LONDON: New Manchester City signing Erling Haaland marked a fine Premier League debut by scoring in each half as the champions began their title defence by strolling to a 2-0 victory over West Ham United at the London Stadium on Sunday.
Haaland converted a penalty after 36 minutes and wrapped up the points with a composed finish in the second period to cap an impressive display, with his father and former City player Alfie celebrating in the stands.
“It’s nice that he saw both goals as it is a big moment for me as a debutant in this competition,” the 22-year-old Haaland said. “Also now it is almost 30 minutes since I scored the last goal so I have to keep going.” Haaland charged past the West Ham defence to latch onto a through ball and take it around Alphonse Areola before being fouled by the substitute goalkeeper, who had replaced the injured Lukasz Fabianski after 29 minutes.
West Ham were forced into the early change when Fabianski picked up a knock clearing a cross from Kevin De Bruyne as he clattered into team-mate Aaron Cresswell and Haaland.
The Norwegian striker stepped up to convert the resultant spot kick, his cool finish sending Areola the wrong way to give City a deserved lead after an utterly dominant first half in which West Ham were rarely able to venture from their own box.
City, who had a first-half goal disallowed after Ilkay Gundogan was offside in the build-up, made a slightly disjointed start to the match but gradually strengthened their grip on the contest and doubled their lead after the hour mark.
Midfielder Kevin De Bruyne had defended a series of crosses before slipping through a delightful pin-point pass to Haaland, who timed his run to perfection and slotted home with a fine left-foot finish in the 65th minute.
West Ham forward Michail Antonio had headed wide in the opening stages and De Bruyne easily cleared Jarrod Bowen’s free-kick just before halftime, but the hosts struggled to make their mark on the game in a largely toothless attacking display.
Manager David Moyes brought on Said Benrahma and new signing Gianluca Scamacca just before the hour mark in an attempt to change West Ham’s fortunes but Haaland doubled City’s lead minutes after and the visitors comfortably saw out the win.
City have a new look to them this season after the departure of four first team players but there has been no disruption to Guardiola’s passing machine, with the club aiming to win a third straight league title.
Guardiola’s side controlled 80 per cent of possession in the first half and 76 per cent overall but did not have to exert themselves against a passive West Ham side, who faded after a bright first few minutes.
City also scored with their only two shots on target in a clinical performance that presented an ominous prospect for their rivals, showing that they will once again be the team to beat in the title race.
They host Bournemouth next weekend while West Ham travel to Nottingham Forest.
Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2022