Barclay’s English Premiership
Sunday 17 August, 2008, 15:00 KO
City: Hart, Corluka, Richards (c) (Hamann 54), Ben-Haim, Ball, Ireland, Kompany, Johnson, Petrov (Etuhu 77), Elano (Evans 77), Sturridge.
Unused: Schmeichel, Garrido, Caicedo, Gelson
Goals: Sturridge (65), Elano (70, 76)
City Man of the Match: Vincent Kompany
Mark Hughes got his first Premier League points with Manchester City, as the Citizens played West Ham off the park in their opening home game of the season. It was West Ham who were knocking the ball around nicely from the start, but they were unable to test Joe Hart and soon found themselves on the back foot.
City created chance after chance, as, from a Petrov corner, City had a good shout for a penalty, when debutant Vincent Kompany appeared to have his ankles nipped. The Belgian kept his footing but couldn’t force it forward, with the away side clearing only to Stephen Ireland. Ireland’s subsequent shot was headed off the line by Callum Davenport, who then deflected Tal Ben-Haim’s follow up onto the bar.
Petrov thought he had opened the scoring with a sublime, 30-yard free kick, but it hit the post and flashed back into play, with Robert Green stranded.
West Ham were defending deeper and the City goal became more of a ‘when’ than an ‘if’, as the home side pressed forward.
On 38 minutes, West Ham’s task became harder, as a needless second yellow card for Mark Noble’s tackle on Michael Johnson produced a red from referee Howard Webb. Noble had earlier been booked for deliberate handball, which will no doubt disappoint Alan Curbishley.
Just before half time, City had a second shout for a penalty, as Lucas Neill appeared to handle the ball from a corner, and the scores remained level at the break thanks to a superb Robert Green save from a Johnson piledriver.
A mix up between Richards and Ben-Haim at the start of the second half, saw the two players clash heads, with Micah Richards coming off the worse. He was down for seven minutes and was stretchered to an Ambulance, unconscious and with oxygen.
On came Dietmar Hamann and City re-shuffled, with the solid-looking Vincent Kompany dropping into the centre of defence.
City continued to dominate the game and took the lead on 65 minutes, when a Petrov cross wasn’t dealt with properly by Matthew Upson, and Daniel Sturridge leathered the ball into the roof of the net, from 10 yards.
West Ham attempted to hit back immediately, but Matthew Etherington and Julien Faubert got in each others way and Michael Ball was able to clear the danger.
Five minutes after City took the lead, they doubled it, as Vedran Corluka lifted a delightful pass over the top for Steven Ireland, who took a touch, drew the goalkeeper and squared it to Elano, who found the bottom corner.
The same three players linked up down the right six minutes later, to get Elano’s second goal and City’s third. The Brazilian clearly appreciated the hard work done by his team-mates, sprinting over to celebrate with the Irishman.
City also ended the game with 10 men, as Kelvin Etuhu appeared to pull his hamstring chasing a ball to the corner, soon after being City’s third substitute.
With the fourth official holding up ten added minutes, City fans were hoping for a third, especially as Michael Johnson was fouled just outside the area on the right flank. The resulting free-kick, though, didn’t find a blue shirt and West Ham were able to clear.
City were content to play keep-ball to the olés of the crowd rang out with each successful pass.
The midfield looked much stronger and more imposing today than against Villa, no doubt strengthened by the arrival of Kompany, who can play there or at the back. It was an excellent debut for the Belgian, who looked comfortable on the ball and slotted well into the team.
Hughes appears to be building a young, competitive team, and today was possibly City’s best performance of 2008 so far. City kept the ball well and pressed West Ham into mistakes, as the score reflected the home side’s dominance.