By Richard Clarke
An 88th-minute strike from Marlon Harewood consigned Arsenal to their second Premiership defeat of the season at West Ham on Sunday.
The quality of the goal - a close-range finish from Matthew Etherington's cross - could not be denied but it was certainly harsh on Arsène Wenger's side.
Having failed to get their just desserts against Everton on Saturday or CSKA Moscow on Wednesday , Arsenal looked like they had taken a merited point from their near neighbours before Harewood's goal.
They might have taken all three had Tomas Rosicky not spurned a first-half chance and referee Rob Styles given a penalty when Jonathan Spector challenged Alex Hleb in the area. However West Ham put up a passioned display themselves, particularly at the start of the second half.
In truth both sides bashed away at each other like heavyweight boxers all afternoon but neither looked like falling until that goal two minutes from time. Harewood's knockout punch was late and, from an Arsenal perspective, lamentable.
Wenger stayed faithful to side that had so dominated CSKA Moscow without real reward. However the two Emmanuels returned from injury to make the bench. Eboue had been out a month with a knee injury, Adebayor had missed the past 10 days because of a thigh problem.
As ever, Upton Park was buoyant and boisterous for this lunchtime kick-off. Only a week earlier, the home side arrested had an alarming run of eight successive defeats so they felt they had something upon which to build.
The first few minutes were frantic. The best chance of the opening moments came in the sixth minute, Etherington and Yossi Benayoun worked a shot corner well and Bobby Zamora nearly turned the ball in at the far post as the cross flew across the area.
However it was not a portent of things to come. In fact the next 20 minutes belonged to Arsenal and they had a number of opportunities to take the lead.
First Henry knocked down Hleb's cute chip and Van Persie's shot looked like it might creep inside the far post before keeper Robert Green stretched low to paw it behind. Gilberto hacked over from another Hleb cross then Rosicky thumped the ball high from long range.
In the 22nd minute, Lehmann's poor goal-kick was picked up by Jonathan Spector and the American whipped in the cross to the near post. Benayoun timed his diving header to perfection but it whistled wide of the upright.
Rosicky spurned the best chance of the half in the 29th minute. Henry's cute lay-off sent the Czech midfielder clear and he sliced wide from the edge of the area when he should have Green in to action.
West Ham worked their way back into the game as the whistle approached and the chances dried up. The closest either side came was when Henry dribbled into the area. He was crowded as he looked shaped to shoot.
The second half had all the intensity of the opening 45 minutes and more. West Ham had greater territorial advantage but never worked Jens Lehmann. Arsenal looked dangerous on the break but at time their final pass let them down.
Just past the hour both sides made adjustments to their forward line. Adebayor replaced Van Persie as Arsenal went 4-4-2. Alan Pardew brought on Teddy Sheringham and Harewood for Bobby Zamora and Lee Bowyer.
Almost immediately, the chances started to come. Hleb appeared to be brought down by Spector as he went through but referee Rob Styles waved played. The ball flew up the other end and Clichy did well to deny Sheringham after the veteran appeared at the far post.
West Ham would have an even better chance in the 71st minute when Gallas' error allowed Harewood to go clear. The former Nottingham Forest striker advanced on goal and steadied himself as Lehmann came out to narrow the angle. The German keeper half- stopped the ball and Toure booted the ball from danger.
The Ivorian nearly won the game a minute later when he let fly from distance. His swerving shot bent narrowly wide and rebounded back off the stanchion.
Both teams looked for the winner in the final seconds. Henry's cut back somehow weaved its way through a crowded area then Adebayor fired wide from Eboue's low cross.
It seemed both sides had finally settled for a point when the goal came. Flamini won the first tackle with Etherington on the left-hand side but the ex-Tottenham man recovered to rob him. The West Ham midfielder exchanged passes with Sheringham and crossed low for Harewood to thrash the ball home at the far post.
It was a fitting finale to great game but less than Arsenal deserved.
Referee: Rob Styles
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