The first Premier League winter break allowed batteries to be recharged and aching limbs to be rested as an epic few weeks loom on the horizon in the guise of four different competitions in 11 days.
Persistence pays for City
City totally dominated the first-half with scant reward for their efforts.
Gabriel Jesus – on another day – could have had a couple of goals after being put clear inside the box, but on each occasion he hesitated a fraction to long and the Hammers survived.
There were strong shouts for a penalty of 19 minutes as Sergio Aguero was played through by the impressive David Silva only for the offside flag to be raised as Arthur Masuaku appeared to pull the Argentine back – replays suggested he wasn’t offside and a penalty and possibly a red card could have been awarded.
Despite the numerous chances City created through intricate passing and crosses into the box, the breakthrough – thoroughly deserved – came from a corner as Kevin De Bruyne’s cross was glanced across the box by Rodrigo into the far corner of the West Ham net.
The second half was again dominated by City, but it was another 18 minutes after the re-start before the lead was finally doubled – and it was a peach of a goal, too.
De Bruyne, probing on the edge of the West Ham box, played a short pass into the feet of Bernardo who instinctively played a reverse ball into space and at speed, De Bruyne arrived to drill home his eighth of the season from the corner of the six-yard box.
Sweet 16 for KDB
The Belgian goal-maker was impressive throughout, mixing industry with skill like few other top players can.
And since his City debut in 2016, only Lionel Messi has created more goals in Europe’s top five divisions – 62 to KDB’s 61 – quite a stat.
Time ticking on El Mago’s City career
Watching David Silva glide effortlessly around the pitch against West Ham, orchestrating and setting the tenor as he has consistently done for almost a decade makes it all the harder to think we will only be watching our No.21 for another three months or so.
He came close to assisting three goals in the first 20 minutes and, along with De Bruyne, was a constant thorn in the Hammers’ side.
Let’s hope he gets the chance to lift some silverware in the months that remain – as captain – he deserved nothing less.
Man of the Match: Kevin De Bruyne
Typical masterclass from the brilliant Belgian.
What it means…
With the game against third-placed Leicester City to come on Saturday, City’s win over West Ham has opened up a vital four-point gap between the two teams.
Brendan Rodgers’ side represents a stiff test for City ahead of the Champions League Round of 16 first leg with Real Madrid four days later.
It also allows Pep Guardiola to keep one or two of his stellar cast fresh – if he sees fit – for the trip to the Bernabeu.
City travel to the King Power Stadium for the Saturday early evening clash with Leicester City.
The game kicks off at 5.30pm.
Then it’s off to Madrid ahead of the Carabao Cup final with Aston Villa and FA Cup tie at Sheffield Wednesday at the start of March.
Stats and milestones
- City have now won the last eight Premier League fixtures against West Ham, scoring 25 goals and conceding only three.
- The Hammers have failed to win their last six games, taking just two points from a possible 15.
- The 10 goals West Ham have scored away from home this campaign is the second worst in the division after Norwich City.
- Kevin De Bruyne has now assisted 16 Premier League goals this season.