It was a pulsating game of football that finished 2-2, it was entertaining to watch and dramatic from start to finish, quite literally; but was there anything to take from the game? I believe so.
A contender for signing of the season, he has been a revelation for the Hammers this season and was excellent in this game. His technique, composure on the ball, vision and passing really made him stand out and when you consider Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne were all out there too, that’s no mean feat. He put in a man of the match performance and it would’ve been capped with a goal were it not for an outstanding Joe Hart save, but this was no flash in the pan, it was a continuation of the form he’s shown all season. The bit of skill to leave De Bruyne for dead will be all over vines, but his calmness in possession and ability to pick out passes and dictate the game is what will likely attract bids for him in the summer.
Manchester City defending
Defending has been an on/off issue for City for quite a while and shows no signs of being alleviated any time soon. Left-back is a particular problem, where first-choice Aleksandar Kolarov has been showing his desire to attack, but not so much to defend. With Kolarov injured, Gael Clichy stepped in and offered little in either department. Nicolas Otamendi made the elementary mistake of allowing the ball to bounce and Enner Valencia made him pay by then shielding him off and scoring West Ham’s second. Martin Demichelis and his ever decreasing pace could potentially have got him a red card when his lunge at the breaking Michail Antonio brought the West Ham winger down, but the referee decided it wasn’t an obvious goal scoring opportunity and he escaped with a yellow. Football is often about these fine margins, but there was nothing fine about the defensive authority City lacked in this game.
On their day, West Ham can be a match for any team in the Premier League. This season they have beaten Liverpool home and away, Chelsea, City at The Etihad, Southampton and Arsenal. Manager Slaven Bilic has improved their style of play, whilst not lost their defensive solidity, aggression and ability to physically impose themselves on the opposition. Though they lack the consistency and lack of quality in depth for a title challenge, they can go head to head with anyone on their day. In some ways, this game was almost a microcosm of their season; getting amongst the Manchester City midfield and defence, but sometimes finding it difficult to deal with the movement of City’s attacking players.
The New Zealand centre-back may not be a headline maker or star name, but showed his importance to the West Ham defence at times in this game with his positioning and calmness under pressure, in particular when he chested the ball back to Adrian after Sergio Aguero’s shot had come back off the post. Strong in the air and not afraid to put himself about, as former centre-back himself, Reid’s manager will have enjoyed Reid’s solid performance in this game.
Where would Manchester City be without him? I laughed out loud when I heard a pundit call Harry Kane the best goal scorer in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon because Aguero is by far the best for me. Were it not for a number of niggling injuries that he seems to consistently suffer, he would regularly score over 30 goals a season. He turns his low centre of gravity into an advantage by being able to turn opponents and with his strength and technique, is difficult to shift off the ball. This game was another example of how he can turn games in a moment with his movement, touch and burst of pace; not to mention his finishing. He was unlucky with his chip over Adrian that hit the post, he created the penalty for himself before effortlessly tucking it away, completely unfazed by Adrian’s attempts to put him off. His instinct and drive for the second goal told him where to be to calmly finish the chance to equalise a game where City were looking second best.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that Sam Byram made an encouraging debut for West Ham and City must take note of the lack of control they had with a central midfield two of Yaya Toure and Fabian Delph. So, aside from the blood and thunder entertainment, there were some things, good and bad, for both sides to take away from 90 minutes of entertainment for the neutral.