right corner of the area which beat Jaaskelainen and nestled in the top corner.
Aguero could have made it 3-0 with 4 minutes to go but he was blocked by Guy Demel after being put through by Zabaleta.
The Hammers fought on, and Carroll’s header from O’Neill’s cross was saved by Joe Hart who may have sustained an injury in the process. Aguero spurned an injury time goal after Jaaskelainen parried a Zabaleta shot out to him.
Carroll finally got the Hammers consolation after his injury time shot squirmed in through Hart’s legs after he chested down a lob into the area by Demel. The City ‘keeper was still struggling with his injury sustained earlier but it was too little too late for Sam Allardyce’s men.