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Hammers deliver blow to Manchester City’s title chances

At 2.45pm on Sunday, it looked like being the perfect weekend for Liverpool. Less than 24 hours earlier, the club had won its first FA Cup in 16 years as Jurgen Klopp’s side beat Chelsea on penalties after a 0-0 draw at Wembley. Then, at half-time of West Ham’s clash with Manchester City in the Premier League, Liverpool spied an opportunity to blow the Premier League title race wide open again.

City were not at the races in the opening 45 minutes at the London Stadium. They had plenty of possession but struggled to create clear-cut chances. Many of their shots were speculative efforts from outside the box. West Ham, by contrast, fashion two golden one-on-one opportunities, and Jarrod Bowen finished them both with aplomb.

The Hammers were happy to cede control of the ball and play on the counter-attack. Michail Antonio tagged himself onto Fernandinho and gave the stand-in centre-back problems with his direct running. Bowen made some smart movements in off the left, while Pablo Fornals supplied his typical combination of graft and guile. Further back, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek and Craig Dawson were all solid.

West Ham were good value for their 2-0 lead at the interval, but City were always likely to come on strong in the second half. Jack Grealish halved the deficit with a volley that deflected in off Dawson four minutes after the restart. West Ham had to withstand some sustained pressure in the minutes that followed, but it was not completely one-way traffic: Fornals hit the side-netting from a tight angle, while Antonio should have done better after seizing on an underhit backpass from Fernandinho.

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It was City who grabbed the all-important fourth goal, though – albeit courtesy of a West Ham player. Riyad Mahrez’s teasing cross from a free-kick was inadvertently flicked into the net by Vladimir Coufal, who probably did not have to go for the ball. City won a penalty shortly after, but Mahrez’s effort was a favourable height for Fabianski, who palmed the ball away.

Pep Guardiola’s side continued to push for the winner, but West Ham dug deep and showed the grit and resolve that has seen them deny Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and now City victory at the London Stadium this term.

A win for the champions would have put them on the brink of securing the title, but a 2-2 draw was not a bad outcome – especially considering City were staring in defeat in the face at the break. Liverpool face an out-of-form Southampton on Tuesday but will still be a point off the summit of the standings if they win. If City beat Aston Villa on the final day, they will be crowned champions of England for the fourth time in five years.

“I can assure you something,” Guardiola said in his post-match press conference. “In one week our stadium will be so loud and we will give them all our lives, and they will give us all their lives, for 95 minutes. It’s an incredible privilege to win one game at home to be champion.”

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