Post-Match Report

West Ham United 0-2 Arsenal: Match Report

West Ham United -

Upton Park
Barclays Premier League
Barclays Premier League
  West Ham United
West Ham United
0 2

By Richard Clarke

Real title contenders pull off victories like this.

Having won so comprehensively in Fenerbahce on Tuesday you could have forgiven Arsenal for being leg weary at West Ham on Sunday. After all, the weekend results suggest the travails of the Champions League did have an affect on Manchester United and Chelsea.

However, Arsène Wenger shuffled his squad at Upton Park and the XI he sent out produced a disciplined and committed performance against Gianfranco Zola’s equally determined side.

The vital goal came via the errant boot of West Ham defender Julien Faubert 15 minutes from time when the Frenchman turned in a shot from Emmanuel Adebayor at the far post. It came just as Arsenal were starting to get on top. They had made an arduous ascent.

West Ham had matched the visitors all the way for the first hour but Wenger’s men just managed to draw away in the final stretch.

Adebayor added another in injury time and that was perhaps hard on West Ham. Carlton Cole’s last-gasp red card also did not befit the effort they had put in.

However the very tightness of the game and effort required to win it will satisfy Wenger greatly.
Arsenal moved back into fourth with the victory but the spirit on Sunday suggested they may be higher at the end of the season.

With games coming thick and fast, it was not surprising to see Wenger makes changes. However the extent and the nature of them was interesting.

Those left on the bench told the story. Though passed fit, perhaps Bacary Sagna (knee) and Kolo Toure (shoulders) were still working their way back from injury. Despite his goal in Turkey on Tuesday, Abou Diaby was also lacking full match-fitness after a long lay-off. Adebayor, you presume, was simply rested and Nicklas Bendtner came in to the side.

Mikael Silvestre retained his place in the starting XI and William Gallas returned from a hamstring injury to join him at centre half. Alex Song moved into midfield alongside Cesc Fabregas with Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott on the flanks. Emmanuel Eboue continued at right back, Robin van Persie returned up front while Denilson was omitted completely.

In the build-up, this game had looked like a cracking Sunday afternoon affair. However, by kick-off, it had only third billing in London, let alone the division. Even Chelsea v Liverpool was trumped by the surprising managerial switch at Tottenham ahead of their game with Bolton.

In the openings stages, it was as if the fixture had been hurt by the snub.

Traditionally, West Ham v Arsenal has been spicy however the opening stages were pretty bland and it took 10 minutes for either side to fashion a chance. Van Persie’s loose pass was intercepted by Lee Bowyer, whose touch set up David Di Michele to let fly from 25 yards. Almunia acrobatically tipped the ball over the bar.

Arsenal had started like an old banger on a frosty morning. There were signs of life but only sporadically.

However, in Theo Walcott, Wenger has a Rolls-Royce player. The England winger had been on a couple of mazy runs before, in the 20th minute, he dodged around three West Ham defenders and fired in a rising drive at the near post. It flicked off the bar en route over.

After that, Arsenal started to flex their muscles.

In the 25th minute, Fabregas chipped the ball into the area and Van Persie cleverly chested it into the path of Walcott. Despite the heavy presence of Herta Illunga, he got off a decent shot from close-range but Robert Green made an excellent low stop with his right hand.  

Buoyed with confidence, the visitors were now pressing forward. However that tactic nearly saw them caught on the counter-attack a couple of minutes later.

Scott Parker’s first-time pass sent Craig Bellamy clear with Gael Clichy in hot pursuit. The Frenchman was breathing down the neck of the West Ham striker but Bellamy still got away a low, angled shot. Manuel Almunia kicked the ball away with his trailing leg.

In response, the visiting fans chanted the name of their keeper for perhaps the first time. It said much about both his blossoming reputation and the importance of that save.

Suddenly we had a real game on our hands. Just past the half-hour Bendtner failed to connect with a header from Nasri’s cross. However the Dane redeemed himself in the 37th minute when he cut in from the left and forced another flying save from Green. An entirely self-made opportunity.

The half-time whistle was welcome respite. After a slow opening, this had developed into a rousing, end-to-end affair. At the midway point, both sides had cause for optimism.

The equilibrium continued after the start. The Arsenal defence missed Bellamy’s corner and the ball bounced off the chest of the startled Matthew Upson for Almunia to collect easily. At the other end, Walcott slid a dangerous ball across the face of goal and James Collins hacked it over from under his own bar.The pace was unrelenting with neither midfield having much control on matters. But West Ham were getting most joy down their left flank. 

They had claims for a handball in the area against William Gallas. On the hour, Bellamy barged past Eboue, stormed in to the area and cut the ball back. Gallas half-stopped it and then had to show bravery to block as Bowyer attempted to convert the loose ball.

Walcott remained Arsenal’s best outlet, you could almost feel the nerves coming off the West Ham defence whenever he got the ball.

In the 65th minute, the 19-year-old found room on the right of the area and fired low across the area. Collins' clearance fell to Van Persie, who returned the ball with interest. However his goal-bound shot was blocked.

Seconds later, Wenger made changes. Adebayor and Diaby came on, Nasri and Walcott went off. The Arsenal manager was forsaking width for directness. However the change seemed to bring the best out of Van Persie.

First he cut inside two defenders and fired in a curling cross-shot that forced the best out of Green. Then he hit the woodwork with a cracking free-kick from just outside the area.

For the first time in the game, one side was sustaining pressure on the other. You sensed an Arsenal goal was coming.

It arrived in the 75th minute. Adebayor collected the ball just inside the area then used all his strength and tenacity to fire a shot across the face of goal. It was not going in until Faubert touched the ball in at the far post.

Now Arsenal went for the jugular. Bendtner crossed and Adebayor arrived to thump a low shot towards the near post. Green saved again and the Togolese striker sent his follow-up over the bar.

Adebayor did grab another on the break in injury time to seal the game.

In the final seconds, Cole was sent off for going through the back of Song.

A sad end to a stirring game.

Referee: P. Dowd
Attendance: 34802

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