Jeremy Doku scored his first goal as Manchester City came from behind to beat a West Ham side determined to end the blues 100% start to the season.
Doku struck within the first seconds of the second half after the blues trailed at the break to a James Ward-Prowse goal. Bernardo Silva scored his firs of the season and Erling Haaland scored his 7th as City returned to the top of the Premier League table.
The blues had something of an injury crisis going into the match, with Mateo Kovacic joining Kevin de Bruyne, Jack Grealish and John Stones on the sidelines. Manager Pep Guardiola, taking his place on the bench for the first time since his back surgery, named two keepers on the bench as the blues struggled for matchday personnel.
The Hammers had been in great form so far and had taken the lead in every match they’d played, drawing one and winning three of their opening four fixtures. This was only West Ham’s second home match of the season, and, after confidently dispatching Chelsea, David Moyes’ side went into the match with the belief that they could end City’s perfect start to the season.
And, despite the blues having 17 shots before the interval and Haaland missing a couple of glorious chances, it was the home side that took the lead. The match had already been pretty much end-to-end, with the Hammers looking to hit City on the counter, and a couple of times it almost paid off.
But it was City that had most of the possession so, when Doku lost possession, it was completely against the run of play that the Hammers scored. Vladimir Coufal was allowed to charge forward and the defence lost track of the run by Ward-Prowse. Coufal picked him out brilliantly and the former Southampton man’s diving header beat Ederson to find the back of the goal.
It was disappointing for the blues to go in 1-0 down at the break, but, whatever Guardiola said to them at half-time, seemed to do the trick.
Just 43 seconds into the second half, City were level and it was a fantastic solo goal from new boy Doku. Taking a pass on the left wing, Doku charged into the box and got between two defenders, before firing the keeper to make it 1-1.
From there, it was all City as they looked to take the lead for the first time in the match. They continued to dominate and were a coat of paint away from taking the lead as Julian Alvarez hit the post to keep the score level. Rodri then chipped the ball over the Hammers defence and Haalan’s acrobatic strike was palmed away by the keeper
City keeper Ederson pulled off a magnificent save to deny Kurt Zouma, but a second goal was coming and when it did, it was from a piece of deft skill from Silva. The midfielder ghosted between two defenders to take a lofted pass from Alvarez and, with the keeper advancing, the Portuguese star managed to dink a chip into the far corner.
To their credit, the Hammers continued to attack City and could have equalised before Haaland made the game safe with four minutes to go, and showed just how lethal City can be on the break. A ball out of defence found Alvarez in space and the Argentine star found Haaland, who took a couple of touches before hammering home the third.
It was billed as City’s biggest test to date in the Premier League, and, with a tough October to come, with matches against Brighton and Arsenal, it was a necessary result to keep the blues top of the table.
Haaland Frustrated, Doku Showing Quality and Patient City
It looked not being Erling Haaland’s day. The striking Viking missed an absolute sitter with the score at 0-0, then saw a weak shot cleared off the line as the blues searched from an equaliser. And, when he did get his shots on target, he found Hammers keeper Alphonse Areola on a one-man-mission to deny the striker his 7th goal of the season.
Twice in the second half, Areola denied Haaland and the City man must have been wondering what he had to do to score. Thankfully, the Norwegian wasn’t to be denied a goal, firing across Areola in the 86th minute to make the game safe.
Haaland was a revelation for City last season and continues to be, however, the blues may well have uncovered a gem of a winger in Jeremy Doku. The Belgian star was a constant threat down the left-hand side and his pace and skill caused the Hammers all sorts of problems.
And his goal gave a demonstration of just what the winger can do. Attacking the West Ham defence, Doku just kept on running and got himself in between two defenders and curled the ball into the far corner.
It was a great finish by the youngster, who not only demonstrated calm and composure when on the ball, but also has the confidence to attack, take on defenders and take his chances when they arrive. Once he gets in sync with Haaland which, on the basis of Saturday’s performance won’t be long, Premier League sides will have a new threat to worry about.
Doku seems to have already discovered how to be patient in this City team. There were no rushed passes or rash challenges, he simply fitted into the City way of doing things.
The blues were their usual, patient self, pouring forward and waiting for their chance. The Hammers set up well at the back and set up to thwart the blues where they could, but, like many teams before them, they took their eye off the ball for one second. And that’s where City can hit you hard.
In a move that resembled the Champions League final, Silva was allowed time to pick out a pass inside the penalty area. The Hammers dealt with the cut back but failed to deal with the loose ball. The result was an incredible chip inside the area by Alvarez, which outfoxed the Hammers defence and released Silva. The Portuguese still had work to do, but had the awareness to dink the ball over the keeper.
Finally, West Ham’s resistance was broken.
And, to epitomise City patience, Haaland finished off a breakaway move to calmly finish past his adversary, who had denied him twice in the second half. It was a firm demonstration of how City don’t panic, even at 1-0 down, and are able to turn a game around.
Where once passes were hurried, now they are timed. Where once they blues looked to pass the ball into the goal, they are shooting on sight. Manager Pep Guardiola has once again revolutionised the blues.
And that can only spell bad news for the Premier League.