MANCHESTER CITY 2-1 WEST HAM UNITED: Pep Guardiola’s side weren’t at their best at the Etihad, but dug out a gritty victory as they beat both the Hammers and the elements
Manchester City overcame a snow storm to extend their winning run and remain on course in their title defence.
It was far from vintage City, but Pep Guardiola’s side dug deep to beat the elements and seal a gritty win, courtesy of goals from Ilkay Gundogan and substitute Fernandinho.
If Guardiola’s players deserved credit for digging out the win, so too did the ground staff at the Etihad Stadium, for clearing snow from the pitch at half-time to ensure the game could go on.
Guardiola was without attacking trio Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and £100million record signing Jack Grealish for the third successive game, but still had enough quality to edge past West Ham.
Guardiola said: “In the first-half it was almost impossible to play. But we have an incredible groundskeeper. Thanks to them we could play.
“I think the groundskeepers, the guys who took care of the pitch, were the man of the match. They did an incredible job to make sure we played the game today.
“The players we have out – those that came in were brilliant, all of them. And we cannot forget which opponent we played. They have everything.”
City midfielder Rodri echoed his boss and said: “It was a very difficult day because of the weather conditions, but it’s always difficult against this team.
“We were lucky to get this first goal, because in the first-half we couldn’t play much. In the second we dominated and could have scored more.”
The Hammers ended City’s four-year domination of the EFL Cup last month, knocking Guardiola’s side out on penalties after a goalless draw at the London Stadium.
That defeat, combined with West Ham’s impressive form this season, which included victory over Liverpool, ensured City would be in for a tough test from David Moyes’ side – and so it proved.
The first chance fell to Kyle Walker, the City defender unleashing a low effort from long-range after six minutes that flew just wide of Lucasz Fabianski’s right-hand post.
City responded with Laporte clipping a post with a glancing header, while Raiyad Mahrez swept the ball into the net with an assured finish, only to see it ruled out for offside.
Raheem Sterling, who had scored in his three previous appearances for City, produced a curling angled effort which just missed the target, as the home side continued to test the visitors.
At the other end, Aymeric Laporte was booked for hauling down Michail Antonio just outside the box, the resulting free-kick from Aaron Creswell going behind for a corner, which yielded nothing.
City took the lead in the 34th minute, Ilkay Gundogan reacting the quickest to turn the ball in, after Riyad Mahrez’s cross was deflected into his path off Creswell.
The goal owed much to the vision and execution of Joao Cancelo, who picked out Mahrez with an exquisite lofted ball, which created the opening from which Gundogan was able to score.
Mahrez hit a post, after a goalbound effort from Cancelo was palmed away by Fabianski, although he should have squared the ball to his waiting team-mates, instead of going for glory himself.
The snow eased at kick-off, but fell heavily towards the latter stages of the first-half, half-time extended by five minutes to allow the pitch to be cleared by the ground staff.
City should have made it 2-0 10 minutes after the restart, Sterling playing the ball into the path of Jesus, who took a touch before the ball was cleared by Cresswell, who clattered into a post.
Declan Rice tested Ederson with a rasping effort from 25 yards, the City keeper punching the ball away, while his opposite number Fabianski was out quickly at the other end to deny Gundogan.
Substitute Fernandinho made sure of the win in the 90th minute, just moments after coming on, steering the ball past Fabianski after Jesus had cut it back for him.
Manuel Lanzini lashed a looping effort over Ederson and into the net in the 94th minute, but there was not enough added time for the Hammers to plunder an equaliser.