Manchester City have set up a 2019 Premier League Asia Trophy final with Wolves after easing past West Ham 4-1 in Nanjing.
The Hammers took a first half lead after summer recruit Angelino conceded a clumsy penalty, with captain Mark Noble tucking home in emphatic fashion.
But, the Premier League champions sought to immediately rectify that unfamiliar scoreline and subsequently blitzed four past the capital club with goals from David Silva and Lukas Nmecha in the first half, before Raheem Sterling netted a brace after the restart.
It was an intense game at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium, but who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Raheem Sterling
It was business as usual for Sterling this afternoon as the England international picked up from where he left off last season, netting a clinical double to take the game beyond West Ham’s reach and send City into the final of this biennial Asian tournament.
The first half proved a frantic encounter as City’s young guns gave a fantastic account of themselves, troubling a very strong Hammers line-up, but after the interval Guardiola called upon his trusty attackers – Leroy Sane, Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva – and Sterling, out of the quadrant, noticeably flourished during his stint on the pitch.
The 24-year-old has proven a devastating cog in Guardiola’s formidable juggernaut over the past few seasons, adding multiple strings to his seemingly endless bow, with one attribute, in particular, taking his game to world class heights: an end product.
Many questioned Sterling’s final ball during his formative years, but that reputation has been emphatically cast away in recent seasons, with the England phenom refining his end product to ridiculous levels.
Racing through on goal for his first, many would have harboured grave doubts about Sterling’s ability to find the back of the net two years ago, but not now, not this Sterling, not this clinical finisher who has enhanced his game tenfold under the tutelage of Guardiola.
Brought in to provide competent back up for the injury-prone Benjamin Mendy, Angelino was signed this summer for an exceptionally modest fee of £5.3m, but that is pretty much what he looked like this afternoon: a £5.3m player.
The Spaniard will no doubt improve, this was after all only a friendly, but against Premier League opposition in Ryan Fredericks and Felipe Anderson, the 22-year-old was heavily exposed.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
His first moment of madness came after Anderson raced into the box before cutting back, only for Angelino to lay out an arm and prevent the Brazilian surging past him. There was no hesitation from Craig Pawson as the Premier League referee pointed to the spot, which Noble confidently converted.
But, it wouldn’t end there for the ex-PSV full-back as Fredericks stepped into the equation moments later, galloping down the byline and into the box before Angelino again found himself on the wrong side of a West Ham player, sticking out an untimely leg to bring down the right-back. Pawson was more sympathetic this time and only signalled for a goal kick, but with VAR coming into play this forthcoming season, Angelino will need to eradicate this erratic side of his game, or else, he could cost City dearly.
Winner: Tommy Doyle
Pep Guardiola has the luxury of, not only being able to spend prodigiously in the market, but also being able to call upon a number of City’s rising starlets, with the club’s state-of-the-art academy offering the Catalonian a vast pool of some of the finest fledglings in world football.
And that was evident in Nanjing as his young guns showcased their elite-level potential with some moments of world class quality. The two standout names in the opening 45 minutes were 17-year-old Tommy Doyle, grandson of City legend Mike Doyle, and 18-year-old Adrian Bernabe.
The former, playing in a midfield trident alongside newcomer Rodri and David Silva, kept pace with Spain internationals, slotting in fluidly alongside the more experienced duo and demonstrating an innate dribbling ability, as well as a mature reading of the game.
He was kept on for a large proportion of the second half and continued to impress in the heart of midfield, showcasing a composure that far transcends his adolescence in the game. The question now is: can he follow in the fabled footsteps of his grandfather?
Loser: West Ham defence
The Hammers were given a preview of things to come at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium with only minutes on the clock after Silva exposed their defence to set up Ian Poveda, who created a clear opening but saw his strike equalled by Roberto between the sticks.
And it wouldn’t get much easier from there on in for the London club as City continued to lay bare their defensive flaws and vulnerabilities. This was an absolute drubbing from the Premier League champions who ran riot after finding themselves a goal down.
Lukas Nmecha made Angelo Ogbonna look like a fourth-tier defender after he shimmied effortlessly past him to draw a penalty – albeit a questionable one – in the first half, while Raheem Sterling continuously found ample room after the restart to bag a brace.
West Ham have just splashed the cash on record-signing Sebastien Haller, but Pellegrini may now want to turn his attention to his leaky defence as City’s makeshift squad simply had far too much joy in the final third, even when Guardiola left the likes of Sane and Sterling on the bench to begin with.
Winner: Adrian Bernabe
Bernabe looked a real talent on the right flank this afternoon, producing the ball of the tournament so far, after engineering an exquisite cross-field pass to tee up Silva, who duly tucked home for the equaliser.
As the teenage tyro picked the ball up on the byline West Ham looked comfortable in their shape, and with only Lukas Nmecha, as well as pint-sized playmaker Silva to pick out in the box, not much looked on for Bernabe.
However, the best players in the world always have a propensity to unlock doors when the opposition padlock seems impenetrable, and that’s exactly what the former Barcelona youngster did, splitting Pellegrini’s backline and leaving them all at sea with one mesmeric pass. It was a ball reminiscent of the man he set up, Silva, and will no doubt have caught the eye of Guardiola.