Pep talks to BT Sport. “Being fourth in the table means a lot … they have quality with Lingard and Fornals … after 50 minutes we knew we were not going to paint something beautiful … it was all about getting the three points … after the Champions League game with just two days, it’s normal these kind of things happen.” Which is pretty much the same point regarding scheduling that Jurgen Klopp made at Brighton back in November, albeit more sarcastically. Des Kelly lets it slide this time.
The match-winner John Stones gives “a lot of credit” to West Ham. “Their position in the table speaks for itself … we’re really satisfied … we weren’t at our free-flowing football, but that’s how they set up against us … some days it doesn’t come off for the forwards, and today me and Ruben chipped in … we’re just glad to keep this winning run going.”
That result puts Manchester City 13 points clear (62) of Manchester United and Leicester (49) at the top. West Ham remain in fourth (45) but will be usurped by Chelsea (43) tomorrow if Thomas Tuchel’s honeymoon continues with a win at Stamford Bridge over Manchester United.
FULL TIME: Manchester City 2-1 West Ham United
City win their 20th game in a row! But they were made to work hard for it by an impressive West Ham side.
90 min +4: A huge chance for West Ham! Lingard drives down the inside-right channel and curls towards Diop, who has found space between Stones and Dias! Diop heads wide right when he surely should have scored. What a miss.
90 min +3: Bowen bursts down the left and is unceremoniously checked by Fernandinho, who is booked as a result.
90 min +2: Jesus clumsily bowls Lingard to the floor, and it’s another chance for West Ham to throw something into the City box. Lingard swings it in. Ederson claims, and Soucek had fouled Stones in any case. Free kick.
90 min +1: West Ham win a corner down the right, but do nothing with it.
86 min: Benrahma and Lingard combine to bust out of a tight spot on the left. Lingard dribbles infield and is brought down by Fernandinho. Free kick in a very dangerous position.
84 min: A double change for West Ham, Bowen and Benrahma coming on for Antonio and Johnson. They’ll go four at the back for the last few minutes as they chase the equaliser.
82 min: Foden wins a corner down the left and takes it himself. Randolph punches clear under pressure. West Ham are beginning to tire, having put in quite the shift.
81 min: City continue to do their thing. Activity on the West Ham bench, but they can’t do anything while the hosts stroke it about.
79 min: Mahrez shoots. It’s deflected out for a corner. Nothing comes of it, but City are in complete control now. Twenty in a row is very much on. What’s left to conquer for City in the Premier League? Stuart Arden has an idea: “Never mind the midfielders, perhaps Pep’s next team will be entirely built from centre backs.”
77 min: City draw a little of the sting from the game, stroking it around in the sterile fashion.
74 min: … but the keeper stays down, having taken a whack to the ribcage. City will hope he’s just winded, but on come the physios.
73 min: A free kick for West Ham out on the right. Lingard sends a garryowen into the City box. Ederson does extremely well to leap and claim under pressure from Dawson.
72 min: As things stand, City will go 13 points clear of neighbours United at the top.
70 min: West Ham have been magnificent, City slightly under par. But look at the scoreline. Never mind the obvious quality: what moxie this Manchester City side possesses!
GOAL! Manchester City 2-1 West Ham United (Stones 68)
Dawson half-clears Mahrez’s corner. City recycle. Zinchenko slips Mahrez into space down the right. Mahrez twists Johnson’s blood, then pulls back for Stones, who sweeps majestically into the bottom left! Beautifully worked!
67 min: Jesus and Foden hassle Coufal down the City left. Coufal is forced to handle. Free kick. Foden loops it in. Coufal eyebrows it out for a corner on the right.
65 min: Pep makes his second tweak to the slightly misfiring City machine. Torres is replaced by Foden.
64 min: West Ham come at City on the counter again, Lingard nearly releasing Coufal down the right. Yet again the final ball is lacking; yet again City were backpedalling in a panic. This is a really impressive performance by West Ham.
63 min: City knock it around, but West Ham are set firm. City need a spark. They’re missing the free-jazz stylings of Cancelo.
61 min: Pep blinks first. Off goes the ring-rusty Aguero, on comes Jesus.
60 min: Torres drifts in from the left and sets a curler towards the top right. Diop blocks bravely. Randolph was at full stretch, preparing to tip round, so hopefully that’s a positive sign regarding any injury.
58 min: So close at both ends! Torres gives the ball away cheaply to Fornals, who advances into the City box, over-elaborates, then nearly finds Soucek on the penalty spot. City break through De Bruyne, who strides magnificently down the left, enters the West Ham area, and whistles a come-and-tap-me-in ball through the six-yard area. Nobody there. This is a great game!
56 min: Lingard fizzes down the middle, with Soucek to his left and Antonio to his right. He can’t quite find the defence-splitting pass, but he continues to impress. He’s looked on top of his game since joining on loan from Manchester United.
55 min: A bit of space for Walker down the inside-right channel. He decides to roll the dice from distance, but drags a low shot well wide left.
54 min: West Ham look very comfortable at the moment. But of course we’ve been here before.
52 min: The corner is a complete waste of time, hoicked miles over Dawson’s head, and West Ham’s big men race back to their positions.
51 min: Antonio spins Walker elegantly down the left and wins a corner off the City full-back. A chance for West Ham to load the box with the big lads.
50 min: A pause in play as Randolph receives treatment. He looks to have pulled something while taking a goal kick. He’s good to continue for now, but he doesn’t look particularly comfortable and Martin warms up, just in case.
48 min: Lingard turns on the jets and romps down the inside-left channel. Fernandinho blocks him beautifully on the edge of the box. Had that been mistimed by so much as a millisecond, it’d have been a penalty. As it was, that’s a sensational defensive challenge.
47 min: City are on the front foot quickly, Mahrez sweeping a cross in from the right. Randolph sees it out for a goal kick without drama.
City get the second half underway. They’ve got 45 minutes to keep this absurd winning run of theirs going. No changes.
Your half-time chores. Make cup of tea, eat snack, visit the Little Room, ablute, subscribe to occasionally mildly amusing tea-time email. Be about your business!
HALF TIME: Manchester City 1-1 West Ham United
City have been imperious in patches, but West Ham have also been excellent, resolute in defence and lively in attack. The visitors deserve to be level, and a 20th win on the bounce is by no means a shoo-in for the league leaders. An exciting second half awaits!
45 min: West Ham have City on the run again, hectically scuttling backwards as Lingard and Antonio launch a quick counter attack. Lingard picks the wrong pass, or Antonio makes the wrong run, depending on which way you read it. Whatever, the move peters out.
GOAL! Manchester City 1-1 West Ham United (Antonio 43)
You know what, this had been coming. West Ham play City at their own game, pressing high up the pitch. They win the ball and slip wide right for Coufal, who is in acres. Coufal crosses low. Lingard flicks towards the bottom left, where Antonio is on hand to trundle in from a yard or two. West Ham deserve this!
42 min: Lingard probes down the right, with City again on the back foot. He can’t find the killer pass, but he’s been really lively this afternoon.
40 min: It’s possible, had Antonio scored, that VAR would have fingered Lingard for being a shade offside. But it would have been close, and the naked eye sees nothing these days.