Manchester City re-established their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League with yet another comeback, yet another late, late rally; for the third time in a week as they beat a spirited, organised West Ham inspired by their reserve goalkeeper. Yo, Adrian. He almost did it.
Instead second-half goals by Nicolas Otamendi and, very late on, David Silva over-turned the unlikely advantage West Ham had taken through Angelo Ogbonna in the first period.
City showed incredible belief and determination, as they were far from their best.
Either, though, their recent close scrapes are a sign of champions or, worryingly for them, the sign of a team who thinks they are already champions and are guilty of complacency.
Teams are defending deep against them, naturally, but manager Pep Guardiola will be concerned at how hard it is to beat them at present.
Adrian, in for Joe Hart, who was ineligible as he is only on loan from City, was outstanding, and should keep his place but West Ham still lost and are still three points from 17th place West Bromwich Albion, deep in trouble. It was tough on them and manager David Moyes.
City’s 13-match Premier League winning run this season equals the record previously jointly held by Chelsea (13 in 2016-17) and Arsenal (13 in 2001-02). They can beat it, of course, if they avoid defeat in next Sunday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford. They may even end the title race if they win there.
West Ham had seized a shock lead close to half-time – except on the balance of opportunities it was not such a shock. It came from a short corner by Aaron Cresswell, to Manuel Lanzini, who quickly returned it back to the defender with it then being swung in for Ogbonna to steal in front of Otamendi and power a header past Ederson.
The goalkeeper got a hand to it, as the ball bounced just in front of him, but it was not enough and Ogbonna had his first-ever league goal. Yet again City had conceded sloppily from a set-piece and from a similar time in the game as when Huddersfield Town went in front against them last Sunday.
For a while it had been almost too easy for the league leaders with Kevin de Bruyne nut-megging Cheikhou Kouyate with a cross-field pass and Ederson dribbling the ball away from Michail Antonio but, despite that, it was West Ham who created the two most dangerous attacking moments in the opening quarter.
Five-at-the-back, four in midfield, their tactics were clear but they went close from an Cresswell corner, flicked on by Kouyate with Antonio, on the stretch, volleying high over the bar at the far post. It proved an early warning for the goal.
Then Kyle Walker and Otamendi over-played close to their own penalty area and Ederson had to react quickly to deny Antonio before the ball was scrambled way.
City had a penalty appeal, as Raheem Sterling tumbled over, turned away before they finally fashioned an opportunity. It came after another cross-field ball from De Bruyne, smartly dummied by Fabian Delph – playing as the holding midfielder – and running to David Silva whose shot too a heavy deflection off Declan Rice. Adrian did extremely well to adjust and tip it over the bar.
But West Ham were not cowed and when Silva inadvertently turned the ball into the path of Lanzini the Argentinean forced Ederson into an alert parry as he turned it around the post for a corner.
The visitors were forced into a re-shuffle as they lost Kouyate to injury, bringing on striker Diafra Sakho, which meant Antonio – who had been so effective up front – switching back into midfield. But went in, in front, at half-time and City had their work cut out. Once more.
Guardiola switched it up, taking off Danilo with Delph back to left-back and Gabriel Jesus joining Sergio Aguero in attack. West Ham were forced back, their defending suddenly desperate with Rice bringing down Delph as he weaved through. He could – should – have been booked, which would have let to a dismissal, but survived. Adrian, superbly, beat out De Bruyne’s free-kick but Sterling and Jesus then combined with the latter crossing for Otamendi to bundle the ball home, off Rice. City were level.
The pressure grew with Adrian then turning away another powerful shot, this time from Leroy Sane as he cut in from the left and soon after he denied the German international again. The Spaniard excelled himself when he pushed away Jesus’s curling shot, one-handed, with Sterling somehow miscuing the rebound with the goal unguarded.
City continued to push but were almost undone when Antonio broke and forced a fine save by Ederson with a fierce right-foot shot. It proved pivotal with, finally, City making the breakthrough as De Bruyne had the time and space to weigh up a cross and picked out Silva who, at full stretch, volleyed it acrobatically back across Adrian and into the net.
Was that it? West Ham almost hit back when substitute Marko Arnautovic crossed low to Sakho but he steered his first-time shot narrowly wide. City had their win.