Saturday 23 September 2017

Silva the conductor as City hit high notes to put Bilic in firing line

West Ham United 0 Manchester 5

Slaven Bilic: hammered. Photo: Reuters
Slaven Bilic: hammered. Photo: Reuters

Sam Wallace

Last year in their final season at Upton Park, West Ham did the FA Cup in style with a quarter-final draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford followed by a familiar kind of glorious defeat in the replay, but this time they cut to the chase and went straight to defeat.

This was not the one-sided demolition that the English FA or the broadcasters who pay so handsomely for the rights to the oldest domestic cup competition in the world envisaged as the opening all-Premier League salvo of the 2016-'17 third round.

Pep Guardiola's side were superb in their control of the game and a passing style which West Ham could not live with but what a woeful showing from the home team.

There was none of the old sentiment for the competition from Slaven Bilic's team with a performance that suggested their minds were on other things.

That will surely be the visit of Crystal Palace in a week's time which is the kind of game Bilic will want to lose even less than this one. It was strange, then, that he brought in Dimitri Payet and Mark Noble when the game was already lost.

There was no doubt about its importance of the match to Guardiola who picked a very strong side indeed with Sergio Aguero back in the line-up and the scorer of the fourth goal.

David Silva was the conductor of this sparkling performance although his manager needed him for less than an hour. Raheem Sterling was a direct attacker who kept West Ham's defence on the back foot.

It all began with a brief moment of injustice when the home support thought they might have seen something wrong with Michael Oliver's decision to award a penalty against Angelo Ogbonna for a clumsy collision with Pablo Zabaleta.

By the end of the half, any notion of rebellion had been crushed out of them with three goals from the away side and the FA Cup over for another season.

City worked hard on passing the ball and West Ham obliged by giving them the space to do it and the consequence was three goals by half-time.

The first came when, after Silva had played him in, the referee ruled that Zabaleta was fouled. Yaya Toure was second-guessed by Adrian but the Ivorian hit the penalty kick hard enough to put it out of the reach of the goalkeeper.

Sofiane Feghouli missed an absolute 'sitter' for West Ham shortly afterwards and worse followed for the Hammers when Harvard Nordtveit put the ball into his own net after Bacary Sagna had first exchanged passes with Silva and then Aguero before crossing the ball for Sterling as he arrived in the box. The Norwegian got there first and did the job for City.

Maestro

Two minutes later, City broke down the right wing again, Aguero playing in Sterling and the Englishman picking out Silva. There is no one cooler than this little maestro to finish the kind of chances that come at point-blank range.

When at last Bilic decided to send on the cavalry - the cavalry being Payet and Noble - they passed Silva on his way off.

His job for the night was already done, Guardiola had judged, and the little playmaker was clocking off , having played a full and active role in the destruction.

Aguero scored the fourth goal, lifting the ball beautifully over Adrian from close range with the outside of his foot when Toure's shot reached him in the area.

You could tell by the way that the City players celebrated that this was starting to be enjoyable in the way that turkey shoots can be.

John Stones added to West Ham's misery with a good header direct from a corner from substitute Nolito, with the ball crossing the line before Noble could scoop it out. It was a dreadful end to the night for West Ham, who got what they deserved. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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