West Ham United 0-5 Manchester City: Sterling's hat-trick eases City to victory
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester City made an ominous start to their title defence with a brutal 5-0 victory against a lacklustre West Ham United at the London Stadium.

Raheem Sterling bagged an assured treble, with Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero also on target for the champions, who raced away in the second half.

Story of the game

West Ham started brightly, putting Manchester City under plenty of pressure in their own final third.

They were nearly rewarded for their industry when Manuel Lanzini dispossessed Rodri on the edge of the area, but the Spaniard's firm challenge snuffed the chance out.

The Hammers were finding clear-cut opportunities hard to come by, and soon City went up a gear.

The elusive Riyad Mahrez was involved in much of their attacking play, twice going close and teeing-up David Silva for a side-footed effort which went only a fraction wide.

The breakthrough would arrive on 25 minutes after Kyle Walker found space in-behind Aaron Cresswell down the right and sent in a low cross, which Jesus poked in just ahead of Issa Diop.

City were in charge for the rest of the first period, Kevin de Bruyne forcing Lukasz Fabianski into a smart save before Jesus failed to punish Diop's botched clearance. 

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West Ham brought Pablo Fornals on at the break but he was unable to change the pattern of the game.

It would take City just six minutes to bag their second goal as De Bruyne slipped Sterling through at the end of a driving run and he confidently slotted past Fabianski.

The visitors were looking menacing and thought they had a third moments later when Jesus turned in at the end of a slick piece of play, only for VAR to rule that Sterling, who had squared, was offside by the finest of margins.

West Ham had a chance to halve the deficit on the hour mark, but Diop could only glance Snodgrass' out-swinging free-kick from the left flank over the bar.

They went closer still after 73 minutes, denied by Ederson's incredible double save from Javier Hernandez's instinctive volley and Lanzini's header on the rebound.

In trademark ruthless fashion, City went up the other end and killed the game as Mahrez skilfully found Sterling with a lofted through ball and the Englishman lobbed the approaching 'keeper. This one survived VAR's offside check.

Diop's blatant trip on Mahrez with seven minutes remaining then handed them a golden chance to score a fourth. Though substitute Aguero saw his tame effort saved, encroachment from a number of West Ham players forced a retake, and this time the striker confidently dispatched.

Sterling looked miffed by Aguero's insistence on taking, but he easily grabbed his hat-trick in the first minute of added time after Mahrez found him with another incisive pass.

Takeaways

City lay down the gauntlet

Almost everything about this City display suggests they are going to be extremely difficult to stop this season.

They were defensively solid for the most part, they passed the ball with characteristic composure in all areas and they sliced through the opposition defence at will.

Sterling looks more than capable of winning the Golden Boot, Mahrez turned in a dazzling display, with a hat-trick of his own, to ease the pain of Leroy Sane's layoff and traditional understudy Jesus also struck to underline the quite frightening level of the depth in this squad.

City are instantly top of the pile after responding to Liverpool's comfortable victory against Norwich City. Can anyone knock them off their perch?

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Toothless Hammers

On the other hand, this was a gut-wrenching afternoon for Manuel Pellegrini's West Ham.

It was a promising start, but soon it began to unravel as they wilted defensively.

New signing Sebastien Haller cut a lonely and frustrated figure as a blunt attack mustered only three shots on target over the course of the 90 minutes.

Clearly, it will take time for the summer arrivals to be bedded-in to a frontline which, on paper, looked like it would cause the opposition considerably more problems.

A taste of VAR

The second fixture of the season offered a glimpse of the drama VAR could bring to the league this season.

In this instance, it picked-up an offside the human eye would invariably miss and gave Aguero a second chance at a penalty.

These calls may not have had any real bearing on the result, but soon enough a review will dictate the outcome, only adding to the controversy and drama.

Man of the match

It is very difficult to look past Sterling, but Mahrez must also be singled out after teeing-up three of his side's goals and proving irrepressible throughout.

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Walker also followed a fantastic Community Shield display with an excellent performance at both ends. Clearly, he has raised his level amid the challenge posed by the incoming Joao Cancelo.

What next?

City face a much tougher test at home to Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday evening, while West Ham will look to get off the mark away to Brighton and Hove Albion.

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