The hymns of protest are already in pregnancy. “UEFA cartel” See you in court “and – because their fans see enemies everywhere -” Uefa mafia were among the banners on Wednesday evening.
But for fleeting moments at the very least, the anger could melt away and some of the big players gathered within these shores could show how cunning Manchester City spent the now disputed money.
One of the most spectacular responses was for someone signed for £ 7.2 million, in simpler days 12 years ago when the prospect of a two-season ban for Manchester City seemed misleading. Pablo Zabaleta, a replacement for West Ham, was an integral part of City’s amazing journey.
The players from Manchester City are celebrating after taking the lead against West Ham during the game on Wednesday-evening in Etihad
Aymeric Laporte stretches to try to reach the ball, but Rodri had already led it into the West Ham net for the opener
Kevin De Bruyne shoots a shot low and hard into the back of the goal of West Ham to double the advantage of his side on the Etihad
The Belgian points to the supporters of the city behind the goal as he drives off to celebrate his strike on Wednesday evening
PLAYER REVIEWS, MATCHING FACTS AND LEADING TABLE
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson 6; Walker 6.5, Otamendi 6.5, Laporte 6.5 (Stones 65 6), Mendy 5.5; De Bruyne 8 (Gundogan 78 5.5), Rodrigo 5.5, D Silva 7.5 (Foden 84); Aguero 6.5, Jesus 5.5, B. Silva 7
Subs not used: Bravo, Fernandinho, Mahrez, Cancelo, Foden
goals: Rodri 30, De Bruyne 62
Manager: Pep Guardiola 6.5
West Ham (5-4-1): Fabianski 7; Fredericks 7 (Zabaleta 60 6), Diop 4.5, Ogbonna 5.5, Cresswell 6, Masuaku 5; Snodgrass 5.5, Rice 6, Noble 6, Soucek 5; Antonio 5
Subs not used: Randoplgh Balbuena, Anderson, Lanzini, Bowen, Haller
Manager: David Moyes 5.5
Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire) 6
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Series a
- La Liga
There was also Kevin de Bruyne, anchor and architect of one of those regulatory victories here. From him, a goal and assist of artistry, to erase all current problems. Pep Guardiola’s side had entered the game after consecutive defeats – against Tottenham in the Premier League and Manchester United in the Carabao Cup – but any suggestion of further drama was quickly swept away.
A Champions League clash with Real Madrid was the opportunity that City really needed, five days after the seismic UEFA announcement that brought their future into such a state of uncertainty. That is the occasion when the club can make a statement that goes beyond everything their executives have to say on City’s media channels. Winning the Champions League – the only trophy that escaped them: that is the ultimate response.
A re-arranged arrangement against a side with as little ambition as West Ham was a little more prosaic. It cannot be said that every home seat was taken for the occasion and because road fans left a large part of their allocation unused, the stadium was not exactly the scene of an uprising.
There was fleeting evidence of the deep feeling around this place that the city is the victim of a conspiracy. “The singing of f *** UEFA” sounded at half an hour. The name of Guardiola and the reminder that the fans are here City until they die seem to take on a deeper meaning. But the first half sometimes felt like a training routine for the fragile defense of five men by David Moyes.
Supporters of Manchester City protest against their ban on European football imposed by UEFA prior to the kick-off
Pep Guardiola has a conversation with David Moyes, manager of West Ham, while they prepare for a confrontation with the Etihad
Gabriel Jesus rejected an early opportunity to advance City during the rescheduled game against West Ham
Angelo Ogbonna shields the ball from Kevin De Bruyne while the Manchester City midfielder tries to win it
Sergio Aguero wanted a penalty after apparently being dragged to the ground by Ogbonna in the West Ham box
It would have helped to launch a revolution if Gabriel had shown Jesus a sharper lead. Twice in the first 20 minutes, David Silva’s miraculous artistry seemed to have set him on his way, but he dived on both occasions, first with Ryan Fredericks and then with Aaron Creswell who could intervene and solve the danger. The vulnerability of Issa Diop on both occasions was not good for Moyes and his team.
The return of Lucasz Fabianski offers some certainty. He shifted his weight well to save Kevin de Bruyne’s shot with his left foot early. But City led the way with easy inevitability when Rodro’s flaming header from a corner of De Bruyne, running from far outside the six-yard box, threw in the net just before the upcoming Aymeric Laporte got a foot on it.
The West Ham sorties with City’s six-yard box were desperately rare, even when they fell behind. No one was moved far enough to meet Michail Antonio’s fast low ball over the area in the final phase of the first half. The course of the night did not diminish the deep skepticism of West Ham fans about the way their club is run.
Guardiola did not deny that UEFA’s decision had been a source of shock. “The first moment was impact,” he said in his first comments on the subject last night. “But after a few hours we can no longer exercise control [it]. We support the club 100 percent. Now we focus on what we have to do. We are just trying to play our games. The players are exceptional professionals. Hopefully [the fans] can help us from here to the end of the season. We have to play for the people here. ”
Guardiola protests alongside fourth official Mike Dean after Aguero did not receive the referee’s decision
City did take the lead when the first half was delivered thanks to Rodri’s near-post flick-on from a corner on the left
Laporte made no contact with the ball, causing it to bounce off the post, giving Rodri the opening goal at the Etihad
Rodri takes the compliments of his City teammates after his important intervention in the first half of the game
City mascot Moonchester and West Ham’s Hammerhead race around the field during the break in Wednesday’s game
De Bruyne has demonstrated that more than anyone. In the five years since he made his Premier League debut for City, only Lionel Messi has more assists than the Belgian in the top five of European competitions. Disregard city administrators and lawyers and the UEFA jury room and a profound truth remains about this extraordinary era in their history: they have bought smartly and De Bruyne is the best proof of the fact.
It was he who doubled the lead, exchanged passes with Bernardo Silva on the right side of the box, then re-located the Portuguese in penalty area before he rushed forward to take the ball from his toe to score.
The fact that West Ham did not register a scintilla of threat was shocking to see. Another ball over the area was about equally good in the second half for a side that was still rooted in the bottom four. Once at the back, the side had nothing to lose, but still nothing to offer.
In the end, a jubilant Guardiola hugged his players, although the truth is staring him in the face: there are much larger demons to confront than West Ham.
Declan Rice challenges Rodri to the ball while the second half of the Premier League clash warms up at Etihad Stadium
Aaron Cresswell and Bernardo Silva watch while Lukasz Fabianski does not come down and rescues De Bruyne’s strike
De Bruyne is embraced by Bernardo Silva after helping City finish the win against the struggling West Ham at Etihad
Jarrod Bowen came in as a replacement in the second half to make his West Ham debut after his move from Hull City in January
Guardiola thanks De Bruyne as he replaces him after the brilliant midfielder performance for City on Wednesday