When David Moyes talked about training without the ball in preparation for this encounter with Manchester City it actually made a bit of sense.
But come the actual match and the spherical object largely in the possession of the newly-crowned English champions proved something of a nuisance to a side now battling desperately to stay clear of relegation danger.
Here at the London Stadium it developed a nasty habit for bouncing off West Ham body parts and into their goal, with a deflection off the head of Patrice Evra enabling Leroy Sane to claim the opening strike after only 13 minutes before Pablo Zabaleta succeeded in scoring what was City’s 100th goal of their Premier League campaign just 14 minutes after that. Trouble was, of course, he now plays for West Ham, and that was the 13th City goal of his career.
Manchester City thrashed West Ham United 4-1 at Stratford’s London Stadium in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon
Pep Guardiola watched on as his side took their Premier League goals tally to 102 for the season, one shy of Chelsea’s record
Young Player of the Year Leroy Sane fired City into the lead after 13 minutes with his 14th goal of the season in all competitions
MATCH FACTS AND LIVE PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE
West Ham United: Adrian; Ogbonna, Rice, Cresswell; Zabaleta, Noble, Kouyate, Evra (Masuaku 66); Fernandes (Joao Mario 65), Arnautovic, Lanzini (Hernandez 66)
Subs not used: Trott, Cullen, Hugill, Carroll
Goal: Cresswell 42
Manchester City: Ederson; Walker (Danilo 61), Laporte, Otamendi, Delph; Fernandinho, Gundogan (Toure 71), De Bruyne; Sane, Sterling, Jesus (Nmecha 79)
Subs not used: Bravo, Bernardo, Mendy, Foden
Goals: Sane 13, Zabaleta OG 27, Jesus 53, Fernandinho 64
- Premier League
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
Raheem Sterling destroyed West Ham’s defence with three assists. He mainly attacked from the right but took up various potions — as his heat-map illustrates
City’s third was scored by Gabriel Jesus from a Sterling pass after a fine team move
For more stats and maps check out Sportsmail’s excellent Match Zone.
For a team that had already greeted their visitors with a guard of honour this was way too hospitable; defending at its most chaotic and hapless.
No matter that Moyes had tried to provide a bit more security by slotting Evra into the back three with Aaron Cresswell and Zabaleta deployed on the flanks.
City’s second was a comical affair, anxiety spreading through West Ham’s ranks after Adrian had come off his line to make an interception with the sense of panic increasing when Angelo Ogbonna then had to save Raheem Sterling’s shot with his head in the absence of his goalkeeper.
The clearance, however, went only as far as Ilkay Gundogan, who then invited Kevin de Bruyne to drive in a cross that Adrian diverted into the path of Declan Rice. Cue a moment of penalty box pinball, with the ball bouncing first off Rice’s shins before clipping Zabaleta and rolling agonisingly into the back of the net.
There was no need for any words of criticism from Moyes this week. Judging by the cursing as he marched up the field for the restart, Rice seemed pretty angry with himself.
While the goals edged Pep Guardiola’s side closer to those Premier League records for points and goals, it left West Ham in a most precarious position when Southampton sit just three points behind them in 18th place with a better goal difference.
It needed a response, and in the first half minutes that remained West Ham did find a bit of resolve; some much welcome urgency that, for a while at least, created a bit of atmosphere in an arena that had more of a buzz during the morning sessions of the athletics last summer.
The first time West Ham found the City net the goal was actually disallowed, the officials quite rightly concluding that Marko Arnautovic had fouled Ederson even if the visiting goalkeeper was rather too casual in attempting to clear.
Sane watched on as his shot took a huge deflection off West Ham left back Patrice Evra, formerly of Manchester United
The deflection beat Adrian who saw the ball land in the opposite side of the goal to the one which Sane had been aiming for
Another deflection saw visitors City go 2-0 up when defender Pablo Zabaleta (right) diverted a low cross into his own net
But after Gundogan caught Edmilson Fernandes with a clumsy challenge in the 41st minute, Creswell was invited to step up and test Ederson with a free-kick.
It actually should have been a penalty, given where the foul was committed, but it made no odds to Creswell, the Englishman reducing the deficit with a quite beautiful effort.
In the world’s largest technical area Moyes suddenly seemed energised; an animated figure urging his troops to maintain the pressure and perhaps sensing that a side with the title already in the bag might be taking their collective foot off the gas.
Those records, however, seem to be motivation enough, with City restoring their two goal advantage only eight minutes into the second half with what was an exquisite one-two between Gabriel Jesus and Sterling.
In scoring his 16th goal of the season Jesus simply excelled, first with the ball that sent Sterling racing down the right flank and then the touch, skill and finish to control his colleague’s delivery before guiding his finish beyond the advancing Adrian.
West Ham were now in serious trouble, and a drastic situation demanded drastic action with Moyes opting to make a triple substitution that would see Manuel Lanzini, Evra and Fernandes simultaneously hooked.
Kevin De Bruyne celebrated City’s second goal after assisting it with a low cross which deflected into the net off Zabaleta
City were awarded a free-kick that should have been a penalty when Ilkay Gundogan fouled Edimilson Fernandes in the box
Aaron Cresswell scored direct from the free-kick, bending in a left-footed shot for his first Premier League goal since 2016
City keeper Ederson will have been disappointed to be beaten by Cresswell’s shot, which sneaked just inside his near post
But before a suitable break in play arrived Lanzini lost possession cheaply in midfield to Fernandinho, who then like Jesus employed Sterling as both his outlet and provider and almost unopposed converted another neat delivery from the England winger.
With only 63 minutes gone this was fast turning into yet another damaging, demoralising defeat for a West Ham side thumped 4-1 by Arsenal in their previous game (Sunday’s official match programme said 1-1 but, sorry folks, that ain’t going to work).
Boos and jeers greeted the sight of those three substitutions, and understandably so, and by the time the fourth official had signalled for three extra minutes the place was half-empty.
As West Ham supporters made their way back across the Olympic Park, they must have realised it means their team now have a goal difference of -24, with a trip to Leicester City and home encounters with Manchester United and Everton to follow. The latter two, you imagine, are unlikely to be games Moyes will relish.
Southampton have three less points but a goal difference of -19 and trips to Everton and Swansea as well as a meeting with this irresistible, irrepressible City side. Not easy either but, having beaten Bournemouth on Saturday, they at least have a bit of momentum.
City, meanwhile, have no such concerns. They just want to finish in the style they have displayed all season, and now sit just a goal short of matching the efforts of Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea in 2010. The record is as good as gone.
Gabriel Jesus (left) slotted a shot past Adrian to restore City’s two-goal lead eight minutes into the second half in Stratford
Jesus collided with Adrian after connecting with the shot which gave him his 16th City goal of the season in all competitions
City’s fourth goal came courtesy of another Brazilian, Fernandinho, who delivered a composed finish after 64 minutes
As he celebrated, Fernandinho ran over to team-mate Raheem Sterling, who assisted three of City’s goals against West Ham