MANCHESTER, April 17- Sergio Aguero moved to the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts as his effort in a 2-0 win at home to West Ham on Sunday bolstered Manchester City’s hopes of securing a top-four finish and Champions League football.
The Argentina international claimed his 20th goal of the season, after a James Collins own-goal had gifted last season’s English champions the lead, thus ending a run which had seen him fail to score a goal from open play at Eastlands since November 2.
After a run of just four victories from their last dozen league games, culminating in last weekend’s embarrassing 4-2 derby defeat at Manchester United, the win was sorely needed by a City side looking to hold off Liverpool in the chase for the top four.
City had already carved out half a dozen chances of note by the time they took a fortunate 18th minute lead thanks to a helping hand from Collins.
Jesus Navas’s counter-attack down the right ended with him crossing towards the far post, his pass being intercepted by Collins who sent the ball looping high over goalkeeper Adrian and into the goal via the underside of the crossbar.
It was a lucky, if deserved, lead for the home team and one which killed off any suggestion of Sam Allardyce’s out-of-sorts side taking anything from the game.
Just to make doubly sure, Aguero increased City’s advantage in the 36th minute with another goal on the counter-attack, although this one was far better worked.
– Swift City –
Yaya Toure intercepted a badly-hit Stewart Downing pass deep in City territory and sent Aguero racing away. The Argentinian fed Navas out on the right, receiving the return pass in his stride and sweeping home an unstoppable finish.
In between the two City goals, there had been glimmers of hope for the visitors, with Joe Hart racing smartly off his line to close down Carlton Cole as he threatened just inside the area before the England goalkeeper dealt comfortably with a routine, low 20-yard shot from Enner Valencia soon afterwards.
Those minor concerns aside, West Ham were perfect opponents for under-pressure City to face as the London club headed towards their 11th league game without a win.
David Silva threatened the Hammers’ goal twice in the opening 10 minutes while, before the opener, Aguero first tested Adrian with a shot on the turn then fired over from a scrappy corner.
The first half concluded with another flowing City move, and a drilled Aleksandar Kolarov cross which Collins did well to scramble out of the six-yard area.
Nor did matters improve for West Ham after the break and it required a superbly-timed tackle from Carl Jenkinson to halt Aguero as he appeared certain to convert from the corner of the six-yard box.
Silva, similarly, looked capable of extending the lead for Manuel Pellegrini’s team only for Jenkinson to fling himself in the path of his shot, although the Spaniard’s afternoon was brought to a premature end after 67 minutes when he was stretchered off after Cheikhou Kouyate caught him in the face with a flailing elbow, the West Ham man earning a caution in the process.
The lengthy delay for Silva’s treatment removed any remaining drama from proceedings with an already low-key affair becoming even more downbeat.
Toure came closest to adding a third City goal when he flashed an 83rd minute shot over the top, while West Ham mounted a late flourish which saw Kevin Nolan narrowly fail to connect with Valencia’s cross through the six-yard area.
Nolan was then denied in a one-on-one with Hart after latching onto an under-hit Martin Demichelis back pass.