When it comes bus parking, Sam Allardyce has ‘L’ plates as big as the mountain his hapless Hammers have to climb in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi final.
Big Sam’s West Ham masterplan was to frustrate City’s goal gluttons with a resolute rearguard action, putting the brakes on Manuel Pellegrini’s push for silverware so early in his Etihad reign.
It worked like a dream for all of 12 minutes…before descending into his worst managerial nightmare, as City’s beast of a bargain Alvaro Negredo opened the floodgates on a scoring tsunami.
Allardyce had already incurred the wrath of West Ham’s magnificent travelling support, when a chronically weakened side was smashed 5-0 in the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest.
City’s subsequent 6-0 annihilation of the proud, but now pathetic Irons, was too much to bear as the vociferous and very vocal Hammers fans colourfully suggested Sam took his managerial skills elsewhere.
It speaks volumes when a six goal defeat flatters the vanquished.
Once again, Manuel’s Marauders were simply delicious as they tickled the tastebuds, ripping the Londoners apart and leaving the blue side of Manchester moist with anticipation in the driving rain.
Having suffered a minor cup hiccup at Blackburn, Pellegrini strengthened his starting line up with the re-introduction of Zabaleta, Kompany, Toure and Nasri, whilst still managing to rest Hart, Nastasic and Fernandinho, amid a hectic fixture schedule.
The contrast in quality with the ramshackle West Ham starting XI was stark. Only Adrian, the Hammer’s Spanish keeper, emerged with any credit, pulling off a string of super stops, literally saving Sam from double digit embarrassment.
City were unstoppable with wave after wave of free-flowing attacks, intricate passing and deadly finishing.
As many would now attest, Pellegrini has City playing with a vibrance, a certain verve and vitality that has taken the club onto a new and hitherto, unchartered, level of excellence.
His football philosophy of placing great store on how his team performs is percolating through, even to those who initially doubted the Chilean’s desire for attacking flair, although sometimes to the detriment of wholly adequate defending.
It was telling that as his team racked up a staggering 59 goals in just 15 home games, Pellegrini chose to emphasise his pleasure at keeping a clean sheet.
Not so for West Ham whose laundry bills must be sky high…and rising rapidly.
Negredo started the rout with a sensational left foot volley after a sublime 40-yard Yaya pass split the Hammers wide open. Demonstrating supreme technique, the Beast let the ball drop over his shoulder before smashing it past Adrian.
The £16.4m bargain from Sevilla was at it again in the 26th minute, sending an angled strike past the keep from six yards out following a beautiful hook up with Dzeko.
Yaya scored his 13th goal in what is rapidly becoming a prolific season for the Ivorian giant.
Having survived an injury scare that had him clutching his ankle and giving the Etihad faithful palpatations, Yaya gathered the ball in City’s half and rumbled upfield with the West Ham defence backing off until it was too late.
His measured shot from inside the 18-yard box, eluded Adrian in the 40th minute. City’s supporters immediately began turning their thoughts to a welcoming pint or two at The Green Man pub and another trip to Wembley, this time on Sunday 2nd March.
Increasingly well versed in Pellegrini’s ways, the estimated 39,000 crowd just knew City weren’t about to shut up shop and protect their three goal advantage. Given the glorious home form, there was every reason to expect more of the same in the 2nd half, and so it was.
Just four minutes after the re-start Negredo completed his second hat-trick of the season in clinical style.
With City all passing and movement , West Ham’s desperately discombobulated defence was in total despair as a deflected David Silva pass was dispatched from 15-yards out by Negredo’s luscious left foot howitzer.
City’s front pairing of The Beast and Dzeko were in pleasantly surprising synch on the night, a factor which clearly delighted Pellegrini.
His body language transformed, Dzeko had one of his finest matches in City’s colours, not only contributing goals but becoming far more involved in creative approach play, tracking back, tackling… you name it, Edin was up for it.
The much maligned Bosnian striker added his name to the goal scoring extravaganza on the hour.
Silva, so often the mercurial provider, played the ball wide for the energetic Clichy, who crossed from the by-line and Dzeko, displaying a desire and hunger often missing from his make-up, touched it home.
It was just reward for a player whose match statistics can flatter to deceive, but not on this occasion.
He rounded off the glut in the 89th minute when Kolarov – on as a substitute for the departed hero of the night, Negredo – supplied a standard issue AK47 low driven cross, which Dzeko thrashed into the net.
A special mention in dispatches to another sub, youngster Marcos Lopes, whose cheeky back heel set up Kolarov’s cross. The Portuguese prodigy oozes potential and promise.
Dzeko maintained his run of scoring in each round of City’s Capital One Cup campaign and is now the competition’s top scorer with six.
The Bosnian’s post-match interview illustrated how easy it is to become a tad goal giddy this season, as he mistakenly expressed satisfaction at City’s 5-0 victory, only to be corrected and told it was half-a-dozen.
For Negredo, his hat-trick took his tally to 18 for the season and swelled City’s haul to a mind boggling 92 in all competitions.
Pellegrini, ever the diplomat, was courteous enough to say the 2nd Leg had still to be played and that the tie was not yet won – scant consolation for the away fans who had suffered seeing their side smashed 11-0 over two cup games in the space of four days.
It wasn’t so very long ago that City could more than empathise with the East Londoner’s plight. The self-deprecating humour and spirit of the cockneys was truly commendable and the banter flowed with City’s choral section.
Notable ‘ditties’ among many was the Hammers fans ‘ We’ve got Sam Allardyce…’ which was greeted with a City riposte of ‘You’re just a sh*t Bolton Wanderers…’
Taunts of ‘Are you Tottenham in disguise?’ were countered with a hearty round of West Ham ‘Olés’ when their team completed more than five consecutive passes, and they even performed a cack-handed rendition of the Poznan dance…for no particular reason.
As for Pellegrini’s City – chasing glory on four fronts – the world really could be their oyster. Sadly for Big Sam it only extends to jellied eels.
By David Walker