John Stones felt Manchester City showed the hallmarks of a great side as they saw off West Ham to extend their formidable winning run on Saturday.
The Premier League leaders were given a stern test by the in-form Hammers at the Etihad Stadium but eventually prevailed 2-1 with goals from their centre-back pairing of Stones and Ruben Dias.
The victory was City’s 20th in succession in all competitions and prolonged their overall unbeaten sequence, as they chase glory on four fronts, to 27 matches.
“We knew we were going to have a battle,” said Stones. “Massive credit to West Ham and how they set up.
“We had to dig deep and they made it really difficult for us.
“We were a bit deflated after conceding late in the first half but we had to show our character and our experience, come out in the second half and fight like we always have done.
“I feel we put our hearts on our sleeves, really dug in and the defensive work from everyone, I think is the sign of a great team and hopefully things to come.”
Dias gave City the lead on the half-hour when, still forward following a set-piece, he met a superbly-flighted Kevin De Bruyne cross with a powerful header.
West Ham responded well and Michail Antonio hit the post before equalising just before the interval.
The second half was an open contest but Stones, also up field after a corner, made the decisive intervention when he fired home with a low first-time shot in the 68th minute for his fourth goal in 2021 in all competitions, more than any Premier League defender.
Remarkably, in the 16 games in which Dias and Stones have started together, the pair have now scored five times between them, while conceding only three.
Stones said: “We’re trying to chip in and get our goals, and they were two important ones.
“It’s great for us and great for the team that everyone is contributing with goals, getting on the scoresheet, getting that momentum. Hopefully it continues.”