It’s not an enjoyable start to the season when you have to host last year’s Champions, a team who could easily walk the league in their sleep. A Sterling hat-trick, a game dominated by VAR, and a Mike Dean masterclass put paid to any thoughts Hammers might have had about kicking off their season in style.
It started out promising; a reasonable first half in which the home side put together some impressive passing and good movement, particularly where Antonio, Lanzini, and lively new signing Haller was concerned.
There was time for technology to feature as VAR played a role in denying a Lanzini penalty appeal and ruling out a West Ham red card on the edge of the area.
At the back, the Hammers looked at sea, particularly in regards to communication on the left side and wide shooting and a sturdy Fabianski kept the score to just the one goal from Jesus.
The second half was decidedly worse.
Antonio came off, as did Wilshere, and Mike Dean, more a narrator than a facilitator, came into his own. Fouls were ignored, penalties were retaken, VAR was bizarre, and City had the skill and the space to run away with the game – which they did, courtesy of three second half goals from Sterling and a controversial twice taken penalty from an Aguero who never needed to get out of first gear.
West Ham offered the most minimal of threats, although did demand a skillful double save later in the game.
This isn’t the game that defines West Ham’s season, but it’s left a bitter taste in place of the optimism fans will have felt coming into this match.