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Hammers nail champions

HEAD BOY: Diafra Sakho nods home West Ham's winner

WEST HAM once again demonstrated their ability to take on and beat the best sides at home.

This 2-1 defeat of the champions was no smash and grab, even as the hosts were forced to withstand an onslaught in five minutes of second-half injury-time.

First last season’s runners-up Liverpool and now the champions have been dispatched as West Ham maintained their place in the top four and prevented Manuel Pellegrini’s charges reducing the five-point gap that separated them from Chelsea at the top of the Premier League.

Sam Allardyce’s men were never cowered by their opponents. In the first-half they restricted the champions to efforts from set-pieces, as the City trio of David Silva, Yaya Toure and Sergio Agüero were swarmed upon by committed opponents at every juncture.

Equally, City’s defensive problems, with Vincent Kompany currently below his best and Elaquim Mangala still finding his feet in England, give all opponents hope at present.

Not only was Song instrumental in providing a serenity and composure in front of a compact back four but he was instrumental in starting West Ham’s continual breakaways. His ‘rabona’ kick to cross for Stewart Downing early in the second-half demonstrated his and the hosts’ confidence coming into this match.

It was Song’s incisive pass on 29 minutes that bisected Gael Clichy and Mangala to find the marauding Enner Valencia, whose cut-back evaded City defenders and was turned home by Amalfitano at the far post.

The champions looked off colour and struggled to craft openings. Toure clumped one free-kick into West Ham’s wall and it was easy to speak of a Champions League hangover given that nine of City’s starting XI also started in Moscow on Tuesday night.

For their part, West Ham continued to probe at City with more skill and conviction than in any of the four encounters last term in which City prevailed in all four and won by an aggregate of 14-1. This West Ham are a transformed beast. When Kompany clattered into the Ecuadorian just before the interval he earned a booking that betrayed the champions’ frustration.

On 60 minutes Agüero reminded the hosts of the quality they and he had in reserve and it took the outstretched left-foot of Adrian to prevent an equaliser.

Five minutes later the crossbar intervened to deny the Argentine once again. Adrian also turned away Toure’s well-struck follow up a as City were starting to find space.

To their credit, West Ham continued to press for a second, even as Toure became the next City player to hit the crossbar. Sakho went close with one effort but finally had his reward on 75 minutes. The Senegalse rose above Clichy to head home Aaron Cresswell’s excellent cross. Joe Hart attempted to scoop it away but failed to do so before it had crossed the line and Sakho had his sixth Premier League goal in six games.

The euphoria around Upton Park was tempered two minutes later when Silva curled a wonderful strike across Adrian and into the corner of the net following a jinking run from the left-hand corner of West Ham’s penalty area.

City pushed for an equaliser but this West Ham are made of sterner stuff.

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