Manchester City 4-1 West Ham: Sterling settles second Asia Trophy semi
 (Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

Manchester City will face Wolverhampton Wanderers in the final of the Premier League Asia Trophy after easing to a 4-1 victory over West Ham United in Nanjing.

City went behind after Mark Noble's penalty, but they soon turned the game on its head with two goals in as many first-half minutes, the first an excellent David Silva strike and the second a Lukas Nmecha penalty.

Raheem Sterling was among the high-quality substitutes introduced at the interval, and his textbook double put the tie beyond West Ham's reach. 

Story of the match

It was City, despite the relative inexperience of their line-up, who made the swifter start, with West Ham 'keeper Roberto called into action to brilliantly deny academy product Ian Carlo Poveda, found by Silva, after just four minutes.

West Ham went close with their first real chance just under ten minutes later, Felipe Anderson’s cross nearly sneaking in at the far post.

The Hammers grew into the game and looked a match for City, though the contest dropped to a pedestrian pace midway through the first half.

The lull was brought to an end with 24 minutes on the clock courtesy of a burst of energy from Michail Antonio, who fed Anderson on the right. Angelino went to ground trying to halt the tricky winger, but he then blocked the ball with his hand and, inevitably, Craig Pawson pointed to the spot.

Noble stepped-up and duly stroked the ball into the top right corner, resisting Claudio Bravo’s attempted mind games.

There were more penalty appeals on 32 minutes when Angelino’s late challenge brought Ryan Fredericks down, but this time Pawson waved away the appeals. Replays suggested that they were hard done by.

The sense of injustice only intensified moments later when City found a leveller out of nothing. There was, however, no disputing the quality of the goal.

18-year-old midfielder Adrian Bernabe picked out Silva with an ambitious but perfectly-weighted cross, and the veteran Spaniard, having escaped Issa Diop, superbly controlled the ball on his chest and slotted into the corner.

Only a minute had passed when the Champions completed the turnaround with a penalty of their own. Nmecha seized upon some slight contact after cutting inside Angelo Ogbonna and went to ground, and it was enough for Pawson to penalise the Italian.

Nmecha was tasked with converting, and did so with a confident side-footed effort into the bottom right corner.

Embed from Getty Images

West Ham, looking to take advantage of occasional sloppiness in the City midfield, pressed for a leveller before the break but Declan Rice, Anderson and Manuel Lanzini were unable to take their difficult chances.

City introduced the daunting foursome of Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva at half-time and they soon began to make life very tricky for their opponents.

Sane was the first to make Roberto work after latching onto Angelino’s long ball in-behind.

Just before the hour, two of the substitutes combined ruthlessly to put City in command. Diop was punished for his loose ball straight to Sane, who cut open the defence with his first-time through the ball to Sterling. The outcome as the Englishman bore down on goal was never in doubt.

Sterling had a good shout for a penalty after a slightly desperate shove in the back from Carlos Sanchez, but Pawson proved reluctant to award his third of the game.

The probing continued as De Bruyne drifted into space between full-back and defender and slid one across goal but nobody in light blue was able to attack it.

West Ham then had a great opportunity to pull one back after some neat one-touch football, culminating in a backheel from Andriy Yarmolenko to Javier Hernandez. Uncharacteristically, the Mexican snatched at the chance and sent it harmlessly wide.

The wastefulness was punished on 72 minutes when Sterling, shortly after being denied by Roberto, got the better of the Spanish ‘keeper after De Bruyne, who had initiated the move after dispossessing Sanchez deep into the West Ham half, calmly squared.

Embed from Getty Images

Another West Ham chance, this time albeit for a consolation, went begging three minutes later, Yarmolenko hitting the post from close-range after Bravo got a hand to Hernandez’s curling free-kick.

A City fifth looked more likely over the final ten minutes, with Sane going close on a couple of occasions.

Takeaways

City begin to find their rhythm

This was City's first friendly of the summer and whilst there was a slight rustiness to their play in the first half, the signs are that English football's dominant force are already getting into the groove.

Both the senior and inexperienced defenders played out from the back with great composure, indicating the pervasive nature of Pep Guardiola's philosophy, while the midfielders were always looking to pick out the wide runners with precise through balls. 

The signs are, unsurprisingly, that they will pick up from where they left off.

Sterling starts as he means to go on

He was only on the pitch for 45 minutes, but Sterling could have had a hat-trick.

Both of his goals were fairly simple finishes, but the first was a marker of his sharpness as he stole a march on his markers, and the second was the kind of chance he is always likely to get in this relentless side.

It is of course only pre-season, but after his finest campaign yet, an evidently hungry Sterling is instantly back on the scoresheet.

Difficult debut for Angelino

Angelino might fancy his chances of the starting left-back role after returning to City following his stellar season at PSV, especially with Benjamin Mendy absent from this travelling party.

But he looked off the pace in this game and West Ham sensed his vulnerability as they looked to Anderson and Fredericks down the right as an avenue to goal.

He conceded one penalty and was very fortunate not to give away another for a clumsy lunge. A significantly more confident display will be expected on his next outing.

Embed from Getty Images

Fredericks impresses

It is only a third-place playoff for West Ham but there remain positives to draw from this fitness-building encounter.

One such note of optimism was the performance of Fredericks, a lively presence and a constant outlet down on the right flank.

Partly due to an ankle injury, he was restricted to only 18 appearances in his first season at the London Stadium, but he looks in good shape as he bids to build on the flashes of promise he has demonstrated thus far.

Man of the match

It is difficult to look past Sterling, who proved too hot to handle for the opposition defence in the intense heat. A dangerous presence from his introduction until the final whistle, the 24-year-old's contribution was decisive.

When is the final?

City will go up against Wolves for more yet silverware in Shanghai on Saturday at 13.30 UK time.

The final directly follows the third-place match between West Ham and Newcastle United.

VAVEL Logo