Manchester City can only hope their upcoming fight with UEFA proves as straightforward as a 2-0 win over relegation-threatened West Ham that was far more dominant than the scoreline suggested.
Goals in either half from Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne were the only reward for a display in which City boasted almost 80 per cent possession and had 20 shots at goal.
While the scoreline looked routine this was a Premier League match played with an undoubted edge by the hosts.
Ten days after Storm Ciara forced the postponement of the original fixture, the two sides reconvened but with City now facing an altogether different storm.
UEFA’s bombshell announcement on Friday that City would be banned from European competition for two seasons, and fined £24.9million, for “aggravated breaches” of Financial Fair Play regulations had already brought an aggressive response from the club and the promise of a determined appeal.
City have called UEFA’s process “prejudicial”, and chief executive Ferran Soriano followed that up by insisting the allegations against the club were “simply not true”.
On Wednesday night the fans took their turn. Though the Etihad Stadium was far from full for the hastily rearranged game, those in attendance made their feelings clear, displaying banners decrying the ‘UEFA Mafia’ and singing songs denouncing the European governing body in much cruder terms.
On the pitch players, led by a typically determined De Bruyne, seemed to carry a little extra bite as they chased down every loose ball and simply overpowered a West Ham side now winless in their last seven outings.
If that fight could have been matched by a little more conviction in front of goal from Gabriel Jesus, plying alongside Sergio Aguero in an attacking line-up, City would have been 2-0 up inside 15 minutes.
Only five minutes had passed when David Silva played in the Brazilian but he overdid the tricks in trying to round Lukasz Fabianski, allowing Ryan Fredericks to step in.
Aguero then stabbed a shot just wide while De Bruyne’s low drive brought an unorthodox save from the West Ham goalkeeper before Jesus missed another golden chance.
Stood just six yards from goal, he dithered on the ball just long enough for Ryan Cresswell to get back and make a double block.
City then saw penalty claims ignored when Aguero appeared to be held back in front of goal. The flag was up for offside but replays suggested it should not have been, and VAR did not intervene.
The breakthrough came on the half-hour mark as De Bruyne whipped in a corner and Rodri rose highest to head home his first goal at the Etihad Stadium.
Jesus might have doubled the lead before the break but, though there was no hesitation in the shot this time, it was straight at Fabianski as City broke.
The second goal eventually arrived just after the hour with De Bruyne the creator and the finisher. The Belgian started the move on the edge of the area, linking up with Bernardo Silva before rifling a low shot under Fabianski.
There was more frustration for Jesus in the 77th minute when Fabianski sprang quickly off his line to block his shot, but the result was already beyond doubt.
The win cut the gap to leaders Liverpool to an entirely academic 22 points but though the title fight is over, much tougher battles await City in the court rooms.
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