David Silva restored Manchester City’s eight-point advantage at the top of the Premier League as Pep Guardiola’s side recovered from a lethargic first-half showing to see off West Ham 2-1.
The Spain playmaker signed a contract extension at the Etihad Stadium this week and underlined his enduring worth to a club where he sits among the best ever to don the shirt by leaping to volley home Kevin De Bruyne’s chipped cross at the back post seven minutes from time.
It means City have pulled level with Arsenal and Chelsea’s all-time record of 13 consecutive victories in a single Premier League season but their third straight 2-1 win, following Raheem Sterling’s last-gasp heroics against Huddersfield Town and Southampton over the past week, once again showed them to have dropped off the swashbuckling form that typified their early season play.
This is arguably a concern for Guardiola, who saw centre-back Nicolas Otamendi cancel out Angelo Ogbonna’s 44th-minute opener with his third league goal of the season, ahead of a keenly anticipated derby showdown with nearest challengers Manchester United next weekend, although victory at Old Trafford would now see his team take a vice-like grip on the title race.
The Catalan rested Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho on the bench – the influential duo a yellow card away from a Manchester derby suspension – and City offered early encouragement to their opponents by displaying the set-piece vulnerability that has plagued them of late.
Cheikhou Kouyate flicked on a seventh-minute corner at the near post for a stretching Michail Antonio to volley over.
Despite hogging possession, City’s play lacked the tempo and incisiveness of their best work this season, with Adrian – starting due to Joe Hart’s ineligibility against his parent club – making his first save of note when Silva sought the top corner from outside the area.
The Spain playmaker gave the ball away in a dangerous position after 35 minutes and Manuel Lanzini forced Ederson to parry behind unconvincingly at his near post.
It was therefore thoroughly deserved when West Ham led on the stroke of half-time – Aaron Creswell’s excellent delivery from a short corner on the right picking out Ogbonna for a powerful header that Ederson could only palm into the corner.
Guardiola took action at the interval, sending on Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus for his countryman and full-back Danilo, laying his side out in an ambitious 4-2-4 shape – Silva and De Bruyne as the midfield two.
It meant Fabian Delph reverting to left-back but some silky footwork from the England international on the edge of the West Ham area drew a foul from the already-booked Declan Rice and Adrian denied De Bruyne’s rasping strike.
City kept the ball alive from the rebound and Otamendi remained in the West Ham area to turn home after Jesus darted in from the right.
The hosts were still struggling to punch regular holes in the West Ham rearguard, Adrian extending himself slightly theatrically to keep out a Leroy Sane long-ranger after the hour.
Substance surpassed style when the Spanish keeper beat away a Sane strike from closer quarters, the Germany star having burst beyond former City favourite Pablo Zabaleta.
A deflected De Bruyne drive flew into the grasp of a relieved Adrian, who then saved brilliantly from Jesus and Sterling’s recent Midas touch in front of goal deserted him on the rebound.
West Ham briefly gained respite on the break as Antonio charged forward and went for glory, although Ederson was equal to the task – paving the way for Silva to live up to his crowd-favourite status.
There was still time for the accident prone Eliaquim Mangala to present Diafra Sakho with a chance to level but the West Ham substitute fired wide and, despite a vast improvement from their midweek thrashing at Everton, West Ham remain second bottom.
Key Opta facts:
– City’s haul of 43 points from 15 games is a joint top-flight record, level with Tottenham in 1960-61 (converted to three points for a win).
– West Ham’s total of 10 points from 15 games is their lowest ever in the Premier League and worst in the top flight since 1976-77 (nine, converted to three for a win).
– City have won 10 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season, more than any other side.
– Since his debut for City in September 2015, Kevin De Bruyne has provided 35 Premier League assists – more than any other in the big five European leagues.
– Gabriel Jesus has been directly involved in 21 goals in his 24 Premier League appearances (15 goals, 6 assists).