Sergio Aguero equalises twice as Manchester City snatch a point at West Ham
Sergio Aguero scored twice to rescue a point for stuttering Manchester City in a 2-2 draw at West Ham.
The title challengers twice fell behind to goals from Enner Valencia and needed Aguero to bale them out with a penalty and a late equaliser.
Valencia fired the Hammers into the lead after just 55 seconds, and put them back in front early in the second half with City's defence suffering from brain fade again.
But Aguero came to the rescue to deny West Ham an unlikely double over City this season.
City's defence has come under scrutiny this season and it failed its first test at Upton Park as West Ham scored with their opening attack.
Cheikhou Kouyate strode past a non-existent challenge from Yaya Toure and into the area before cutting the ball back for Valencia to slam under Joe Hart.
City almost hit straight back when Aguero got round the back of James Collins, his clever lob beating Hammers keeper Adrian only to come back off the inside of the far post.
But moments later Agureo did haul the visitors level after he had been tripped in the area by Carl Jenkinson, coolly sending Adrian the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Right-back Jenkinson's evening came to an end moments later when he limped off injured, meaning a quicker-than-expected debut for new signing Sam Byram just three days after completing his switch from Leeds.
Yet despite having been gifted a route back into the game, City's galaxy of stars were still being outshone by West Ham's Dimitri Payet.
One clever reverse pass from the French playmaker sent Michail Antonio racing through, and Martin Demichelis earned himself a yellow card for halting the winger's dart towards goal.
Payet stepped up to take the free-kick and his powerful, curling effort was destined for the top corner until Hart dived full-length to his left to pull off a world-class save.
After the break another sublime touch from Payet sent Mark Noble scampering to the byline before standing up a tempting cross to the far post which Antonio headed narrowly wide.
City were inches from taking the lead, against the run of play, in the 55th minute when Fabian Delph's low shot hit the foot of Adrian's post - and moments later West Ham went back in front.
Antonio's quickly-taken throw-in, of all things, caught the City defence napping and Valencia brushed off Nicolas Otamendi's feeble challenge before prodding the ball past Hart.
However, with 10 minutes remaining and West Ham defending deeper and deeper, City substitute Kelechi Iheanacho ran unchecked into the area. His shot rebounded into the path of Aguero who was able to steer the ball past Adrian.
Even then West Ham could have stolen the victory but Kouyate's stoppage-time header from Noble's free-kick clipped the crossbar, and City escaped with an unconvincing point.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Really good team performance from @whufc_official. Like the look of Sam Byram, really assured debut. Payet, different class. #COYI" - Former West Ham midfielder Matthew Etherington (@mattyethers) was impressed with the Hammers' display.
Carl Jenkinson: 5
Winston Reid: 7
James Collins: 7
Aaron Cresswell: 7
Mark Noble: 7
Cheikhou Kouyate: 8
Alex Song: 8
Dimitri Payet: 8
Enner Valencia: 8
Michail Antonio: 7
Sam Byram: 7
Victor Moses: 7
Nikica Jelavic: 6
Joe Hart: 7
Bacary Sagna: 6
Martin Demichelis: 6
Nicolas Otamendi: 5
Gael Clichy: 6
Fabian Delph: 7
Yaya Toure: 6
Kevin De Bruyne: 6
Jesus Navas: 6
David Silva: 7
Sergio Aguero: 8
Raheem Sterling: 6
Kelechi Iheanacho: 7
STAR MAN Dimitri Payet. West Ham's French magician opened his box of party tricks and outshone City's galaxy of stars.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH Payet let fly from 20 yards with a free-kick which looked destined for the top corner, but Hart flung himself to his left to make a world-class save.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH Without a recognised striker West Ham played wingers Valencia and Antonio in attack, and Manchester City's shaky defence did not like it one bit. Aguero bailed them out, though.
MOAN OF THE MATCH The West Ham fans' song for Payet, to the tune of 'Achy Breaky Heart', is so catchy you'll find yourself humming it for days. I just don't think they understand.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Liverpool v West Ham, FA Cup Fourth Round, Saturday 30 January
Manchester City v Everton, Capital One Cup semi-final second leg, Wednesday 27 January
West Ham skipper Mark Noble told Sky Sports 1: "They're a top, top team but I just thought a little bit of luck went their way with the second goal. Against a team like that you've got to be proud of a point, but you could say I'm a little bit gutted.
"They had a lot of the ball but I thought coming off a bad performance last week at Newcastle, I thought we were back to our best and I've said we can compete with anyone when we play like that and we showed that tonight.
When asked on the influential play of Payet, he said: "It's not a surprise for us because we see everyday in training. I think you see tonight, you realise it's not just the skills, the deliveries and the balls he puts in, it's the hard work, that's why he's a credit to himself and the team."
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic was more proud than disappointed of his side despite conceding a late equaliser.
"We were a bit disappointed in the dressing room but to be fair I would like to say it was a great game of football and I am really proud of the guys. Both teams played to win, at the end they could have won, they hit the post twice.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini said: (A draw) was not what we want before the game. If you look at the whole game we had two or three clear chances to score and win the game.
"It was a difficult game, I was not very happy with the way we conceded the second goal because it was a throw-in. Other than the last minute, I didn't really see Joe (Hart) work really hard. But it was a close game for both teams, it was a good game for fans.
When questioned on Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, the Chilean said: "He still has a couple of weeks, three weeks more so he is not able to work with the squad."