Aguero brace salvages a point for the Blues
FA Premier League
Saturday 23 January 2016, 17.30 KO
City: Hart, Sagna, Otamendi, Demichelis, Clichy, Delph (Iheanacho 76), Toure, Navas (Sterling 66), Silva (Fernando 83), De Bruyne, Aguero
Unused: Caballero, Angelino, Zabaleta, Fernandinho
Goals: Aguero (9, 81)
Booked: Demichelis, Fernando, Toure
Referee: Craig Pawson
Man of the match: Aguero
City needed a late equaliser from the impressive Sergio Aguero in order to take a share of the spoils from an exciting encounter at Upton Park. Barring a possible FA Cup meeting, this was the last time the sides would meet at the famous old ground, and it was a game that didn't disappoint. The Blues twice came from behind, and did just enough to merit a point, although Manuel Pellegrini's defensive woes continued.
The hosts couldn't have wished for a better start, with Enner Valencia giving them the lead after just 53 seconds. Cheikhou Kouyate drove past Yaya Toure with alarming ease, and his deflected cross landed at the feet of Valencia who drilled the ball past Joe Hart. The Blues were shell-shocked initially, but responded well and were unlucky not to equalise after six minutes following a sublime effort from Aguero. The Argentinian striker controlled a pass from Toure and lofted the ball over Adrian in the West Ham goal, only to see the ball bounce back off the inside of the post.
Aguero wasn't to be denied for long though, and just three minutes later was awarded a penalty after being felled in the box by the hapless Carl Jenkinson, who managed to injure himself in the process. The striker dusted himself off to send Adrian the wrong way to level the scores.
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic felt aggrieved that the visitors weren't reduced to ten men just after the half hour, when Martin Demichelis brought down Michail Antonio. Demichelis was the last man, but referee Pawson deemed it only worthy of a yellow card. Dimitri Payet, the game's outstanding player, sent the resulting free kick flying towards the top corner, only to be thwarted by Joe Hart. It was a world class save from the England keeper, and the pair could be seen discussing it as the teams left the field at half time.
Fabian Delph struck a post early in the second half with a deflected effort, but West Ham regained the lead after 56 minutes. There appeared to be little danger as Antonio launched a long throw towards City's area, but some calamitous defending from the Blues allowed Valencia to sneak in for his second goal of the evening. Hart possibly should have come out to claim the ball, but Nicolas Otamendi must take the majority of the blame for allowing the ball to bounce over his head. It was schoolboy stuff from an experienced international centre half.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Pellegrini gambled and replaced Delph with Kelechi Iheanacho, leaving Toure as City's sole holding midfielder. The gamble paid off five minutes later, as Iheanacho found Aguero in the box and the Argentine finished coolly past Adrian. Aguero had a chance later on to win it for City, but shot straight at the keeper, before Kouyate hit the bar with a header in the final seconds. It was to be the last touch of the game, and in the circumstances a draw was a fair result. Pellegrini will know that City will need to improve considerably, however, if they have aspirations of winning the league.