Pep Guardiola enjoyed a momentous return to the Manchester City dugout as his side roared to a 3-1 victory over previously unbeaten West Ham, thanks to goals from Jeremy Doku, Bernardo Silva and Erling Haaland.
City were forced to come from behind after James Ward-Prowse nodded Vladimir Coufal’s deft cross beyond Ederson in the 36th minute, but after some wasteful finishing from the visitors, they clicked into more recognisable gear.
Doku, on his second City appearance, was partly at fault for Ward-Prowse’s second strike in West Ham colours after gifting the ball to Coufal to launch a quick break, but scored a well-taken leveller to atone for his mistake less than 60 seconds into the second period.
Packed with end-to-end entertainment, Julian Alvarez then struck the post with a delicious free-kick and Antonio was bettered by Ederson in a one-on-one, which only served to pave the way for Silva to complete City’s inescapable turnaround.
Alvarez was the architect, and Silva the beneficiary, as he lifted the ball over a despairing Alphonse Areola in the 76th minute to establish a proper foothold in an otherwise uncertain and unpredictable encounter.
Momentum shifted, and Haaland woke up, ending any feint hope of a Hammers revival by smashing Silva’s arrowed cross into the net four minutes from time for his seventh strike of the season.
The result maintains City’s perfect start to the campaign, with five wins from five, while West Ham slip outside the top four after suffering their first loss of 2023-24.
- Pep Guardiola made two changes from Man City’s 5-1 win over Fulham, with Josko Gvardiol and Bernardo Silva coming into the side in place of Nathan Ake and the injured Mateo Kovacic.
- With John Stones, Jack Grealish and Kevin De Bruyne also sidelined, new signing Jeremy Doku started for the second game running.
- Only one change from the West Ham team that overcame Luton last time out, as Tomas Soucek returned, with Said Benrahma the player to make way.
How City maintained status quo despite Hammers fight
Man City needed two late goals to put the Hammers’ brave resistance to bed, but such is their inevitability in this moment, anything other than victory almost felt impossible.
It wasn’t straightforward, and the visitors should have made pressure pay in the seventh minute, but a goal-line clearance by Tomas Soucek and a good save from Areola kept the game scoreless, before Ward-Prowse pounced to superb effect.
But one brief lapse is often punished by this relentless City collective, and on a suffocatingly clammy afternoon in the London sunshine, things proved no different. Doku was a threat from the off, and turned the game on its head 43 seconds into the second half, running menacingly at Coufal before firing across Areola.
Silva gave the champions the lead for the first time with 14 minutes remaining, after latching onto a superbly inventive scooped pass from Alvarez, who once again thrived in a free-roaming role where he took up positions centrally, as well as out wide and deep.
His movement was exquisite, and a pair of assists – for Doku and Silva – was nothing short of the return his performance merited. “He’s undroppable,” Guardiola told reporters post-match, to reinforce the young Argentinian’s importance to the team in the absence of injured pairing Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish.
Then, just as the narrative began settling on Alvarez’s brilliance, Haaland wrestled back the spotlight by sweeping home Silva’s expert pick out on the break. Game over.
The Norwegian was denied at close range when getting on the end of Kyle Walker’s cross mere seconds earlier, but refused to be denied again, adding the gloss to yet another statement victory against stubborn opposition.
“We are used to it… defending the crown, game by game,” Guardiola neatly summarised.
West Ham: Areola (8), Coufal (7), Zouma (7), Aguerd (6), Emerson (6), Alvarez (7), Soucek (6), Bowen (6), Ward-Prowse (7), Paqueta (7), Antonio (6).
Subs: Kudus (6), Benrahma (6), Kehrer (n/a), Ings (n/a).
Manchester City: Ederson (7), Gvardiol (7), Dias (6), Akanji (7), Walker (8), Silva (7), Rodri (7), Doku (8), Alvarez (9), Foden (8), Haaland (7).
Subs: Nunes (6), Gomez (6), Ake (6), Lewis (n/a), Bobb (n/a).
Player of the match: Julian Alvarez
Guardiola praises ‘incredible’ Doku
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola:
“West Ham had many more chances in the second half – but we created against a team that defended so deep. We created so much in the 90 minutes, I’m so proud of the team.
“A great win for us, and for the [injury] problems we have in the squad – it doesn’t matter for us. The guys always respond well.
“We spoke in the half-time, don’t be afraid of the result, because you’re playing really well. We were lucky to score the goal immediately [after half-time], but after that we had to be patient.
“Jeremy (Doku), when I was in Barcelona, I have a feeling he played a little bit shy. That’s normal when you arrive, and only have two or three days training. But [on Saturday], no. Today [Saturday] was a quality winger. From the first minute incredible, great determination, he arrived many times to the byline – many good things he did.
“We thought the quality was there and today he started to prove it.”
Moyes: We did a ‘brilliant’ job
West Ham manager David Moyes:
“A lot of games have had a lot of similarities. It’s small margins in football. To be fair, early season ones have gone for us. Today [Saturday] we played against a top team. I liked bits of the performance, and bits I didn’t like.
“The players did a brilliant job in the main – we tried to create chances and make it difficult. You have to be clinical against Man City and you can’t afford to make mistakes. We should have dealt with their first goal much better.
“You have to be well organised because they’re going to have most of the ball. It’s the best we’ve played with the ball against City. I’m not disappointed by how we played.”
How the match played out
Analysis: Alvarez shining in light of City’s injury troubles
Sky Sports’ Laura Hunter:
Pep Guardiola was animated on the touchline pre-match. He moaned post-match. It was reminiscent of the classic ramblings of a manager who wants to make a point about the football calendar. He only named eight substitutes at West Ham – two were goalkeepers. Four games in and the schedule, off the back of last week’s international commitments, is apparently taking its toll.
Gruelling as it is, a club as moneyed as Manchester City should be able to cope with a player or two on the sidelines.
It just so happens that City’s treatment room contains the best playmaker in the Premier League – Kevin De Bruyne – and there is no obvious replacement for his wonderfully abundant talent. Jack Grealish is unavailable too. Enter Julian Alvarez.
Not the same mould of player, nor the same established and accepted notoriety, but boy is the 23-year-old Argentina international grabbing his opportunity with two obliging hands. His close control, vision and range of passing at the London Stadium was breathtaking – outshining any other on the pitch.
Jeremy Doku was the ball carrier, and Alvarez pulled the strings from then on. In and around the box he was a menace, prompting his manager to dub him “undroppable” after the game (in between jibes at the congested schedule).
There has been clamour for Phil Foden to play more of a central role for City, in the absence of De Bruyne – no need, Alvarez finds the pockets just as well. His mischievous intent is a joy to watch.
Opta: City’s maestros rise to occasion
- After failing to register an assist in 31 appearances in the Premier League last season, Julian Alvarez has recorded three assists in five games this term.
- Bernardo Silva both scored and assisted in a match for the 11th time for Manchester City – he has been directly involved in 112 goals in all competitions for the club, with an equal split for goals and assists (56 each).
- Jeremy Doku became the fourth Belgian to score a Premier League goal for Manchester City, after Emile Mpenza, Vincent Kompany and Kevin De Bruyne.
West Ham’s next game is at home to Backa Topola on Thursday as they begin their Europa League campaign – kick-off 8pm.
The Hammers then travel to Liverpool as they return to Premier League action on September 24 – kick-off 2pm.
Manchester City’s next outing is at home to Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday as they begin the defence of their Champions League title – kick-off 8pm.
City are then back in Premier League action at home to Nottingham Forest on Saturday – kick-off 3pm.