Stones strikes against West Ham as Manchester City make it 20 in a row
John Stones is enjoying the season of his career as he illustrated via an emphatic strike that took Manchester City to a 20th consecutive victory.
If Riyad Mahrez’s feet bedazzled West Ham’s defence to create the opening to find him, then Stones instantaneous shot that burst Darren Randolph’s net was supreme. This came on 68 minutes and was the centre-back’s fourth of the campaign. It also means that West Ham’s winless run against City stretches to 12 matches and Pep Guardiola’s irresistible side are now unbeaten in 27.
Guardiola had shuffled his pack to give Sergio Agüero a fourth start of an injury-blighted season, the 32-year-old yet to complete 90 minutes, with Kevin De Bruyne also selected: the first time in 12 months both featured in a league XI.Advertisementhttps://0e1e7ed95c22761a6d0170a05ca3fe0a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
While João Cancelo, Rodrigo, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus were replacements, David Moyes made two changes from the win over Tottenham: Randolph made a second league appearance – for Lukasz Fabianski – and Ben Johnson, who would prove nervy, replaced Jarrod Bowen.
West Ham could be pleased with a beginning that featured Ederson selling Fernandinho short near the penalty area before Tomas Soucek caught the captain. Now, though, City had an opening game of keep-ball. This ended with Agüero being slipped in by Oleksandr Zinchenko in the left channel.
The same player later swept a cross-field pass into Mahrez as he and the team found some rhythm.
This receded, though, as West Ham disrupted City and launched a dangerous attack. Jesse Lingard’s shot was parried by Ederson, Soucek turned this back towards Michail Antonio, he challenged with Ederson, the ball ricocheted to Lingard again, and Stones blocked his second effort. The central defender was once more the saviour when Pablo Fornals’ raking pass was headed away by him to prevent Antonio breaking clear.
When Zinchenko floated in a cross that Aaron Cresswell nodded out for a corner this was City’s first, with nearly 30 minutes gone: it would yield their opener. De Bruyne’s delivery was eventually returned and from the Belgian’s sweetly struck ball into the area, Rúben Dias rose to head beyond Randolph.
West Ham now had to contend with an opponent in total control. Zinchenko, Mahrez, Stones, Walker were a whir of blue who nudged the ball around expertly. The visitors lacked this attribute when Lingard’s pass came to Antonio square before Ederson: the striker shinned wide and Moyes blew out his cheeks in disappointment.
The manager was to feel the opposite emotion just before half-time as Agüero dawdled, Declan Rice mugged him, possession went to Vladimir Coufal, and his cross from the right was hit by Lingard then in by the lurking Antonio.
This was the first time City had conceded at home since a Dias own goal in the 1-1 draw with West Brom on 15 December. That was also the last occasion Guardiola’s side failed to win.
De Bruyne, despite his assist, was finding his radar awry. A misplaced pass presaged Antonio claiming a corner and the midfielder’s next ball was wild, too. But, his class was evident when he slalomed into the area and rolled a cross beyond Randolph that Agüero was inches away from.https://www.theguardian.com/email/form/plaintone/the-fiverThe Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.
This was the latter’s last action as Jesus replaced the Argentinian for the final half an hour before being followed by Foden five minutes later.
Stones struck soon after and City were able to soak up late Hammers pressure and escaped when Issa Diop missed with a close-range header, Soucek unable to scramble home. Next up for Guardiola’s winning machine are Wolves, here on Tuesday.
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