West Ham 0 Manchester City 5
Sunday 11th August 2019 : Brent Hapgood for
GYKO at the City of London Stadium
Welcome to the new world. Which looks, it must be
said, quite a lot like the old world. On a breezy afternoon in east
London, Manchester City’s two-times champions kicked off the new
season with a defeat of West Ham that barely required a shift out of
Raheem Sterling made it four goals in a week with a wonderful
hat-trick. Riyad Mahrez was involved throughout, passing, moving and
dribbling with a familiar swagger, and taking a decisive hand in the
first four goals. Kevin De Bruyne looked close to his hard-running
best in midfield.
In-between this, VAR kept up a regular commentary on City’s
dominance, disallowing one goal, retaining another and ordering a
This will surely become a feature of City’s matches given the rhythm
of their attacks, the way cut-backs from the flanks and cute runs
along the defensive line are key to their best moments. Otherwise it
was a breathtaking show of controlled strength. Their opponents may
come forewarned of the way City attack and facing essentially the
same set of players. Trying to stop them is another matter
The stadium was full at kick-off, the skies above an autumnal grey,
the atmosphere inside largely undetectable beneath the
brain-mangling volume of the pre-match PA.
West Ham had seven players in their starting lineup who have joined
the club in the past year. This included their record signing
Sébastien Haller, who had previously mused on whether he might get a
touch of the ball.
But West Ham did start brightly, with Jack Wilshere prominent in
midfield, and Haller was sharp in the opening minutes, dropping deep
at times and playing neatly with his back to goal.
Steadily, City began to exert their own patterns. With nine minutes
gone, Mahrez had their first shot at goal, grooving in from the left
and drawing a low save from Lukasz Fabianksi.
After 20 minutes Manuel Pellegrini appeared for the first time on
his touchline, a small, sharp-suited figure in the middle of all
that branded claret carpet, gesturing anxiously towards West Ham’s
Perhaps he was asking Michail Antonio to offer a little cover to his
full-back. If so it went unheeded. Almost immediately Mahrez did his
Mahrez thing, sitting Aaron Cresswell down on the turf inside his
own area with that same old shimmy, but shooting into the
The first goal arrived two minutes later courtesy of a lovely move
down that side. De Bruyne carried the ball across from the left.
Mahrez played a delightful through pass for Kyle Walker, tearing
down the right. The cut-back was deflected on to Gabriel Jesus, who
Gabriel Jesus gives City the lead.
It was a move City repeated throughout the first half. It seems odd
that opponents still set up against them as though in fear of being
pierced down the middle. One day someone is going to say hang it all
and just play two full-backs instead.
On 32 minutes, there was a first intervention from VAR as a
bored-sounding voice said: “They’re checking for a red card,”
followed, a few moments later, by “no red card”.
Ten minutes before half-time the home team had their first shot at
goal, a hooked effort over the shoulder from Haller and City went to
the break having barely broken into a collective sprint.
It was 2-0 five minutes after half-time. This was a glorious move
down the right. Mahrez fed De Bruyne on the charge. He glided into
space and played a perfectly weighted ball to Sterling, who veered
in on goal and finished with ease.
Two minutes later it was 3-0, then 2-0 again as VAR scrubbed off the
goal for a very narrow offside against Sterling’s shoulder; a moment
of technical offside-dom that offered no advantage and a decision
that penalised a fine piece of movement.
Clearly the offside rule needs to be tweaked for the post-VAR world.
The best suggestion being: you are onside until the whole of you is
For a while West Ham pressed hard again and after 72 minutes they
should have pulled one back. Ryan Fredericks whipped in a cross from
the right and Ederson pulled off a fine double save, first from
Javier Hernández’s left thigh, then from Manuel Lanzini’s header.
Moments later it was finally 3-0.
Mahrez cut inside and lofted a beautiful little pass over the
defence. Sterling read it, stayed onside, then produced a lovely
There was time for Fabianksi to save a weak 83rd-minute penalty from
Sergio Agüero, on as a sub, before VAR ordered a successful retake
for encroachment by Declan Rice and as the stadium began to empty
Sterling completed his hat-trick with a lovely low finish after fine
work from Rodri
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Fredericks, Balbuena,
Diop, Cresswell; Wilshere (Snodgrass 56), Rice; Anderson (Hernandez
66), Lanzini, Antonio (Fornals 45), Haller
Substitutes not used: Roberto, Ogbonna, Sanchez, Zabaleta
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte,
Zinchenko; De Bruyne (Gundogan 79), Rodri , David Silva (Foden 80);
Mahrez, Jesus (Aguero 69), Sterling
Substitutes not used: Bravo, Otamendi, Bernardo Silva, Cancelo
Referee: Mike Dean 6 Attendance: 59,870
Liverpool 1 Manchester City 1
City win first Trophy on Pens
Sunday 4th August 2019 : Ben Jacobs for GYKO
at Wembley Stadium
Call it a phoney war, if you like, but the
Community Shield suggested Manchester City and Liverpool are set for
another epic battle. One point separated them last season and there
was nothing between them on Sunday until City prevailed in the
penalty shootout. So Pep Guardiola’s side won by the narrowest
margin. Again. But there was enough to indicate things could go the
other way over the next nine months.
