Raheem Sterling’s finishing seems to improve incrementally as each season passes and here he looked a class apart as he scored the first hat-trick of the season, all three coolly struck when clear through on goal.
Yet for all the talk of Norwich City being swept aside at Anfield, this was even more emphatic.
West Ham are meant to be Premier League stalwarts with aspirations of the higher reaches. And while the London Stadium will never be described as a fortress, it is their home. For twenty minutes, they aspired to compete and looked almost equals. Indeed, they started well, pressed high worried Rodri on his Premier League debut and made you think there might be the glimmer of a contest in the game.
Yet, with the help of the VAR, whose interventions were frequent, lengthy yet ultimately hard to argue with, City squatted West Ham wit disdain. It isn’t just new kids on the blocks who are put in their place by the new superpowers of English football.
West Ham weren’t even close to City. One hundred points seemed exceptional two years ago and scoring well above ninety last season pretty remarkable; it may just be the new norm.
When City’s first goal came on 24 minutes, it was from a goal kick. Granted there was around two minutes of passing from said goal kick to Gabriel Jesus’s deflection in the net, so this was not exactly and up and at ‘em flick on and strike. But the new rules, which allow the goalkeeper to play the ball to defender inside the penalty area, allow a ball-playing side like City a distinct advantage.
Ederson played the ball to Laporte on the six yard line, exploiting the new rules. There were multiple interchanges from Ederson to Walker and back, to Rodri and back, to Laporte and back. But West Ham, who had pressed aggressively earlier in the game, were reluctant to engage too intensely and eventually City worked the ball to De Bruyne, who with a cross field ball, played in Mahrez.
Now Kyle Walker was sprinting impressively down the line, past Aaron Cresswell, and Mahrez simply slipped him in. He drilled in the cross, which rebound off Pedro Obiang and on to Jesus who claimed his first goal of the season. It was all rather too simple. Up until that point, West Ham had engaged well with the battle, Declan Rice commanding and Jack Wilshere full of energy.
Even more so a minute later when a brilliant Silva flick play in Sterling who squared for Jesus who scored.
The lure of the Westfield bar and food courts seemed irresistible at this point for many. No-one relishes watching their team humiliated for a good half hour. Yet VAR intervened. It seemed Sterling had – just – strayed a millimetre offside.
There was delay of almost two minutes before the decision was announced and the goal overturned. It was greeted with huge cheers, like the fresh awakening of lost hope.
And for a while West Ham played as though that were the case. Pedro Obiang headed over from a Robert Snodgrass and Ederson performed a suberb double save from Chicarito and Lanzini on 74 minutes.
But it really was all over on 78 minutes, when Mahrez lifted a pass over the defence to Sterling to score calmly. There was another lengthy VAR check; if anything thus loked more offside yet was ruled.
It felt an exhibition game by then. In many ways it was.