Erling Haaland’s brilliant debut, Ilkay Gundogan dazzles as Man City open season with big win at West Ham


LONDON — Welcome to the Premier League, Erling Haaland! The big summer arrival from Borussia Dortmund scored both goals — including a penalty — to give Man City a 2-0 win over West Ham in the defending champions’ season opener.

Report: West Ham 0-2 Man City | Premier League table | Upcoming fixtures

ESPN’s Mark Ogden has the reaction from a comfortable win for Pep Guardiola’s side in London.

JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Post-match quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures

Rapid Reaction

Haaland makes dream start in Premier League debut

Erling Haaland has huge pressure on his shoulders at Manchester City this season, meaning he had to make a big impact as quickly as possible following his £51 million transfer from Borussia Dortmund. In the end, scoring twice on his Premier League debut wasn’t a bad way to introduce himself.

While Haaland’s fee is likely to be regarded as a bargain in the modern game, the 22-year-old still has to prove he is as good as his reputation suggests, and that is where the pressure will largely come from. And after failing to score — while missing some easy chances — in the Community Shield defeat against Liverpool last week, a failure to score against West Ham would have only intensified the expectancy. But Haaland scored both goals as City made a winning start to the defence of their title and their star signing showed that he will be a huge asset to Pep Guardiola’s team.

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His first was from the penalty spot after his clever run behind the Hammers’ defence was picked out by Ilkay Gundogan. After showing impressive pace to beat Hammers substitute goalkeeper Alphonse Areola to the ball and earn the penalty, Haaland sent him the wrong way from the spot with a precise penalty that nestled in the corner of the net. Meanwhile, his second was a classic striker’s goal, one that underlined his pace, movement and nerveless ability to beat a keeper in a one-on-one situation. Racing on to Kevin De Bruyne‘s defence-splitting pass, Haaland was able to open his body up and beat Areola with a left-footed shot into the far corner that sealed City’s win.

Haaland was signed to make the difference in the big games for City and score at will in the others. It’s fair to say he is already living up to the job description.

An ominous sign for rest of Premier League

Manchester City lost their opening game of last season with a 1-0 defeat in London at Tottenham, but 12 months on, they returned to the capital and started with a flawless win at West Ham that will already have their rivals worrying about how to keep pace with Pep Guardiola’s team.

Last season’s false start didn’t make a difference to the outcome of the title race, with City finishing ahead of Liverpool on the final day, but Guardiola’s team were slow out of the blocks, winning just four of their first seven games. If their slick performance against West Ham is a gauge of what is to come, however, the chasing pack will have to sprint just to keep up.

There was certainly no rust in the win at the London Stadium. Erling Haaland’s two goals got the new signing off the mark, and he has added greater potency to a team that already scored plenty. Kevin De Bruyne was outstanding and Ruben Dias was imposing at the back. In terms of dominating the game, there were times when City had more than 75% of possession, and this was against a West Ham team that almost clinched a top-six finish last season. It was no easy start for City, but they made it look effortless.

If they can blow West Ham away with such ease, the majority of the Premier League don’t stand a chance.

West Ham will worry about Rice until deadline day

West Ham have spent over £100 million on new signings so far this summer, but their most important piece of business has been keeping Declan Rice — for now, at least.

The 23-year-old, named club captain following Mark Noble’s retirement, had an outstanding season for the Hammers as they reached the Europa League semifinals last term, and he was once again the key man for David Moyes’ team against City. Rice is the definition of an all-action midfielder, and despite the searing heat on the opening weekend, he was still working tirelessly from box-to-box, winning tackles and making crucial interceptions.

But although he remains a West Ham player, there is still time for a bigger, wealthier club to make a move for the England international this month, and there are two in particular — Chelsea and Manchester United — who have been long-term admirers of Rice and who both still need midfield reinforcements. With two years left to run on his contract, West Ham may have to offload Rice next summer if he fails to agree a new deal, but if a big offer comes in before the Aug. 31 transfer deadline, it could be tempting for both West Ham and Rice to make the move happen. On the evidence of his performance against City, Rice would instantly improve United or Chelsea.

