The result suggests a narrow hard fought win for the outgoing Champions of England. The reality is there should have been a yawning chasm between these two sides in a contest that symbolized much of Manchester City’s season.
Roberto Mancini’s side were worthy winners and should have won by half-a-dozen, but a certain profligacy in front of goal meant they never put their East London opponents ‘away’ until the final whistle.
It’s a frustrating trait that has dogged City’s season and seen points squandered along the way – certainly a habit that needs eradicating if the Premier League title is to be returned to the Etihad in 2014.
The Manure love-in has been in overdrive since last Monday – how many times have we heard the word ‘surrender’ by the laughingly described ‘impartial’ pundits and commentators, in respect of City losing the title.
It might be the early onset of Alzheimer’s but I don’t readily recall the United or Chelsea ‘surrendering’ their champion status in recent years – how nice of the media to reserve the adjective for ‘Little Old Citeh’.
Maybe they’d like to bookmark ‘resurgent’ ‘glorious’ ‘exultant’ and ‘ all-conquering’ – they’re going to need them when Mancini’s men stick it right up the festering fundament of these City- hating apologies of journalists and football ‘experts’.
With Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain at the helm, managerial stability and the acquisition of top quality transfer targets, Manchester City will be back with a vengeance – hungry, harder and wiser.
The Abu Dhabi revolution has brought City a hell of a long way since August 31st 2008. It’s a tantalizing prospect that the evolution that has yet to come, will be even more exciting and rewarding.
For now, the Sky Blues have to cement second place, aim for their second highest Premier League points haul and win their second FA Cup in three years.
On the evidence of this performance they’re in pretty good shape to do just that. With virtually a clean bill of health for the first time in an age, Mancini could select a side best suited to the job.
Joleon Lescott returned to help cope with the physicality and aerial threat of the Hammers’ Andy Carroll, while David Silva and Sergio Aguero injected guile and purpose into the City attack.
With a sense of pending camaraderie between the home and away support – to honour the memory of Marc Vivien-Foe in the 23rd minute – the match settled into a pattern, with the Iron’s defensive curtain trying to keep out the Mancunian marauders.
It was the returning Lescott whose defensive composure and skill set off a beautifully flowing move the length of the field involving Zabaleta, Barry, Silva and Aguero, culminating in Sergio scuffing his shot and hitting Jaaskelainen’s post.
The 23rd minute saw an outpouring of appreciation and moistened eyes as the image of gentle giant MVF appeared on the Etihad big screen. A standing ovation ensued from the 47,000 near capacity crowd – a touching tribute, nearly 10 years after his tragic death.
Five minutes later and rapturous applause abounded again as Aguero finished off a 10-part passing piece de resistance with Silva, Yaya and Nasri in key supporting roles. The goal – the 16th of the season for City’s sensational Number 16 – was a thing of beauty by any standards.
Nasri almost went from goal provider to goal taker on the half hour with a rifle like shot that was too hot for Jaaskelainen. The keeper fumbled the save and Zabaleta found himself at centre forward as his acrobatic effort was foiled by the flying Finn.
If Pablo is not proclaimed as the MCFC fans’ Player of the Year, there must be a serious flaw in the mentality of the City voters.
As half time dawned everyone present was left wondering how City’s advantage remained so slender.
An Argentine-French entente came close to doubling the lead on the hour. Clichy squared the ball to Tevez on the edge of the West Ham 18 yard area and Carlito threaded a reverse pass through to Nasri in the box.
The rejuvenated French midfield maestro powered a shot from diagonal to the goal, but Jaaskelainen produced a superbsave once again.
Tevez was the ‘shooter’ when Aquero released an inch perfect cross to his countryman eight yards from goal, only for West Ham’s O’Brien to deflect the shot at the 11th hour.
The Argentine duo combined to put a goal on a platter in the 72nd minute. Aguero fed Tevez out wide on the right of the Londoner’s box.
Just how Nasri contrived to miss Tevez’s driven cross, six yards in front of an open goal, will forever remain a mystery.
Finally, in the 83rd minute, City managed to finish off the Finnish resistance in the West Ham goal, courtesy of a howitzer from Yaya. Milner on for Silva, dribbled in from the right wing, slipping the ball to Nasri.
Nasri pushed the ball to the Ivorian idol a good 25 yards from goal. Yaya took one touch, shifting the ball to his ‘weaker’ left foot, before launching an unstoppable Exocet-like strike into the top left corner of the net.
It was a totally fitting reward for City’s – at times sublime approach play – at a time when West Ham had had the temerity to seek an entirely inappropriate equaliser.
Joe Hart had the City faithful furrowing their brow with concern – going to ground with what we later learned was a back spasm.
The England keeper’s obvious impediment was a contributory factor when Carroll scored a nonetheless impressive consolation, on the stroke of full time.
Having seen Hart save his powerful header just moments before, the Geordie battering ram controlled the ball on his chest, before hitting a low drive that bobbled between the legs of the City keeper.
It was a soft one to concede, but with Milner, Garcia and Kolo Toure on as subs, Hart was deprived the option of coming off when injured.
The final whistle ensued and City were rightly proclaimed victors. An entertaining early afternoon encounter had taken them a step closer to the Runners-Up slot, when all they really want to do is start afresh in August.