City get back on track
MANCHESTER CITY 2 WEST HAM 0
A bizarre own goal from West Ham's James Collins helped Manchester City back to winning ways in the Premier League.
Top scorer Sergio Aguero was also on target as the fallen champions, after a horrendous run of six defeats in eight games, claimed a welcome and routine 2-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium.
Collins set them on their way when he contrived to lob goalkeeper Adrian when an attempted interception went wrong before Aguero added to the tally before half-time.
It was not enough to lift City back into the top three but at least increased the gap to fifth-placed Liverpool - with heat increasing in the race for Champions League positions - to seven points.
The result is also unlikely to alleviate the pressure on City manager Manuel Pellegrini much, but he could at least reflect on a satisfactory afternoon's work against a lacklustre West Ham.
The only obvious sour point was a serious-looking injury to David Silva, who was carried off on a stretcher with a head injury after a clash with Cheikhou Kouyate.
That added to a list of problems for City who were already without Vincent Kompany, Wilfried Bony, Gael Clichy, James Milner and Stevan Jovetic.
Veteran midfielder Frank Lampard came into the starting line-up to face his old club for probably the last time, while Eliaquim Mangala, Aleksandar Kolarov and Fernando also featured.
After all the criticism sent their way over the collapse of their title defence, City were probably grateful West Ham were so indifferent to their task.
The Hammers had registered just one win in their previous 10 games and it never looked like this would be the occasion when their confidence returned.
City controlled possession from early on and gradually moved through the gears.
Silva fired an early warning over the bar before Aguero shot straight at Adrian and a Kolarov free-kick curled wide. Aguero blasted another effort into the stands before City claimed the lead in freak circumstances after 18 minutes.
Jesus Navas, often criticised for his lack of decent delivery, burst down the right and clipped a ball towards the box looking for the inrushing Aguero.
It initially appeared the Spaniard had been thwarted again as Collins stepped in to intercept but City got lucky. The ball bobbled, caught Collins on the shin and looped over the stranded Adrian, hitting the bar on its way down and then going in off the post.
It was a goal set to feature on bloopers reels for years to come and another unwelcome addition to the usually dependable Collins' list of clangers.
West Ham offered little in response although the experienced Carlton Cole, making his first start since February following injury to Diafra Sakho, shot at Joe Hart.
City doubled their lead nine minutes before the break after Yaya Toure slid to cut out a Stewart Downing pass and find Aguero. The Argentinian sped into West Ham territory, skipping past a Collins tackle and exchanging passes with Navas to fire home.
It was Aguero's 26th goal of the season and his 20th in the Premier League, taking him above Harry Kane and Diego Costa in the competition's scoring chart.
City were strolling and Aguero almost had another early in the second half after a nice City passing move but Carl Jenkinson frustrated him with a well-timed challenge. Aguero was hurt in that tackle and required treatment but returned to run off the knock.
Silva was not so fortunate after being caught on the side of the head by a stray elbow from Kouyate, who was booked. The City playmaker was down for around eight minutes, requiring lengthy and careful treatment before eventually being lifted onto a stretcher by medical staff.
Samir Nasri, recently out of favour, came on as his replacement for the closing stages.
City eased up as the game drifted towards a conclusion and West Ham enjoyed some decent possession but Hart - on his 28th birthday - came out to block their one good chance when Kevin Nolan went through.