MAN CITY 2, WEST HAM 1
It was just as well substitute Fernandinho scored a last-minute goal for Manchester City who defeated West Ham at the Etihad to go level on points with Chelsea at the top of the table.
Had the Brazilian not found the net three minutes after making his entrance to help see out the game with City 1-0 ahead, they would have dropped two important points.
Fortunately, Fernandinho’s strike made substitute Manuel Lanzini’s 95th minute goal with almost the last kick of the match academic.
Despite the narrow margin on victory, the match was anything but that as City made it 11 wins in their last 13 games against the Hammers in all competitions. One of those losses, though, was recently in the Carabao Cup when they lost a penalty shootout.
Playing through a snowstorm in the opening period, City also had two goals ruled out for offside through VAR while they also struck the frame of the goal twice.
Their superiority was underlined by the stats which showed City had overwhelming territorial advantage with 69 per cent possession and 19 goal attempts to five from West Ham.
But fair play to the Hammer whose displayed the resilience which has seen them climb to fourth place in the Premier League.Embed from Getty Images
Guardiola described it as a “huge victory”, explaining: “I was surprised with the amount of chances we created against them. We created a few.
“The first half was almost impossible to play. The game against PSG was so demanding and the team gave a good performance.
“The chances we created, it could have been three or four and in general controlled the game and their counterattacks. The players we have out, those that came here were brilliant. All of them. We cannot forget which opponent we played. They have everything.
“We have incredible groundskeepers who were man of the match. They did an incredible job for us to play the game today, and thanks to them.”
Rodri added: “It was a very difficult day because of the weather conditions but it is always difficult against this team.
“We were lucky to get this first goal because in the first half we couldn’t play much. In the second we dominated and could have scored more.”
Hammers’ manager David Moyes explained City’s “real quality in attack” was the difference and City had that and it is something they have to work on and take the opportunities when they have them.
There was still no Jack Grealish or Phil Foden in City’s squad.
Gabriel Jesus was rewarded for his winner against Paris St-Germain on Wednesday with a start while Aymeric Laporte replaced John Stones in the only other change from that Champions League win.
Guardiola named eight, rather than nine, substitutes with the bench including goalkeepers Zack Steffen and Scott Carson and youngsters Cole Palmer and James McAtee.
West Ham made the one change from their last Premier League game. Jarrod Bowen dropped to the bench and was replaced by Arthur Masuaku.
While the Hammers played some attractive football in the opening period, it was City who carved out the better chances and were full value for their lead.
Indeed, they were unlucky not to have more than one goal as they were twice denied by the woodwork.
Kyle Walker, making his 200th appearance for City, send a drive from 25 yards whistling past the upright.
Laporte then glanced a header from Gundogan’s corner against the upright, followed by Riyad Mahrez having a goal ruled out by VAR for offside.
Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus also had decent goal attempts before the breakthrough was made in the 34th minute.
Joao Cancelo released Mahrez on the right and his low cross across the face of goal was swept home by Gundogan at the far post, his third goal of the season.
City almost doubled their advantage shortly before half time when Lukasz Fabianski and Mahrez, following up, struck the upright.
The interval was extended from 15 to 25 minutes to allow snow to be clear from the pitch.
City came close to a second after the restart when Jesus was denied by Fabianski’s block and Aaron Cresswell, completing the clearance, painfully collided with the upright and needed lengthy treatment and was soon replaced as he was clearly struggling.
The Hammers rarely threatened, though Declan Rice had a pop from 30 yards with Ederson fisting clear his fiercely struck drive.
Gundogan, released by Sterling, saw his first-time shot well kept out by Fabianski as a second goal continued to elude City.
Guardiola brought on Fernandinho for Sterling with three minutes left as he was determined to hold on to the slender lead.
If City’s manager brought on the Brazilian to shore up the defensive side of his game, he must have been surprised when he popped up with the decisive second goal in the 90th minute.
A short corner eventually saw Gundogan cut the ball back to Fernandinho who found the net with a low shot from the edge of the box, his first goal of the season.
And it was so nearly three in the first minute of stoppage time when Bernardo Silva had a goal ruled out for offside after being put through on goal.
The importance of Fernandinho’s goal was underlined by the Hammers scored with almost the last kick of the match in the fifth minute of added time.
Substitute Lanzini found the net with a super strike from the edge of the box which looped over Ederson.
It was his second goal of the season, both against the Manchester clubs.