LONDON • Manchester City fielded nearly £300 million (S$652 million) in talented personnel to little or no avail on Saturday.
It was the most expensive line-up in Premier League history, much more than the total worth of £241 million that Manchester United fielded against City last season and, while David Silva was injured in the warm-up, the leaders were still heavily favoured to win.
Yes, opponents West Ham were on a remarkable away run, having beaten Arsenal and Liverpool earlier, but the Hammers were expected to face a stern test at the Etihad, where no team had yet scored in the league this season.
As it happened, City's perfect record fell, smashed to pieces by a collection of galvanised Hammers, snorting and super-charged at first and defending desperately by the end.
Two goals, from Victor Moses and Diafra Sakho, put the visitors into an unlikely lead in the first half. Kevin de Bruyne snatched one back, with a powerful drive, but, led by the Trojan Winston Reid, West Ham held on for a 2-1 win.
The defeat left an angry Manuel Pellegrini condemning City's defending .
The Chilean manager bemoaned his team's lapses of concentration for the second successive home match, City losing by the same scoreline to Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Fernandinho and Yaya Toure were at fault for both goals and West Ham then withstood a second-half siege to claim a third consecutive away win.
But Pellegrini took little solace in City's vastly improved display after the interval. The Chilean's anger was evident when he snapped over an innocuous question about the nature of an injury to Eliaquim Mangala which had forced the City defender's substitution at half-time.
"Yes it was frustrating," Pellegrini said. "There were three important points here. We thought before that we were playing against a difficult team. They won their two games away before but we conceded two easy goals and that maybe was one of the reasons why we didn't win.
"In the last two games, we didn't play with the concentration and intensity we need in defending. One shot at the edge of the box and one corner was all the offensive volume West Ham had. Two balls decide the result. We must concentrate more.
"We never believed that because we won five games we were the champions of the Premier League. We have to play 32 games more, there are 96 points to play for."
De Bruyne excelled for City but Pellegrini refused to praise the Belgium midfielder. Such was his disappointment with the team that he insisted the absence of Silva, who pulled up in the warm-up with a calf injury, was no excuse.
"It doesn't matter if he (de Bruyne) scores," Pellegrini said. "The important thing is to win and we didn't win. I don't want to have (to use) the excuse of David Silva (to explain) why we didn't win."
The Chilean's emotions could not have conflicted more starkly with Slaven Bilic, the ecstatic West Ham manager, who was effusive about his players' performance during the hard-fought win that moved the club up to second in the table.
Despite adding City to a list of scalps that already included Arsenal and Liverpool, Bilic admitted that the result still came as a pleasant shock.
"It is a surprise," he said. "This game was different from the Emirates and Anfield. This team are the best in the league. We knew we would have to score goals and run as a unit like crazy and also be lucky when needed because it is almost impossible to stop them for 90 minutes but we have done it. We didn't nick it.
"The guys have done brilliantly, not only fighting-wise but also playing-wise."
Bilic said West Ham had no targets this season. "Only the big clubs have targets," he said. "Our target is to play good football. Where is it going to take us? I don't know, but it should be good."
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE