A clever late finish from Davis Silva proved to be the difference between the two hard-working sides at The Etihad Stadium yesterday afternoon, as David Moyes’ Hammers narrowly missed out on a point.
His side had seized the advantage just before the break through Angelo Ogbonna’s first Premier League goal, but the hosts levelled early in the second period with Nicolas Otamendi getting on the scoresheet.
This set things upper perfectly for David Silva to deliver a third last ten minutes winner in as many games for Pep Guardiola’s men, who managed to tie Arsenal and Chelsea for a PL record of 13 consecutive victories.
The three points kept The Citizens eight points ahead of their Manchester rivals at the very top of the Table, whilst leaving the North-West empty-handed left The Irons 19th, after dropping a place in the wake of yesterday’s results.
From the start in Manchester, Pep Guardiola decided on four alterations from his side’s added-time victory over Southampton on Wednesday night on home turf.
Departing from the starting Xl were Skipper Vincent Kompany, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan and forward Gabriel Jesus to be replaced by Eliaquim Mangala, Danilo, David Silva and electric German winger Leroy Sane.
Meanwhile, David Moyes also made four changes from the embarrassing thrashing at Goodison Park on Wednesday night, most of them forced through injury.
In goal, Adrian-San Miguel came in for ineligible Joe Hart, whilst Skipper Winston Reid was replaced by Irish youngster Declan Rice, Marko Arnautovic saw his spot taken by Edimilson Fernandes and Michail Antonio returned at last in favour of Andre Ayew, with the Scotsman also naming four U23 starlets on the bench.
On a chilly evening in Manchester, the hosts would make the brighter start, putting a visibly weak Hammers back three under pressure from the off, creating plenty in the early stages.
But, when the opportunities came, they couldn’t make the most of them, a large part of that being down to Adrian, who most notably saved acrobatically from a deflected Silva effort.
For all of City’s first-half possession, the better chances were being created at the other end as Cheikhou Kouyate flicked a header into the path of Antonio, but he could only divert the ball over the bar at the far post.
It would be the winger coming close once more, in the minutes that followed the miss, just not quite being able to get to a threatening Arthur Masuaku delivery before keeper Ederson.
However, as the break approached, the sights of goal were becoming clearer and clearer, with Silva’s accidental touch playing Manuel Lanzini clean through on goal, faced with a chance to avenge his penalty miss on Wednesday night, but the Brazilian between the sticks managed to spot him.
Despite this, he would soon be picking the ball out of his own net much to the bemusement of a stunned Etihad.
Aaron Cresswell, taking a 44th-minute corner, was able to exchange passes with Lanzini before clipping in a precise ball that met the head of Ogbonna whose effort was able to bulge the bottom corner of the net via the hopeless palm of Ederson.
There was no doubting that the better side led at half-time as Moyes’ boys survived a late onslaught to sustain their lead, but the substituting that saw prolific striker Gabriel Jesus make his entry to the field at the start of the second period signalled Guardiola’s clear intent.
And his attacking plan had worked within just 12 minutes of the restart and it would be the Brazil International substitute making all the difference, skipping in on the right side to fire a delivery into a dangerous area.
Otamendi, the centre-back, was there to meet it first, his tame effort so unfortunately deflected off 18-year-old Rice and beating Adrian at the near post.
The goal proved to be a catalyst for Blue Moon as they began an assault on the Hammers goal going in search of all three points and the Spaniard in goal having to make some world-class saves to keep his side level.
After denying a Kevin De Bruyne free-kick, two longer-range efforts from Leroy Sane and perhaps most impressively of all a Jesus shot from just inside the area, Raheem Sterling somehow not being able to convert an open goal rebound.
The keeper was finally beaten, and it would take a pure stroke of magic from the City attack force, with De Bruyne floating a wonderous ball over the top into the path of a certain onrushing Spaniard.
Silva converted it with the most skillful of off-balance finishes to deliver his team a historic victory, perhaps the most agonising thing for the travelling Claret & Blue army being that it came just moments after Antonio had a great effort saved by The No13 at the other end of the break.
Nevertheless, there would be one final opportunity for the away side to leave with something and that fine moment of play came in the final stages, Arnautovic out-strengthened Mangala to pick out fellow substitute Diafra Sakho, the Senegalese International striking so agonisingly wide of the target.
The Sky Blues’ 19th consecutive win will set up a huge opportunity to break a PL records next weekend, however, their bitterest of rivals will stand in the way, after a Champions League trip to Russia in midweek.
Meanwhile, things aren’t getting any easier at all for Moyes’ men, as the reigning Champions are up next come Saturday afternoon, in a daunting Derby at The London Stadium.