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Bold West Ham beaten but unbowed as champions show their class

PUBLISHED: 12:41 26 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:42 26 November 2018

West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini gestures from the touchline during the Premier League match at The London Stadium, London.

West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini gestures from the touchline during the Premier League match at The London Stadium, London.

PA Wire/PA Images

Ambitious Pellegrini goes for it with plusses and minuses in selection

Manchester City's Leroy Sane (right) gets away from West Ham United's Pablo Zabaleta during the Premier League match at The London Stadium, London.Manchester City's Leroy Sane (right) gets away from West Ham United's Pablo Zabaleta during the Premier League match at The London Stadium, London.

It is a strange state of affairs when you come off the field after a 4-0 home defeat and look at the positives of the game.

But when you are taking on champions Manchester City, it is always going to be tough and the fact that West Ham took the game to them and created plenty of chances was reason enough to be positive.

Boss Manuel Pellegrini was bold in playing Michail Antonio as a second striker and that worked.

What he got wrong was leaving the leadership skills of Mark Noble on the bench and more seriously, selecting Arthur Masuaku in the starting XI.

West Ham United's Declan Rice (left) and Manchester City's David Silva battle for the ball during the Premier League match at The London Stadium, London.West Ham United's Declan Rice (left) and Manchester City's David Silva battle for the ball during the Premier League match at The London Stadium, London.

The latter was awful. He didn’t mark, he didn’t tackle and he allowed City to attack at will down his side.

The fact that Pellegrini replaced him at half-time was an admission of what an error it was.

In previous games between the Hammers and City, we have seen the visitors win at a canter, almost taking the mickey out of West Ham.

Despite a similar scoreline, this was never the case on Saturday. The Hammers had a real go, made things uncomfortable for the champs and if they had their shooting boots on, it could have been a lot closer.

Manchester City's Fernandinho (back) and West Ham United's Michail Antonio battle for the ball during the Premier League match at The London Stadium, London.Manchester City's Fernandinho (back) and West Ham United's Michail Antonio battle for the ball during the Premier League match at The London Stadium, London.

“It is difficult, when you lose 4-0, to have positive things. But we created as much as Manchester City and had clear chances, but we didn’t score,” said manager Pellegrini.

“The three goals we conceded in the first half were not acceptable. They were very easy crosses inside the box without marking.”

He was right and it was a real shame because so much of West Ham’s play was good.

They attacked and ran and won tackles, but City were so clinical, their goals – three in the opening half hour – seemed incidental and were so easy.

With the game over at the break, City took their foot off the gas a little, but there was no damage limitation from Pellegrini.

“We continued playing the same way and had a couple of clear chances to score,” said the boss

“I was absolutely sure, with the power and pace of Antonio and Arnautovic, that we could create five or six clear chances to score, but you must take those chances.”

Remember when Antonio was a prolific scorer, especially with his head? Those days seem to be gone and when he was clean through, he lacked the confidence to put the ball away.

Andy Carroll may well have scored the headers that Arnautovic and Fabian Balbuena missed, but he remained on the bench throughout as Lucas Perez was inexplicably preferred.

“I don’t think we gave them too much respect,” said the boss. “If you saw the game from the first minute, we tried to dominate and we played the first 10 minutes more in their half than in our own.

“In the same way, if they scored a goal because we had too many players attacking, I would be upset, but we had all our defence in our own area, so I repeat, it was just a bad day of defending.”

Seasons are not determined by how you do against Manchester City. West Ham’s destiny this term will be defined by the games leading up to and over Christmas and the New Year.

They need to be more clinical themselves, but if they play with the same attitude as they did on Saturday, then they should be ok.

Newcastle on Saturday will be another tough game, but they are no Manchester City – thanks God!

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