MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Aug 28, (AFP): Raheem Sterling struck twice and Fernandinho added another goal as Manchester City made it five wins in as many matches under the management of Pep Guardiola with a 3-1 victory at home to West Ham in the Premier League on Sunday.
Guardiola’s men made hard work of seeing off the Hammers at Eastlands before securing a win that left City top of the Premier League, on goal difference from Chelsea and Manchester United, who’ve also won their opening three matches in English football’s top-flight.
Having raced into an early, two-goal lead, a second-half header from West Ham’s Michail Antonio ensured City endured an anxious final half hour, a fact reflected in manager Guardiola’s growing frustration in his technical area, before Sterling scored his second goal in injury-time.
City scored twice in the opening 18 minutes although twice as many goals would not have flattered the home team, such was their complete domination at that stage of West Ham.
Indeed, Sterling’s opening goal in the seventh minute came from the fifth noteworthy attack of the game, a sign of what was to come in that period for Slaven Bilic’s hapless Hammers.
The goal was magnificently worked, David Silva showing great agility in midfield, slipping the ball through for winger Nolito who picked out Sterling with a magnificent drag back, allowing the England man to finish confidently from 12 yards.
That was the culmination of a frantic attacking opening from City and, while the goal perhaps took some of the intensity out of the home side’s play, it only seemed a matter of when — not if — they would score again
Fernandinho had the answer in the 18th minute, rising unmarked to meet a Kevin De Bruyne free-kick and head past Adrian from seven yards.
De Bruyne also just cleared the bar by inches with another free-kick from the corner of the visitors’ area.
The injury toll that has plagued West Ham in the early season, particularly the absence of playmaker Dimitri Payet, was obviously keenly felt with Willy Caballero — once more replacing Joe Hart who was on City’s bench — a virtual spectator.
West Ham’s first meaningful sight of goal, after half an hour, found Gokhan Tore picking out young forward Ashley Fletcher, whose header flew harmlessly wide.
City’s next attack was stunning — De Bruyne to Nolito to Silva to De Bruyne — and should have brought a third goal as the Belgian’s shot was deflected behind for a corner.
After the restart, Nolito had the ball in the net only for the ‘goal’ to be ruled out for offside and the same player came close with a shot into the side netting after yet another dangerous De Bruyne free-kick was only half-cleared.
Middlesbrough 0, West Brom 0
In West Bromwich, West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough scrapped their way to a goalless draw in a Premier League game of few chances at The Hawthorns on Sunday.
The point apiece saw newly-promoted Boro climb into sixth place, with West Brom moving up to tenth in the table.
But this was a match to tax even the patience of the most loyal supporters, with visitors Boro not managing a shot on target until 17 minutes from time and the Baggies offering little more in attack.
The draw was some consolation for West Brom after they were knocked out of the EFL Cup on penalties by third-tier in Northampton on midweek, but Sunday’s match helped explained why Baggies manager Tony Pulis has been calling for several new players to join his squad by the close of the transfer window on Wednesday.
West Brom manufactured something close to an early chance when James McClean saw an 11th-minute effort smothered by Boro goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Salomon Rondon, West Brom’s record £12 million ($16 million, 14 million euros) buy, then headed two half-chances well wide.
Meanwhile Alvaro Negredo ploughed a lonely furrow up front for Boro.
Eight minutes before half-time, a rare attack by either side saw Brendan Galloway, making his Premier League debut for Albion after a loan move from Everton, produce a low save from Guzan.
But it was a far from threatening effort and Gaston Ramirez replied in kind early in the second half before the Baggies’ Craig Dawson headed wide of the target.
P W D L GF GA Pts
Man City 3 3 0 0 9 3 9
Chelsea 3 3 0 0 7 2 9
Man Utd 3 3 0 0 6 1 9
Everton 3 2 1 0 4 2 7
Hull 3 2 0 1 4 2 6
M’brough 3 1 2 0 3 2 5
Tottenham 3 1 2 0 3 2 5
Arsenal 3 1 1 1 6 5 4
Leicester 3 1 1 1 3 3 4
West Brom 3 1 1 1 2 2 4
Liverpool 3 1 1 1 5 6 4
West Ham 3 1 0 2 3 5 3
Burnley 3 1 0 2 2 4 3
Swansea 3 1 0 2 2 4 3
Southampton 3 0 2 1 2 4 2
Sunderland 3 0 1 2 3 5 1
Palace 3 0 1 2 1 3 1
Watford 3 0 1 2 3 6 1
Bournemouth 3 0 1 2 2 5 1
Stoke 3 0 1 2 2 6 1
Note: Standings read as played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against and points