Report: West Ham 1-2 Arsenal
It took Arsenal staging a late comeback at West Ham to book a place in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Alessandro Diamanti had shot the hammers infront on the stroke of half-time but a dramatic final 15 minutes of the match saw Aaron Ramsey and then Eduardo keep the road to Wembley on course with a 2-1 victory.
Leeds’ remarkable victory over Manchester United earlier on Sunday encapsulated the drama that the Cup can still produce despite all its’ detractors.
But even the magic of the Cup and a visit from one of the ‘big four’ didn’t seemed to appeal much to West Ham’s fans. Faced with the prospect of watching two below-strength teams in freezing conditions they ignored their club’s pre-match appeals to turn out in force and left some sections of the stadium unusually empty.
It was Arsenal who made the brighter start and Robert Green was tested when James Tomkins carelessly gifted possession to Eduardo and he rifled in a low snap-shot that the England goalkeeper pushed away for a corner. Arsenal’s dominance was short-lived however as Zola’s side, working tirelessly to deny the Gunners time on the ball, took control of midfield.
Diamanti appealed for a penalty when his powerful effort hit Thomas Vermaelen on the arm, but the contact appeared accidental and referee Mark Clattenburg ignored the striker’s claims. Junior Stanislas went close for the Hammers with a dipping free-kick that just cleared Fabianski’s crossbar before Diamanti’s curling effort drew a good stop from the Polish keeper.
Vermaelen shot wildly over after Green spilled a cross and the Hammers made Arsenal pay for their erratic display in first half stoppage time. Valon Behrami played a superb defence-splitting pass to Diamanti, who ran clear on goal before sliding a low shot under Fabianski’s weak attempted save.
Zola’s team are hovering precariously just above the relegation zone, but they were easily matching Arsenal and Stanislas went close to increasing their lead with a fierce long-range effort that Fabianski kept out at full-stretch.
Wenger, searching for a way to reignite his side’s fire, sent on Samir Nasri and Abou Diaby for the last 25 minutes. The changes proved decisive. Diaby almost made an immediate impact as he surged onto Eduardo’s backheel and looked certain to score. But Green saved well from close-range and then recovered quickly to make an equally good stop to deny Alex Song from the rebound.
At last Arsenal looked a more formidable proposition. They pushed West Ham back and equalised in the 78th minute when Song and Vela played in Ramsey, who kept his composure to lash a fine finish past Green.
The momentum was with Wenger’s team now and Eduardo ensured there would be no need for a replay when he met Vela’s cross with a header that looped over Green into the top corner with seven minutes left.