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Pep Guardiola's Manchester City suffered a setback in the Premier League title race as Riyad Mahrez saw a late penalty saved in 2-2 draw with West Ham on Sunday.
City fought back from two goals down but failed to move within touching distance of reclaiming their Premier League crown and handed Liverpool a significant boost in the title race. Guardiola's side now sit four points above the Reds, though Jurgen Klopp's men have two games of the season remaining compared to City's one.
Jarrod Bowen opened the scoring at the London Stadium midway through the first half, latching on to Pablo Fornals' sublime ball over the top, before rounding Ederson to slot home the opener. The West Ham winger then added a second moments before the interval, this time collecting Michail Antonio's flick before drilling home a stunning second.
A shell-shocked City then struck a reply three minutes into the second half as Jack Grealish reduced the deficit with a deflected volley. Michail Antonio's then spurned a glorious opportunity before Vladimir Coufal put through his own net to level the match.
However, Mahrez fluffed his spot-kick as City could only manage a point against West Ham. Here, Daily Star Sport take a closer look at the ket decisions Guardiola got right and wrong on a dramatic day in the Premier League title race.
Things Guardiola got wrong…
Heading into the West Ham clash, City would have been well aware of the threat the Hammers possessed. David Moyes men's have enjoyed a stellar season, underlining their quality both domestically and in Europe.
A key component in the Irons' success this season has been Bowen's goalscoring exploits. The Premier League Player of the Season nominee has sparkled throughout the current campaign and continued his outstanding form by causing City's defence havoc on Sunday, netting his 17th and 18th strikes of a sublime season.
Bowen twice evaded Guardiola's backline to devastating effect, making the most of the makeshift defence by timing his runs perfectly. Both him and Antonio were a constant thorn in City's side and the Sky Blues' failure to acknowledge the threat the pair posed could prove decisive in determining the title race.
Defensive gamble backfires
With Kyle Walker, John Stones and Ruben Dias having all seen injuries bring their seasons to a premature end, and with Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho both being substituted following knocks in City's midweek mauling of Wolves, all eyes were on what Guardiola would do with regards to patching up his defence. Both of the latter were passed fit for the trip to West Ham and with limited options at his disposal, the Spaniard threw the pair in from the off.
It was certainly a gamble given Nathan Ake was one of few fit defensive options readily available and waiting in the wings. Despite that, Guardiola continued to prefer outgoing midfielder Fernandinho in the heart of his defence. But the Spaniard's decision to take a risk by starting the pair backfired.
Bowen easily evaded City's backline on two occasions, with a ball over the top all it took to start the scoring and punish the Premier League leaders. Zinchenko was also caught out for both of West Ham's strikes as Guardiola's makeshift defence were devastatingly disorganised. While the defensive injuries cannot be helped, the decision to overlook Ake proved costly.
Ringing the changes
City silenced all their doubters in midweek by comprehensively dismantling Wolves at Molineux in a match which many saw as a potential banana skin for Guardiola's men. The Spaniard's side looked back to their very best and the stunning display sent a message out to the rest of the league – that City were about to steamroller their way to yet another title.
However, heading into another potentially tricky clash at West Ham, Guardiola opted to ring the changes – a move which would see City lose all of their midweek momentum. The City boss made three alterations from the trip to Molineux as Ilkay Gundogan, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden made way for Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus and Jack Grealish. But it proved to be another move which would backfire.
Mahrez and Grealish in particular looked off the pace in the first half as they failed to make their mark on the match. The pair's quiet starts to the game saw City punished by Bowen and left Guardiola's side with a mountain to club come the interval.
Failing to motivate his men
City appeared uncharacteristically out-of-sorts for much of the match on Sunday as West Ham exploited their failure to seize control on the contest. Whether or not it was a case of City being cocky and complacent following their midweek masterclass, something was amiss with Guardiola's side.
And the Spaniard will surely have to take some flak for both his selection and pre-match preparations. City lacked a cutting edge in the first 45 minutes at West Ham and their flat first half suggested Guardiola had failed to motivate his men for the occasion.
For all of City's brilliance this season, there have been several moments where their mentality has been called into question. Real Madrid was a high-profile example in recent times and at West Ham, their frailties were exposed once again.
Things Guardiola got right…
With City trailing by two goals at half time in a Premier League away match for the first time since 2015, Guardiola demanded a response from his side after the interval – and that's exactly what he got. Grealish reduced the arrears just three minutes into the second period as City regained momentum and began to turn the screw.
Guardiola clearly tweaked things at half-time and his decision to move the struggling Grealish and Riyad Mahrez higher up and wider had an immediate impact. The pair appeared to pin West Ham back as City finally seized control of play.
Grealish then saw his volleyed effort deflect past Lukasz Fabianski to give City a much-needed lifeline. However, Guardiola's tinkering proved a case of too little too late as the damaged had already been done.
Rallying the troops
While Guardiola may well have failed to suitably fire up his side for the first-half, the Spaniard proved his managerial worth at half-time. The City boss was tasked with delivering a crucial team talk at the interval and whatever was said, it worked.
City immediately set about asserting their authority on the second half as Guardiola's side dug deep. The fightback showed an impressive strength of character, especially given City recently saw their confidence dented following a cataursophic capitulating against Real Madrid in the Champions League.
However, Guardiola rallied his troop at half-time and provided the motivation which appeared to have been missed ahead of kick-off. City battled back defiantly in a dramatic day in this season's Premier League title race.
- Manchester City FC
- Pep Guardiola
- West Ham FC
- Liverpool FC
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