Report: West Ham 2-2 Arsenal
For the second time this week, an Arsenal draw felt like defeat.
Wenger’s men had been cruising by half-time but surrendered a 2-0 advantage to West Ham in the space of six minutes later on.
With the result, they did move up to third above next week’s opponents Tottenham on the table but Arsenal will still rue what might have been after willingly dropping points on another weekend where the league leaders were beaten.
Their old problem of naivety is yet to be banished.
Wenger showed more hint of Almunia’s demotion by keeping Vito Mannone in goal. Eboue took Walcott’s place from last week – that meant Sagna was slotted back in at right-back while Clichy and Arshavin replaced Gibbs and Rosicky respectively.
Heading into today, Arsenal were comfortably the Premier League’s top scorers – having netted 27 in just eight games. And that tally was bolstered by a further two before the end of an opening period which was relatively dominated by the visitors.
From the outset, Arsenal were on the front foot and Van Persie had already threatened to break the deadlock on three occasions before he did find the back of the net on 16 minutes. The Dutchman looked sharp in the early stages, but he was left with a simple tap-in for the opener following an error by West Ham keeper Robert Green.
West Ham’s stopper failed to deal with Bacary Sagna’s cross and succeeded only in palming the ball to Van Persie, who gratefully knocked over the line from close range to register his fifth in six games.
In fairness to West Ham, they responded well to going behind and Cole signalled their intent with a header wide just after the half-hour mark. But Arsenal’s attacking prowess once again came to the fore four minutes later when Gallas rose above Cole, on defensive duty at a corner, to nod home and double the Gunners’ lead.
After the break, a third goal would have killed off the game, but for all Arsenal’s attacking ability, they seem reluctant to go for the opposition’s jugular. That lack of ruthlessness came back to haunt them again as West Ham staged an unlikely second-half comeback, sparked by the introduction of substitutes Diamanti and Zavon Hines (both pictured).
Diamanti was brought on after 55 minutes while Hines joined him onto the pitch 10 minutes later. Soon after Cole spun and fired over the bar to give the home crowd a real lift and hope that something could be salvaged from the game. Sure enough, they pulled a goal back on 74 minutes, Cole applying the finishing touch after Diamanti’s excellent free-kick was parried into his path by Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone.
Just five minutes later Cole tangled with Alex Song in the Arsenal box and referee Chris Foy, who had moments earlier turned down another penalty shout after Gallas appeared to upend Parker, this time pointed to the spot. Diamanti held his nerve despite the best efforts of Mannone, who was booked for his attempts to distract him, and the Italian fired home.
Parker’s dismissal, for an innocuous looking collision with Cesc Fabregas on 85 minutes, put paid to any hopes the home side had of nicking a winner and instead it was Arsenal who could have grabbed all three points as time ticked down. And as the ball found Van Persie’s head in the 90th minute, it seemed that Wenger’s side would indeed come away from Upton Park with victory, albeit a much harder-fought one than initially expected.
But Green made up for his earlier error with a fantastic reflex stop and West Ham fans celebrated the point at the final whistle just like they would a victory.