Player ratings

West Ham: Lukasz Fabianski 6; Vladimir Coufal 6, Ben Johnson 6, Kurt Zouma 6, Aaron Cresswell 5; Declan Rice 8, Tomas Soucek 7; Jarrod Bowen 7, Manuel Lanzini 5, Pablo Fornals 5; Michail Antonio 5.
Subs: Alphonse Areola 5, Said Benrahma 6, Gianluca Scamacca 5, Flynn Downes 5, Conor Coventry 5.

Man City: Ederson 7; Kyle Walker 7, Ruben Dias 7, Nathan Ake 7, Joao Cancelo 7; Ilkay Gundogan 9, Rodri 7, Kevin de Bruyne 8; Phil Foden 7, Erling Haaland 8, Jack Grealish 7.
Subs: Bernardo Silva 6, Julian Alvarez 6, Riyad Mahrez 6

Best and worst performers

BEST: Ilkay Gundogan, Man City

Guardiola’s team of all-stars is always better when Ilkay Gundogan is in the side, and the Germany midfielder ran the game for Guardiola at the London Stadium. His pass for Haaland in the first half led to a penalty from which City took the lead, and although it was a clever run by Haaland, only a player as intelligent as Gundogan could produce a pass to make the run pay off.

WORST: Alphonse Areola, West Ham

It’s never an easy task for a substitute goalkeeper to enter the game cold from the bench, so West Ham keeper Areola can at least point to his lack of preparation for his below-par performance. But the former Paris Saint-Germain keeper, who replaced the injured Lukasz Fabianski on 29 minutes, gifted City the opening goal just seven minutes after going on when he raced off his line and fouled Haaland with a reckless dive that resulted in a penalty.

He was also beaten too easily by Haaland for City’s second, marking a day to forget for the Hammers No. 2.

Highlights and notable moments

Haaland obviously takes the headlines for an almost flawless Premier League debut.

Meanwhile, take it from one legendary goalscorer about another: If anyone knows what it takes to be an elite forward, it would be the former England and Tottenham star himself …

After the match: What the managers, players said

“There were some good celebrations, so I’m happy. Nice that [my father, Alfie Haaland] saw both goals as it is a big moment for me as a debutant in this competition. Also, it’s been almost 30 minutes since I scored the last goal, so I have to keep going.” — Man City forward Erling Haaland

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

  • Erling Haaland scored in his Premier League debut; this is the third straight season that he’s scored in his team’s league opener (scored braces in the last two season openers with Dortmund). He’s also the second Manchester City player to score a brace on his Premier League debut, following Sergio Aguero in August 2011.

  • Manchester City extended their club-record road PL unbeaten streak to 19 games (15-0-4); their last such loss was at Tottenham (August 2021).

  • Manchester City extended their Premier League unbeaten streak vs. West Ham to 14 games (11-0-3), tied for their longest such active streak vs. a single opponent (14, vs. Fulham).

  • Manchester City have won six of their seven opening PL games under Pep Guardiola. Meanwhile, West Ham have done the opposite, losing six of their last seven.

  • Manchester City has won all four top-flight meetings vs. West Ham in the opening game of the season (13-0 on aggregate).

Up next

West Ham: There’s little rest for the Hammers in the early going, as they have three games in the next two weeks. They travel to newly promoted Nottingham Forest in the Premier League (Aug. 14) before facing the first leg of their UEFA Europa Conference League playoff opponent at home (Aug. 18) and then hosting Brighton (Aug. 21) in the Premier League. (Their Europa opponent? Either Viborg of Denmark or Faroe Islands champions B36 Torshavn, though the latter trail 3-0 on aggregate in their two-legged series.)

Man City: The road ahead looks fairly manageable for Guardiola & Co. as they face Bournemouth in their home opener Saturday before going to Newcastle on Aug. 21.

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