Manchester City’s convincing 3-0 Premiership victory over 10-man West Ham here on Saturday might have impressed Fabio Capello but Micah Richards’ hospitalisation caused concern.
England defender Richards clashed heads with City team-mate Tal Ben Haim shortly after the break and was taken to hospital having been given oxygen and a neck brace just prior to being stretchered off the Eastlands pitch.
West Ham’s Mark Noble was sent off in the first half for a second bookable offence putting the visitors up against it.
The goals came from Daniel Sturridge midway through the second half with a further two from Blumer Elano, leaving them to sail to the win.
Manchester City manager Mark Hughes handed a debut to 22-year-old Belgian Vincent Kompany following his transfer from Bundesliga club Hamburg last week for a fee reported to be 12.5 million euros, and he was the official man-of-the-match.
The Belgium international was one of four changes from last week’s defeat to Aston Villa. Michael Ball, Stephen Ireland and Sturridge were all included in Hughes’s starting eleven.
Dean Ashton and Scott Parker had recovered from calf and thigh injuries following last week’s win over Wigan.
City could have gone ahead in the 12th minute after a move started by a Lucas Neill corner. A chance by Ireland was cleared off the line by Calum Davenport and in the ensuing melee the ball rebounded off the crossbar.
In the 37th minute, Noble earned his second yellow card for a challenge on Johnson and was sent off to change the hue of the game.
England manager Capello was watching from the sidelines having been at Chelsea’s 1-0 win at Wigan earlier in the day before making the short trip to Manchester. City owner Thaksin Shinawatra was also looking on from the sidelines and warmly-applauded the goals.
After the break, West Ham’s Hayden Mullins came on for Freddie Sears, who had ironically replaced Carlton Cole who got injured following a clash with Ben Haim.
Then came the Richards’ incident and medics worked hard on the pitch for more than five minutes before carring him off on a stretcher.
Initial reports said he went straight to hospital and, though he was given oxygen and was wearing a neck brace, that did not necessarily mean it was very serious as they are sometimes used as a precaution. German Dietmar Hamann came on for Richards.
From the downer of Richards’ injury, City emerged to the upper of three goals in an 11-minute period.
Sturridge scored his first goal in the City of Manchester stadium in the 65th minute and celebrated with a victory jig.
Following a cross from the left, Hammers defender Matthew Upson failed to clear the ball without any height or distance, leaving Sturridge to rifle the ball into the roof of the net from 10 yards left-footed past keeper Richard Green.
Elano scored City’s second with 20 minutes to go although there had been signs that he had been previously due to come off.
Ireland dinked the ball across from the right of the box with his back to goal and Elano did well with a ball at a difficult height to control to lodge the ball home left-footed into the bottom righthand corner of Green’s goal.
Hughes would have been particularly pleased he had not taken Elano off when he scored his second and City’s third, once again set up by Ireland, in the 76th minute.
Ireland showed his pace to outrun a defender to the right-hand bi-line and then cut the ball back for Elano to easily tap the ball home from just outside the six-yard box.
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