West Ham 1 Manchester City 4: With a century of goals and a host of records set to tumble before the curtain falls on their title-winning campaign, Manchester City’s season continues to set new standards, which manager Pep Guardiola believes will mark them out as the best team in Premier League history.
West Ham United’s season, meanwhile, is at risk of falling apart.
The sense of resignation around the London Stadium was stark. The visit of the champions was always going to be daunting for David Moyes’ side, but having seen Southampton ignite their own efforts to climb out of the bottom three 24 hours earlier, the Hammers were at least expected to respond in more determined fashion.
Instead, they offered precious little resistance to a City side for whom the margin of victory could have been much greater. The lack of fight was galling for many home supporters, who had emptied the stadium long before the final whistle had confirmed a painfully one-sided victory that leaves West Ham just three points above the relegation places with three games left to play.
There was never any doubt Guardiola’s side would claim their 30th league victory of the season — equalling Chelsea’s Premier League record set last season — from the moment Leroy Sane’s 13th-minute shot was deflected past Hammers keeper Adrian in the 13th minute. That was City’s 99th league goal of the season and the 100th came quickly after, when Declan Rice and Pablo Zabaleta combined to turn Kevin de Bruyne’s low cross into their own net.
An Aaron Cresswell free-kick shortly before the interval should have provided the inspiration Moyes’ side needed to stage a second-half rally, but goals from Gabriel Jesus and Fernandinho ensured the game was seen out at walking pace and with City within one goal of Chelsea’s record of 103 in 2010. One more win and they will have 96 points, one more than the 95 points collected by Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side in 2005. With three games left, they need seven points to become the first side to finish a Premier League campaign with 100 points.
Guardiola knows his side is on the brink of becoming history-makers, but insists it is his team’s performances, not the numbers, that have made this season special.
“The team did well, a good performance and that’s why I’m delighted with what we have done today,” said the City manager. “I’m happy next Sunday we will receive the Premier League and have the chance to be the best team in history in England, the most points. We are going to try to do it next Sunday.”
“The numbers we have, and then the numbers will be broken and disappear. We didn’t celebrate the moment we were champions. We celebrated over 10 months, every time we played well and won. That is the reason why [we are champions]. Just being happy when you lift a title makes no sense. Numbers are facts, but the way we played... The numbers will be there if we achieve one more victory.”
While the Spaniard can afford to consider how his side can add more gloss to becoming champions, Moyes must wrestle with the task of gaining points from their remaining games that include a trip to Leicester City and home meetings with Manchester United and Everton.
He remains confident, though.
“I’m not as anxious as when I first came in, because we were in the bottom three then,” said the West Ham manager.
“The big job was to stay out of the bottom three. We have three games to go. In the main, our form here has been pretty good. I’m hoping one of those last two games will turn into points, and we’ll also go to Leicester. If we turn one of those into a win, I think we’ll be okay.”
Reflecting on the loss, he made it clear this was a game to forget. “They were far better than us,” he added. “Outstandingly good. We didn’t do well enough in anything we did, really, from the start.”
His assessment was accurate enough, though West Ham had a chance to work their way level towards the end of the first half. Marko Arnautovic was unfortunate to have an effort ruled out after catching Ederson, the City keeper in possession, shortly before Cresswell’s 41st-minute free-kick.
However, Raheem Sterling was operating at several levels above Moyes’ side and the England forward set up first Jesus and then Fernandinho for the second-half goals and was denied a clear penalty.
WEST HAM UNITED (3-5-2):
Adrian 6; Rice 5, Ogbonna 5, Evra 4 (Masuaku 65,6); Zabaleta 5, Noble 6, Kouyate 5, Fernandes 6 (Mario 65, 5), Cresswell 6; Lanzini 5 (Hernandez 65, 5), Arnautovic 5.
Trott, Carroll, Hugill, Cullen.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3):
Ederson 6; Walker 6 (Danilo 61, 6), Otamendi 6, Laporte 6, Delph 6; De Bruyne 7, Fernandinho 8, Gundogan 7 (Toure 71, 6); Sterling 9, Jesus 8 (Nmecha 79), Sane 7.
Bravo, Danilo, Silva, Mendy, mecha, Foden.
N Swarbrick 5
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