Manchester City got their season off to the perfect start as they thrashed West Ham at the London Stadium. A Raheem Sterling hat-trick was added to by goals from Gabriel Jesus and a twice taken penalty by Sergio Aguero as City responded in style to Liverpool’s 4-1 win on Friday night.
Much has been made of last season’s runners-up and after the Mersey Reds put four past newly promoted Norwich last night, the pressure was already on City to respond. And they did just that in style. Gabriel Jesus gave City the lead in the first half, and Sterling doubled it early in the second half, before VAR ruled out a third City goal. Sterling eventually made it 3-0 before City were awarded a penalty, which again VAR had a hand in, before the England winger made it five.
It is a big statement of intent from the team, who have now made it 15 League wins in a row, and they did it as they left Bernardo Silva and Aguero on the bench, alongside new signing Joao Cancelo, while Leroy Sane is out injured.
To be fair to West Ham, it didn’t look like that sort of scoreline would be possible after a first half display from the Hammers made City look a little ordinary. Before Jesus scored, West Ham were the better side, and their supporters will feel a little aggrieved that they conceded while they were on top.
Kyle Walker was selected over new boy Cancelo and the England defender showed why he should be first choice at right back as he raced down the wing and crossed for Gabriel Jesus to score the first goal of the new campaign. It initially looked like an own goal, but replays showed it was the Brazilian who got the final touch.
That goal dampened the Hammers spirits and City should have had a second goal on the stroke of half time, but Jesus failed to take advantage of some slack defender and fired into the arms of a grateful Fabianski.
City were clearly not at their best in the first half, but all that changed within six minutes of the restart. Kevin de Bruyne, who missed much of last season through injury, showed he is getting back to his best by feeding Sterling to make it 2-0. Ninety seconds later, City had the ball in the back of the net again as West Ham started to capitulate, but the goal was ruled out after a VAR check, with Sterling’s left arm adjudged to be offside.
The decision inspired the Hammers fans, who raised their voices in the hopes it would lift the team and it did briefly. Issa Diop’s header landed on the roof of the net and Ederson made a superb double save from Javier Hernandez and Lanzini as the Hammers threatened to get back into the match.
Their fire was finally extinguished two minutes later as Sterling made the game safe, with an excellent finish from Riyad Mahrez’s through ball. The decision again went to VAR, but this time, the goal stood.
The blues were heading towards their three points of the season and another big win at the home of the Hammers when Diop brought down Mahrez in the area. The referee seemed to take an age to point to the spot and again VAR was brought in and confirmed the penalty. Aguero stepped up to take it and, although his spot-kick was saved by Fabianski, VAR intervened again and ordered the kick to be retaken as the keeper failed to keep both feet on the line. Not to be denied again, Aguero made no mistake and made it 4-0.
With the London Stadium emptying rapidly of home supporters, there was still enough time for Sterling to grab the new season’s first hat-trick in injury time, after being fed again by the energetic Mahrez.
VAR Will Take Some Getting Used To – And So Will The New Laws
It was controversial in it’s use during the Women’s World Cup and VAR in the Premier League is really going to take some getting used to. In the fist half at London Stadium, it was quick to determine that The Hammers would not be awarded a penalty when Lanzini went down under a challenge from Zinchenko.
And it was correct in calling Sterling offside for the disallowed third goal, even if the laws may have got it wrong. Sterling’s arm had strayed into an offside position, despite his whole body being onside, and those sort of decisions will be talked about throughout the next nine months. Thankfully on this occasion, it didn’t cost City, but there may come a time when it will.
Many of the VAR checks were done quickly, and were over within seconds, but seemed to be used on every occasion, not just looking for clear and obvious errors. If that’s a tend that continues, we’re going to see a lot of injury time added on, particularly when the so called ‘big six’ teams play each other and more decisions are being contested.
Today, it worked for and against City, but how many times it will balance itself out like that remains to be seen.
The blues host Spurs next Saturday which is a 1730 kick off.