Unlucky West Ham beaten by Arsenal
PUBLISHED: 17:21 28 December 2014 | UPDATED: 17:21 28 December 2014
PA Wire/Press Association Images
The Hammers lost out to two goals in three minutes in their London derby clash with Arsenal at Upton Park
West Ham United 1 Arsenal 2
There was yet more cold turkey for the Hammers as they suffered a second derby defeat inside three festive days at Upton Park.
Despite dominating the first-half, Sam Allardyce’s side were shot down against the run of play by the Gunners who netted twice in three minutes just before the interval and, although Cheikhou Kouyate provided a second half lifeline, it was not enough to prevent Arsenal from leapfrogging them into fifth-spot in the table.
The Hammers Boxing Day defeat at Chelsea had been only their second reverse in a dozen outings and, no doubt mindful of the testing schedule, Big Sam made five changes as Diafra Sakho, James Tomkins, Joey O’Brien, Morgan Amalfitano and Alex Song came in for substitutes Enner Valencia, James Collins, Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan plus on-loan Gunner Carl Jenkinson, who was ineligible to face his parent club.
Showing no early side effects from that defeat at Stamford Bridge, the Hammers certainly started in a hurry and after forcing two quick corners, skipper Song looked to have given his side the lead with a thunderous 30-yarder that flew through the crowded Arsenal penalty area and into the net.
While the claret and blue masses went wild, the former Arsenal midfielder declined to take any congratulations but, within seconds, only the visiting fans were celebrating after the referee’s assistant raised his flag for offside against a Hammer or two parked on the six-yard line.
Undaunted by that disappointment, West Ham continued to press as Aaron Cresswell’s low cross into the six-yard box just eluded Amalfitano, while Kouyate curled a low effort in Wojciech Szczesny’s clutches and Andy Carroll’s angled effort was diverted behind.
Arsenal’s Boxing Day victory over Queens Park Rangers had moved Arsene Wenger’s side into sixth-spot, just one point and one place behind the high-flying Hammers and following that win, the Frenchman made a trio of changes as Laurent Koscielny, Francis Coquelin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came in for substitute Kieran Gibbs, Tomas Rosicky and the suspended Olivier Giroud.
On 25 minutes, the Gunners finally threatened Adrian, who was relieved to see a deflected 18-yarder from Alexis Sanchez clear his far post but that was just a sporadic threat in a festive derby that continued to be played out in the Arsenal half.
Ten minutes before the interval, Carroll was cautioned for an over-zealous aerial challenge on Mathieu Debuchy and, shortly afterwards, Tomkins had all the time in the world when he remained behind an outrushing Arsenal defence but he wastefully curled high over the right-hand angle.
Inevitably, the Hammers would pay the price for failing to turn all their possession into goals and, sure enough, they were hit with a double-whammy as Arsenal struck twice in three minutes just before the break.
On 41 minutes, Cazorla bulldozed his way into the Hammers area, where he fell over the trailing leg of the sliding Winston Reid and, after dusting himself down, the Spaniard drilled the consequent spot-kick into the bottom left-hand corner as his compatriot Adrian dived in the opposite direction.
If that was not bad enough for West Ham, just two minutes later, they somehow found themselves trailing by two as Oxlade-Chamberlain fired a low right-wing cross into the six-yard box, where Welbeck ghosted in behind Tomkins to toe-poke the ball home and leave Upton Park in stunned silence.
But within ten minutes of the restart, the Hammers did give themselves some second half hope when Amalfitano played in the overlapping Tomkins, who floated a delightful right-wing cross towards Kouyate, who out-jumped Debuchy to head home his first goal for the club.
Only a stunning stop by Adrian prevented Cazorla from instantly restoring the Gunners two-goal advantage with a stinging 20-yarder and, after Debuchy headed just inches over the angle, Valencia replaced Sakho.
With the West Ham fans in the sell-out crowd of 34,977 urging the East Enders forward, Reid tried his luck with a 25-yard dipper, while Carroll hooked wide and Amalfitano rode a kick in the head before firing over.
Arsenal, threatened, too, and only a hat-trick of acrobatic saves by an agile, athletic Adrian denied Cazorla, who also fired inches over, while Sanchez and Welbeck threatened, too.
Nolan and Guy Demel came on for Kouyate and O’Brien and, in a no-holds barred, end-to-end finale there were late bookings for Debuchy, Tomkins, Reid and Coquelin.
Szczesny got down well to hold Nolan’s low 20-yard shot but despite Adrian bizarrely making frequent visits to the Arsenal area, West Ham just could not force an equaliser and with Valencia depositing the ball onto the roof of the Arsenal goal with the last meaningful kick of the match, the Hammers simply ran out of time.
HAMMERS: Adrian, O’Brien (Demel 77), Cresswell, Reid, Tomkins, Kouyate (Nolan 77), Song, Amalfitano, Downing, Sakho (Valencia 62) Carroll. Unused subs: Jaaskelainen, Noble, Collins, Cole.
GUNNERS: Szczesny, Debuchy, Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Coquelin, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Chambers 89), Cazorla, Welbeck (Gibbs 84), Sanchez. Unused subs: Ospina, Podolski, Walcott, Campbell, Akpom
Booked: Carroll (36), Sanchez (48), Debuchy (81) Tomkins (83), Reid (88), Coquelin (90+4)
Referee: Neil Swarbrick