West Ham 0 Man City 2: Erling Haaland makes dream start by firing a double as champs down Hammers


INSIDE 36 minutes of his Premier League debut, Erling Haaland had wiped out one West Ham goalkeeper and won a penalty off a second one. 

At that point, Darren Randolph – named by the ever-cautious David Moyes as second substitute goalkeeper – must have been trembling on the Hammers bench, wondering what Manchester City’s Norwegian goal machine had in store for him. 

It didn’t come to that but after converting the first-half penalty he had won himself, Haaland added a clinical second past Alphonse Areola, who had replaced Lukasz Fabianski – injured in an accidental collision with the 6ft 5in centre-forward. 

Perhaps, in this age of nine Premier League subs, all opposition managers will opt for Moyes’ belt-and-braces approach to combat the threat of Haaland

Haaland, the £51million signing from Borussia Dortmund, missed a glaring headed chance for a debut hat-trick before he was replaced 12 minutes from time but he had done more than enough to announce himself after a difficult Community Shield last weekend. 

Pep Guardiola’s champions, chasing a third straight title and a fifth in six seasons,  are already two points clear of their only genuine title rivals Liverpool. 

This was a contest which often resembled an attack-versus-defence training drill – City patiently keeping possession, West Ham sitting deep and showing little ambition. 

The London Stadium was in tumbleweed silence for long stretches, aside from the small section of City fans, who taunted Roy Keane – here as a Sky pundit – with songs about Erling’s dad Alfie. 

Keane had infamously damaged Haaland’s knee ligaments with a deliberate foul in a Manchester derby. 

Haaland Senior was also at the London Stadium, like his assailant. Had they met, it would have been a feistier scrap than the actual football match. 

For Haaland junior, this was the start of the elite phase of a carefully-plotted career trajectory which had taken him from his native Norway, to Austria, to Borussia Dortmund and finally to the Premier League champions. 

And it was a thoroughly decent start, suggesting it will not take Guardiola’s men long to adjust to the presence of a proper No 9, after back-to-back title wins without one.  

City’s last title win was held up by a 2-2 draw here in May but despite four summer arrivals, there were no new arrivals in Moyes’s starting line-up. 

Italian centre-forward Gianluca Scamacca was only deemed fit enough for the bench and Max Cornet, West Ham’s latest signing from Burnley, was introduced to the crowd pre-match.

West Ham actually had a decent first five minutes. 

Joao Cancelo – who’d seized Raheem Sterling’s No 7 shirt as a recognition of his status as a playmaking full-back – tried to play a Hollywood pass across his own penalty area and invited the pressure.  

The Hammers forced a corner, from which Ruben Dias have his keeper Ederson a black eye as City cleared. Then Pablo Fornals centred and Michail Antonio glanced a header just over.

But then City settled into a long and leisurely keep-ball session and the vast majority inside the London Stadium seemed to drift gradually into sleep in the soporific heat.

City often do this at away grounds but it is especially pronounced at the London Stadium, which is not a football ground and lends itself to this kind of disconnect. 

Haaland got his first sighter on goal after 21 minutes when he completely failed to connect with his head from a Phil Foden cross.

Soon after, Haaland collided with Fabianski as he chased a ball behind the Hammers defence. 

The Pole carried on for a few minutes – during which time a De Bruyne effort was ruled out for offside against Ilkay Gundogan – before he was replaced by Areola.  

Then, Gundogan slipped a pass through to Haaland, who was floored by Areola as he attempted to round the keeper.

Michael Oliver pointed to the spot and Haaland calmly sent the Frenchman the wrong way. 

After Haaland’s well-publicised missed-sitter during the Community Shield, a penalty was the perfect way to ease himself in. 

At this point, City had enjoyed 84 per cent possession.  

Eight minutes after the restart Declan Rice blazed over after Nathan Ake had lazily lost possession, then Dias had cleared into the West Ham skipper’s path.

Moyes then sent on Scamacca, in place of Antonio, and Said Benrahma for Lanzini.

After some gorgeous link-up play between Foden and De Bruyne, the latter whipped in a cross, which Haaland couldn’t reach but Gundogan followed in and made a hash of his shot.

After Benrahma had forced the first save of the match, a routine one from Ederson, Haaland truly announced himself.

Ake started the move on the edge of the City box, feeding Rodri, who found De Bruyne. 

The visionary Belgian played a masterful straight pass which perfectly bisected the West Ham and Haaland darted on to it, rolling home a left-footed finish. 

It was a blissfully simplistic goal assisted and completed by two masters of their respective arts. 

Haaland headed waywardly at the near post after some neater footwork from Jack Grealish before he was replaced by Julian Alvarez.

But we had seen enough to know that City will be even stronger still this season. God help the rest of them. 

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