If the purpose of this curtain-raiser was to stoke anticipation for
the main event that kicks off on Friday, mission accomplished.
Gabriel Jesus converted the decisive spot-kick after Georginio
Wijnaldum missed for Liverpool but there was enough before that to
please – and worry – both managers.
At first City threatened to win at a canter; Raheem Sterling giving
them an early lead that reflected their superiority and Liverpool’s
sluggishness. But the European champions gradually found fluency and
began to expose frailties in City. They struck the frame of the goal
twice before Joël Matip nodded in an equaliser. Liverpool would have
clinched victory if not for a spectacular clearance off the line by
Kyle Walker. Factor in Guardiola being booked for a tantrum and it
was clear City were spooked before emerging triumphant.
Both managers had said they would have welcomed a longer break
before renewing hostilities but that did not mean either was about
to make this chore any easier for his rival: 65 days after Jordan
Henderson lifted their sixth European crown, Liverpool began with
nine of the 11 players who started the Champions League final.
Guardiola, too, deployed nearly all of his artillery; the main
acknowledgment of this match’s ceremonial status being the inclusion
of Claudio Bravo in goal ahead of Ederson. “We have to prepare as if
every match is a final,” said Guardiola and, given how little room
either side leave the other for error, both will probably have to
sustain that approach throughout the campaign ahead.
City started far sharper. They could have scored in the fourth
minute after Sterling dispossessed Joe Gomez 30 yards from goal and
slipped a pass through to Leroy Sané, who fired into the side
Roberto Firmino was the only Liverpool player who shone from the
start. Mohamed Salah, by contrast, was off‑colour: busy and
dangerous but wasteful. He dragged a shot wide of the near post
early on and did almost exactly the same thing several more times.
The fact City’s breakthrough came while they were at a numerical
disadvantage – Sané having an injury assessed – spoke of how much
better they started. The nature of the goal confirmed the point, as
Liverpool’s defence was caught napping by a quick free-kick.
Oleksandr Zinchenko headed a lofted pass from Walker back across the
six-yard area, where Sterling beat Henderson to the ball and forced
it past Alisson.
Salah botched another good opportunity before Sterling did likewise
for City, shooting straight at Alisson from eight yards. Rodri,
City’s record signing at £62.8m, moved and passed with almost
Fernandinho-esque intelligence on his debut but he was given a
lesson in the competitiveness of the Premier League when he was
muscled off the ball twice in the first half by Firmino.
City’s chief vulnerability was in defence. Zinchenko found the going
tough at left-back and was not helped much by his central defenders.
A weak header by John Stones in the 29th minute from a cross by
Divock Origi demanded an intervention from Zinchenko that did not
come; Salah should have punished him but poked high and wide.
City’s vibrancy had subsided. When Gomez escaped being penalised for
raising a foot to prod a bouncing ball away from David Silva,
Guardiola, highly strung at the best of times, bawled and
gesticulated so much the referee booked him.
City’s grip on the game loosened as Liverpool’s menace grew. In the
57th minute Virgil van Dijk hooked a shot on to the underside of the
crossbar after a corner by Trent Alexander-Arnold was allowed to
bobble all the way to him at the edge of the six-yard area.
Reminiscent of City’s decisive escape at the Etihad Stadium in
January, the shot was millimetres from crossing the line. Then Salah
cut into the right-hand side of the box and rattled the post.
Walker, resolving to get City back on to the front foot, launched
into a storming run forward before feeding Sterling. Clean through
on goal and with Walker offering support, Sterling appeared
overwhelmed by the options and allowed Alisson to step out and
relieve him of the ball. City’s sharpness had faded all right.
And their defensive frailties – relative to the strength of the rest
of their team – were being increasingly exposed by Liverpool, who
soon equalised with a goal similar to City’s. Van Dijk, pulling wide
to retrieve a free-kick from the right by Henderson, dabbed a dainty
cross back across goal and Matip climbed above Nicolás Otamendi to
nod into the net.
City were not exactly unravelling but there was certainly some
raggedness about them. Maybe that was inevitable given the lack of
preparation; maybe, though, they will regret not replacing Vincent
Liverpool, spruced up by five substitutions and running through
City’s midfield with impressive regularity, came closest to winning
in normal time. Bravo foiled Naby Keïta and Salah before he finally
beat the goalkeeper – only for Walker to hook his header off the
LIVERPOOL: (4-3-3) Alisson; Alexander-Arnold (Matip
67), Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson (Lallana 79), Fabinho
(Keita 67), Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino (Shaqiri 79), Origi (Oxlade-Chamberlain
SUBS NOT USED: Mignolet (GK); Lovren
MAN CITY: (4-3-3) Bravo; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko; De
Bruyne (Foden 89), Rodri , Silva (Gundogan 61); Bernardo Silva,
Sterling, Sane (Gabriel Jesus 13)
SUBS NOT USED: Ederson (GK); Tasende, Aguero, Garcia
REFEREE: Martin Atkinson 7