Belfast Telegraph

Manchester City starting to click and Jesus opens account in Hammers' demolition

West Ham 0-4 Manchester City

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City are starting to click. This 4-0 demolition of West Ham United followed their 3-0 thumping of Crystal Palace on Saturday.

They are probably playing the best football of Pep Guardiola's reign: fast, attractive, inventive but above all balanced. And they are doing it all without Sergio Aguero.

Guardiola left Aguero on the bench here, four days after leaving him out at Palace citing a minor knock. Here, as then, he played Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling as his front three, the trio he said were "the future" of the club after Saturday's win.

Here they were even better than they were then, slicing through West Ham with some remarkable movement at speed. Gabriel made the first, Sane made the second, and all three combined for the brilliant third.

That goal was Gabriel's first in English football and this was still his first Premier League start. But he already looks like a gem of a signing, City's best in about five years, perfectly suited both to English football and to how Guardiola wants the game to be played. That, more than his obvious talent, is why Aguero might start to wonder about his long- term future at the club.

Pep's trio did not look as if they had played together only once before, at Selhurst Park last weekend. They looked like three versions of the same footballer, fast, strong and skilful, and they set about slicing through West Ham with movement that was simply too good to be stopped.

West Ham have improved recently and here, even without Dimitri Payet, they had new signing Jose Fonte starting and Robert Snodgrass on the bench. When City play like this, it does not matter what the opposition do. Guardiola's men were unstoppable and so West Ham were as powerless as in the FA Cup game here one month ago when they lost 5-0.

And yet, despite all that, West Ham still insisted on opening the gate as wide as they possibly got.

The rout started when Aaron Cresswell played a blind square pass across to Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up the ball on the half-way line. He drove forward, passed out to Gabriel, took the first-time shot and tucked it into the bottom corner.

The next time City won it in the middle, Sterling found De Bruyne who moved it to Sane on the left, one on one with a full-back who had no legal means of stopping him. He nutmegged Sam Byram, powered past Fonte and squared to the far post where Silva tapped it in.

Sometimes this season City have got complacent but here they continued to push. Another move through Gabriel and Sterling ended with De Bruyne scuffing his finish but this time it did not matter. With the next action City scored the third and ended the game.

Sane passed across to Sterling, darting in behind, just onside. He passed back to Gabriel, crucially just behind play, and he rolled in his first goal in English football. He looked like he had been scoring for City for years.

The second half was never going to be as good for City as the first. They stayed patient and kept the ball, not wasting energy when they still have three competitions to play in for the rest of the season.

City were waiting for West Ham to open themselves up, but as soon as they did, City darted in and scored a fourth.

De Bruyne had the ball all the way out on the right hand side and saw a space behind Winston Reid with Sterling running into it. So De Bruyne curled in a perfect pass and Sterling raced onto it, squaring up Fonte. Sterling chopped back inside, drawing the foul and going down. Toure took the penalty and there was never any question that he would score it.​

Aguero did come on for Sterling but there was not much left for him to do in a game that was already over. He clipped one cross just over Gabriel's head.

He will very likely start against Swansea on Sunday and his City career is far from over.

But he will be very aware that for the first time in years, City have an alternative to him again.

WEST HAM: Randolph, Byram, Fonte, Reid, Cresswell, Obiang (Snodgrass, 64 mins), Noble, Feghouli (Fernandes, 64 mins), Antonio, Lanzini, Carroll (Fletcher, 79 mins). Unused subs: Adrián, Collins, Calleri, Quina

MAN CITY: Caballero, Sagna, Stones, Otamendi, Kolarov, Touré, Sterling (Aguero, 73 mins), De Bruyne (Fernandinho, 67 mins), Silva (Delph, 80 mins), Sané, de Jesus. Unused subs: Bravo, Kompany, Zabaleta, Jesús Navas.

Referee: Kevin Friend

Man of the match: Gabriel Jesus

Match rating: 8/10

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