Read a full match report for the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg between West Ham United and Manchester City at Upton Park on Tuesday, Jan 21 2014
Manchester City cruised into their first cup final under Manuel Pellegrini and it is unlikely to be their last under him. The urbane Chilean, who has released the handbrake on the City machine, has seen them accelerate along the road to Wembley for the Capital One Cup climax of March 2, scoring 19 times and conceding only once. They have now recorded 106 goals in all competitions.
The blend of supreme work rate and attacking zest that has been the hallmark of City life under Pellegrini, qualities embodied by Alvaro Negredo, again destroyed West Ham ’s defence. Hit for six at the Etihad in the first leg, West Ham were only half as bad this time. Negredo scored twice, Sergio Agüero added another, Joleon Lescott delivered a strong 90 minutes at centre-half while the 18-year-old, Marcos Lopes, played with an intelligence and maturity beyond his years.
The Portuguese attacker started on City’s left, switched flanks briefly with Jesús Navas, moved promisingly in the centre and provided two assists. Pellegrini hailed Lopes as “a very important player for the future of the club”. City’s strength in depth, particularly in attack, is formidable. Stevan Jovetic even appeared as they stretched their run to 18 games unbeaten. Who can stop them?
This will be City’s 14th domestic cup final, their fourth in the League Cup and first since that momentous 1976 final won by Dennis Tueart, Peter Barnes and Mike Doyle (as well as having reached 10 FA Cup finals). If Manchester United manage to overturn a 2-1 first-leg loss against Sunderland at Old Trafford on Wednesday there will be the first ever Manchester cup final (in League or FA Cup). The finalists will receive 31,000 tickets each.
West Ham, meanwhile, will be licking their wounds. A dreadful January, seeing them evicted from two cup competitions and slip in the Premier League, ends next week with a daunting visit to Chelsea. Allardyce urgently needs some new players in the transfer window, particularly in defence and upfront. Currently on 18 points, Allardyce is targeting 22 points from 16 games to secure Premier League survival.
In this second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final, a merciful referee eventually spared Allardyce’s side further pain and punishment, Chris Foy giving only one minute’s injury time when five were expected. A suspiciously loud song after the final whistle obscured any sounds of dissent there might have been. But only 14,390 turned up, some being put off by the aggregate scoreline, others by the £42 ticket price (although kids were a quid).
Some left a while before the end, some departing with added frustration as poor Mo Diamé, one of Allardyce’s better players, was carried away on a stretcher, although the manager consulted his medical staff and later reported that the knee injury might not be as serious as looked.
Overall, though, it was another grim evening, another grim viewing, particularly with Allardyce’s defenders failing to understand the concept of marking at times. West Ham fans had not expected a miracle but they had expected effort. They had wanted to see Allardyce’s men playing with some pride in the shirt, constructing at least a speed-bump on City’s road to Wembley.
Andy Carroll ran hard for 45 minutes, bustling around, trying to force holes in City’s defence until replaced by Carlton Cole. Ravel Morrison played a few decent first-half passes and made some good second-half dribbles but nothing could really slow Pellegrini’s machine of a team driven hard by Negredo.
The Spaniard’s first goal arrived after three minutes. Lopes raced down the left, then lifted the ball across towards Negredo. The Spaniard rose strongly and finished powerfully, making the net billow with his header, but West Ham’s marking was absent.
West Ham did have the ball in the net through Kevin Nolan but he had strayed offside. Morrison then swept the ball right to Diamé, who cut in but his left-footed shot was saved by Costel Pantilimon. Throughout these intermittent attacks, City were hunting more goals. Agüero fired in a low shot that Jussi Jaaskelainen pushed around his right-hand post. After 24 minutes, Agüero had his usual goal. Again Lopes provided the assist, a little dart and accurate pass, inviting Agüero to dribble through.
Profiting from more hapless defending by West Ham, Agüero glided through and lifted the ball past Jaaskelainen.
The Argentine could then have incurred the full wrath of Foy for a challenge on Nolan and then a particularly nasty one on James Tomkins. Allardyce, wearing his long black undertaker’s coat, was incensed and mimicked a stamping motion to the fourth official, Michael Jones. The half finished with a snap-shot from Lopes, arguably the best player of the half.
Allardyce removed Carroll at the break, having only planned to give the forward a half as he regains match fitness after that long injury.
Carlton Cole came on but the double Cole count lasted only a few minutes before Joe Cole, his movement restricted by a groin injury, was replaced by Stewart Downing. The winger’s arrival did slightly beg the question as to why Downing had not started in tandem with Carroll.
Now attacking the Bobby Moore Stand, Morrison appealed for a couple of penalties when challenged robustly by Lescott and Javi García but Foy turned away twice. It got worse for West Ham. Negredo powered through and elegantly lifted the ball over Jaaskelainen, making it 9-0 to City on aggregate. “We want 10,’’ chanted the visitors.
Morrison responded, showing his technique and dribbling skills, by going past Lopes and García before Lescott blocked. Morrison again tried to lift a few spirits, embarking on another dribble until running into Fernandinho, who dispossessed him with the firmest of challenges. It was another brutal lesson for West Ham, another masterclass from City.