A severely weakened West Ham side were well-beaten by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City yesterday in the final friendly of pre-season, the annual Super-Match at The Laugardalsvollur National Stadium in Iceland.
Slaven Bilic’s men came into the tie off the back of a disappointing tour of Germany where we didn’t manage to pick up a single win against weak opposition. Whereas, The Citizens had been in The USA at The International Champions Cup, where they thrashed the likes of Real Madrid and Spurs with some stunning performances.
Yesterday afternoon’s tie marked the first time that two Premier League sides have ever met on the Nordic Island, and the first-time that we have ever played in the country. The fixture was also the 11th playing of Manchester City’s annual Super Match, where they face a range of different teams in a range of different countries as part of their pre-season preparations. City’s opponents in the past have included the likes of Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, and A.C. Milan in locations such as Norway, China, Sweden and Finland.
Pep Guardiola had the luxury of a near full-strength squad for the tie and included the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva in his starting Xl. However, several members of Bilic’s squad for pre-season flew home to England prior to the clash, these included suspended Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, Sofiane Feghouli and Manuel Lanzini. As a result, former City man Joe Hart started in goal, with a back-four of fellow former Citizens teammate Pablo Zabaleta, Jose Fonte, Angelo Ogbonna and Arthur Masuaku. A midfield-five was adopted by The Croat, which consisted of the likes of returning skipper Mark Noble, Pedro Obiang, Edimilson Fernandes, Marko Arnautovic and Andre Ayew, with Spanish youngster Antonio Martinez as the lone-striker.
It would be the strong Citizens who made the faster start and led the game after just 8 minutes through Brazilian youngster Gabriel Jesus. Sloppy play from Angelo Ogbonna gifted the ball to new-signing Danilo who shifted it onto De Bruyne, the Belgian then played an intricate ball across to Jesus to finish calmly past Hart and into the back of the net.
The Hammers, who were donning the 2017/2018 away kit for the first time with DT38 on the front in memory of the late academy star Dylan Tombides, struggled to respond quickly and could only create two-half chances for Martinez to squander. However, City were the dominant side and forced Hart into several saves to deny his former side, but The Sky Blues would still only lead by one at the break.
Chicharito was introduced against his former rivals at the start of the second period in place of Toni Martinez, along with Sam Byram’s replacement of Pablo Zabaleta and Declan Rice replacing Mark Noble. However, the changes did not bring a change to the sloppy play from Bilic’s boys and City would soon double their lead in Reykjavik.
A fantastic run and pass from Leroy Sane found David Silva to the left of the box, who fired a dangerous ball across the face of goal to find Aguero and tap in for two. To add insult to injury, club-record signing Marko Arnautovic limped off after a heavy fall in the 62nd minute to be replaced by Robert Snodgrass. Despite looking in clear discomfort when he left the field, Bilic remarked that the Austrian international was suffering from cramp and was substituted as a precaution, in his post-match press conference.
Guardiola’s men were cruising with 20 minutes to play and infiltrated our defence yet again with Raheem Sterling making it three goals against us in less than a year. The England man latched onto a deflected effort from youngster Phil Foden to all but seal the deal for his side. A late Hammers recovery came too late, as Javier Hernandez’s late burst into the box amounted to nothing and Andre Ayew had his goal wrongly disallowed for a foul on Eliaquim Mangala. However, as the referee blew his final whistle in the Icelandic capital, and the 6,000-capacity crowd, who had entertained with their trademark “Viking Clap” throughout the game, had been treated to a Manchester City masterclass.
So, with our pre-season ending in defeat to Premier League opposition, we have ended our preparations with only one win to our name for the second consecutive year. Despite that concerning fact, many Hammers fans will now be thinking about the future and the exciting thought that our Premier League opener at Old Trafford is just eight-days away.
Man of the Match: Joe Hart