Trophy Kings Conquer Hammers
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 11 Aug 2019 16:02:00
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Last season, West Ham United lost their first four Premier League games and unfortunately, it wasn't the best start for them in Saturday's early kick-off either as the 2019/20 campaign opened with a 5-0 defeat to reigning Champions Manchester City in Stratford.

Sébastien Haller was the only summer recruit to start the match, as Manuel Pellegrini named goalkeeper Roberto Jiménez Gago and midfielder Pablo Fornals on the bench. There was also a long-awaited return to the matchday eighteen for Carlos Sánchez after a serious injury kept him out for the majority of the last campaign.

Regular skipper Mark Noble missed the encounter due to a thigh strain, meaning that defender Aaron Cresswell took the armband in his absence.

As it always is, the atmosphere in the stadium was electric before kick-off and the general play from the Hammers in the opening stages of the match certainly didn't dampen the crowds mood.

A tussle between Manuel Lanzini and City's record signing Rodrigo could have resulted in an early penalty for the hosts but the newly implemented VAR system confirmed that nothing was warranted.

The absence of the so often influential Leroy Sané due to a serious ligament injury meant that Riyad Mahrez got a rare chance in Josep Guardiola's starting line-up. Although he went close on two occasions, the visitors were still unable to break the deadlock. Firstly, Lukasz Fabianski was forced to make a decent save and the Pole was also untroubled by the follow-up as the effort was dragged wide.

The West Ham defence were holding their own but there's something that Guardiola's men seem to like about playing in East London and they soon got into their rhythm.

On twenty five minutes they went ahead as the dangerous Mahrez played in Kyle Walker, who got past Cresswell with considerable ease and Walker's powerful cross was blocked by Issa Diop. The deflection fell straight into the path of Gabriel Jesus who gave the visitors the lead in unfortunate circumstances for the home faithful.

The home side went in search of a quick equaliser but were thwarted when goalkeeper Ederson made a save from Haller's overhead kick.

Due to various hold-ups in the half, three minutes of stoppage time were added after which, both teams left the pitch and although they had conceded, the hosts would have felt rather aggrieved to be behind.

Before the action recommenced, Pellegrini decided to make a change, as Fornals entered the fray for Michail Antonio.

On 51 minutes Kevin De Bruyne received a great pass from Mahrez and the Belgian evaded the attentions of Fabián Balbuena and set up Raheem Sterling to make it two for last season's domestic treble winners.

Five minutes later, the Irons made another change as Robert Snodgrass was brought on in place of Jack Wilshire.

The biggest cheer of the afternoon from the large contingent of home fans went up after a third goal for City was deemed offside and was correctly ruled out.

The East Londoners then made their final change, as Javier Hernández was introduced, taking the place of Felipe Anderson.

Just as the visitors were building momentum, West Ham went close when Diop headed on a free-kick from Snodgrass but unfortunately he could only direct his effort over the bar.

Soon after, the home side brought two stupendous saves out of Ederson. Firstly, Hernández sent an effort towards goal which the visiting stopper somehow managed to keep out. He then prevented Lanzini from following up.

VAR went in favour of the away side on 75 minutes when they eventually got their third, as Sterling was on the end of another exquisite ball from Mahrez and the former Liverpool man chipped Fabianski to claim his second goal of the afternoon.

It was soon to get worse for the Hammers minutes later though, as the Citizens were awarded a penalty after Diop had fouled Mahrez. Substitute Sergio Agüero who had earlier been introduced in place of Jesus stepped up. The striker went for the bottom corner and thankfully for the home fans, Fabianski was equal to the effort. 

VAR intervened once again as encroachment from Declan Rice was spotted. Referee Mike Dean agreed, meaning the kick had to be retaken. Fabianski was out of luck this time however, as Agüero sent him the wrong way and increased his team's advantage.

There was still time for Sterling to complete his hat-trick before an awful day for West Ham was finally brought to an end.

Pellegrini will now look to get his team's season up and running with three points on the road next Saturday as they visit Brighton and Hove Albion.

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