Aguero and Toure help City lift their Blues
Mancini’s side keep up fine form to see off Hammers
Sergio Aguero scores Manchester City’s opening goal against West Ham during their Premier League match at The Etihad Stadium. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters
Last season’s elation at Eastlands has been replaced by the grim realisation that the red enemy from down the road are back in their familiar position of champions.
Manager Roberto Mancini has already demanded that the summer transfer business should not drag on like last year.
But the City chief clearly has plenty of quality at his disposal already, and the delightful efforts Aguero and Toure contribution to the entertainment underlined the fact they remain a force.
There was an unexpected post-script to the day though, with Joe Hart’s mistake allowing Andy Carroll to net an injury-time consolation amid fears the England goalkeeper had suffered an injury himself.
Mancini implored his players not to feel sorry for themselves in his programme notes, the loss of their title five games before the end of the season has to be a source of regret.
For the last month now, the Blues have been the best side in the Premier League. Yet their dominance has come far too late.
Few teams are capable of the move that brought Aguero their opener.
Nasri crossed low to the near post, where Aguero turned home his 15th goal of the season. It was brilliant stuff, if simple in its execution.
But where was this form at Southampton, Sunderland, QPR or any of the other random venues where the Blues have inexplicably dropped precious points?
They nearly made it two almost immediately as Jussi Jaaskelainen failed to hold Nasri’s 20-yard strike and Pablo Zabaleta closed in.
The Argentina star seems certain to be named in the PFA Premier League team of the year tomorrow and must have thought he was going to make the occasion with a goal.
Jaaskelainen redeemed himself though, turning away Zabaleta’s shot from point blank range.
Other than that, the first-half was a fairly lacklustre affair. Applause for Marc-Vivien Foe, a respected figure at both clubs, who died 10 years ago, punctuated long periods of near silence.
Returning after three matches out with a hamstring injury, Silva did his best to prompt City into life, setting Aguero up with a chance he would normally have buried but instead scuffed into the ground and onto a post.
For their part, West Ham played like a side whose return to the top flight has been consolidated by a secure mid-table finish.
It did not prevent Sam Allardyce blowing his top at the fourth official though when referee Howard Webb opted not to allow the Hammers to re-take a free-kick he appeared to be preventing but the visitors took anyway, only for Matt Jarvis to be immediately flagged offside.
Allardyce could have done with his players showing similar passion and though they did return with a sense of purpose, it was City who nearly extended their lead at the start of the second period as Carlos Tevez’s shot was blocked by Winston Reid.
The opportunity have been provided by a superb piece of skill from Nasri, who like so many in blue, failed to reach the heights on a consistent basis this season. Silva is another, Aguero also.
Yet the Argentina forward set up compatriot Carlos Tevez with an astute cut-back, only for Joey O’Brien’s last-ditch tackle to deny the hosts.
Tevez turned provider for Nasri shortly afterwards, but with the goal gaping the man who left Arsenal two years ago and won a title at the first time of asking attempted to prod home with his right foot and missed the ball altogether.
On the touchline, Mancini’s face was a picture as he slumped into his seat.
Frustration turned to elation 10 minutes from time as Toure provided another moment of magic, creating space for himself on the edge of the area before smacking a clinical effort into the top corner.
In its own way, it was as wonderful as City’s opener. And City nearly added further gloss to their day when Aguero was inches away after turning home the loose ball after Jaaskelainen had parried Zabaleta’s shot.
The last action involved Hart though, who had gone down with an injury a couple of minutes earlier and still seemed to be bothered by it as he inexplicably allowed Carroll’s shot to roll through his legs.