Gabriel Martinelli (48)
Emile Smith-Rowe (87)
West Ham United F.C
Arsenal move into top four as they leapfrog West Ham
- Credit: PA
West Ham United slipped out of the Premier League’s top-four with this controversial defeat at Emirates Stadium where victorious Arsenal added insult to injury by leapfrogging David Moyes’ men into Champions League places.
Following a barnstorming, albeit blank, first-half Gabriel Martinelli fired the Gunners ahead just after the interval before Vladimír Coufal was dismissed after collecting the second of two highly-suspect yellow cards with 20 minutes remaining.
And although former Arsenal ‘keeper Łukasz Fabianski brilliantly saved Alexandre Lacazette’s consequent spot-kick, West Ham’s ten-men were then hit with the double-whammy of a late strike from substitute Emile Smith-Rowe on a night when referee Anthony Taylor left north London as the villain of the piece in Claret & Blue eyes.
Sunday afternoon’s gritty goalless draw at Burnley had kept the Hammers in a coveted fourth-spot – two places and two points above the Gunners – and following that Turf Moor stalemate, Moyes had made just one change with Pablo Fornals returning in place of substitute Saïd Benrahma, who took his place on the bench alongside Academy rookie Armstrong Oko-Flex.
This was Moyes’ 600th Premier League match as a manager but having followed Arsène Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp to that incredible landmark, the Scot also ended up leaving Emirates Stadium having never won on any of his 18 visits to Arsenal.
In a feisty opening to this London derby, the West Ham boss saw his side on the back foot with Granit Xhaka driving an early free-kick into the Hammers wall before Coufal picked up the first of his two harsh bookings for checking Kieran Tierney, who theatrically hit the north London turf clutching his face, when clearly there had only been minimal torso contact between the two.
With the Gunners defender writhing in front of the vociferous visiting fans, that merely raised the volume but apart from a wayward Craig Dawson rangefinder and a comfortably-cleared Jarrod Bowen corner, West Ham were struggling to impose themselves at the sharp end of the pitch.
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The intensity levels continued to rise though and the casualties increased, too, as Thomas Partey felled both Michail Antonio and Fornals with clumsy challenges, while Arthur Masuaku also left Bukayo Saka needing treatment.
Following their 3-0 victory over Southampton on Saturday, the Gunners had named an unchanged line-up and that meant that there was still no place in the matchday squad for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who had been stripped of the club captaincy by Mikel Arteta for an internal disciplinary breach.
That saw Lacazette retain the armband and, as the half-hour approached, the Arsenal skipper looked set to break the deadlock when the whites of former team-mate Fabiański came into his sights but Dawson came to the rescue with a dogged, determined, desperate last-ditch block on the Frenchman.
Ten minutes before the break, Lacazette was back in his own final-third, where he tripped Tomáš Souček on the edge of the area and, when Bowen’s right-wing free-kick was only half-cleared to Fornals, the Spaniard curled an 18-yarder just an inch or so wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s left-hand post.
With Saka now posing more threat down the Arsenal right, the Hammers found themselves on the retreat and, with the ball having broken to Tierney just before the break, Moyes would have been relieved to see the crossbar thwart the Scottish international’s dipping 20-yarder.
And, right on the half-time whistle, when Fabiański could only parry Lacazette’s stinging, low 18-yarder, Dawson again came to the Hammers rescue with another sensational stretch that did enough to force Martinelli to slide the loose ball wide from just a couple of yards and leave it goalless at the interval.
But three minutes after the restart, all that resolute defending of the opening 45 minutes went out of the window when Lacazette caught West Ham napping with an inch-perfect pass that sent Martinelli racing behind the statuesque duo of Coufal and Dawson and the breaking Brazilian curled a low, 15-yarder beyond Fabiański’s outstretched left glove to break the deadlock.
In reply, Bowen forced a fantastic, one-handed flying stop from Ramsdale and then the Arsenal ‘keeper was forced to sprint from his line to clear from the inrushing Antonio as the Hammers looked to conjure up an instant response.
Arsenal were equally hungry to carve out a second goal and Fabiański had to be at his absolute best to save Martin Ødegaard’s 18-yard free-kick and, with the Hammers ‘keeper then eager to launch the ball back upfield, Martinelli was booked for hampering the Polish stopper as he attempted to instigate another attack.
Bowen clipped a tightly-angled snapshot behind at the near post before Ødegaard retired to be replaced by Smith-Rowe and, within seconds of that switch, the crestfallen Coufal became the victim of his second injustice of the night.
This time, the Czech defender got more than his fair share of the ball as Lacazette burst into the box but referee Taylor incredibly pointed to the penalty spot before handing the incredulous full-back his second yellow card of a wretched evening.
Curiously, there was no nudge from Video Assistant Referee Peter Bankes that his colleague might want to review his decision on the pitchside monitor and, although the flying Fabiański guessed correctly to brilliantly claw the controversial penalty away from inside his left upright, the damage had now been done by Coufal’s dismissal.
Indeed, Gabriel and Saka both went within inches of doubling Arsenal’s lead against the depleted ten men from the East End, who now found themselves well and truly up against it during the closing stages.
Certainly, it was now always going to be a big ask of the visitors to salvage anything from this contest.
Sure enough, with two minutes remaining, substitute Benrahma – on for Lanzini – carelessly lost possession and that enabled Saka to break upfield and release Smith-Rowe, who cemented Arsenal’s victory with a low 18-yard shot that crept inside the base of the flat-footed Fabiański’s left-hand upright.
GUNNERS: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, Tierney, White, Magalhães, Partey, Xhaka, Saka, Martinelli (Nketiah 82) Ødegaard (Smith-Rowe 65), Lacazette (Tavares 88). Unused subs: Okonkwo, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Pépé, Lokonga, Elneny.
HAMMERS: Fabiański, Coufal, Masuaku, Dawson, Diop, Souček, Rice, Lanzini (Benrahma 76), Bowen, Fornals (Ashby 84), Antonio. Unused subs: Areola, Yarmolenko, Vlašić, Noble, Král, Oko-Flex, Alese,
Booked: Coufal (11), Martinelli (58), Ramsdale (72).
Referee: Anthony Taylor