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Premiership
Saturday, 7th April 2007

Arsenal 0
West Ham United 1

by Graeme Howlett


'We've only had one shot' sang the travelling Hammers - but it was enough to earn a priceless three points at the Emirates stadium this afternoon.

Although technically inaccurate perhaps (West Ham actually had four shots during the game - to Arsenal's 30) United's only one real shot of note came in the final minute of the first half when Bobby Zamora lobbed a static Jens Lehmann to score the only goal of the game - and give the Hammers a real chance of survival.

Make no mistake, this was a smash and grab raid in a match where the Hammers were up against it for much of the game. But Arsenal's profligacy in front of goal proved costly as despite creating chance after chance, they failed to find the back of Rob Green's net.

A massive contribution from the aforementioned keeper was probably the most significant factor in West Ham's unlikely win; the former Norwich man made a number of key saves from both close range and distance, belying Steve McClaren's recent decision to leave him out of recent England squads.

But West Ham's defence - Neill, Ferdinand, Collins and McCartney, the same back four for the third successive game - were equally responsible for keeping Arsenal at bay with a whole host of last minute tackles and interceptions, whilst the midfield duo of Reo-Coker and Noble were equally excellent against the toughest of opponents.

Arsenal had started the game the stronger and came out of the blocks with all guns blazing, creating five or six goalscoring opportunities within the opening ten minutes of the game. BUt fortunately for United, keeper Green was already in scintillating form; his defence had him to thank on at least three occasions for maintaining parity in that busy opening period.

Alan Curbishley responded to that constant pressure by pulling Carlos Tevez back into midfield, leaving Bobby Zamora to plough a lone furrow up front - a mastertroke not dissimilar to that employed by John Lyall in that other famous 1-0 win over the North Londoners some years ago. But the move paid dividends for the Hammers, and the five-man midfield did enough to stifle the Gunners thereafter in the first half.

In the final minute of the opening 45 it got even better for the Hammers when Zamora latched on to a long through ball from Lucas Neill. Under pressure, Zamora took his chance instantly and caught Arsenal keeper Lehman off guard as the ball sailed over the German keeper's head into the roof of the net.

It was perhaps the perfect time for West Ham United to score, with Arsenal given no time to react to the goal. However the Hammers knew they would have to be on their guard in the second period with Arsenal no set to lay siege to the away goal.

That is exactly what happened, but with Green in imperious form - and the woodwork holding up in favour of the visitors on a couple of occasions - the Hammers rode their luck to hang on for a third successive win which leaves them just two points adrift of safety - down from TEN points just three games ago.

The win - which was greeted with scenes of jubilation in the away end of the Emirates - gave West Ham an unlikely double over their supposedly more illustrious counterparts, and also the record of becoming the first away team to win at the Emirates Stadium - just as they were the last team to win at Highbury thanks to last season's 3-2 success.

And with Sheffield United and Wigan losing to Newcastle and Bolton respectively, it was the perfect afternoon for West Ham as they continue to fight against what just four weeks ago seemed like inevitable relegation.

Of course, the spectre of a possible points deduction - which could yet make all the difference to United's chances of survival - still hangs heavy over East London.

But what cannot be mistaken is that Curbishley has his team on a roll, and with just six games remaining they are finding form at the perfect time - especially as their nearest competitors - bar Alan Pardew's Charlton - can't buy a win at present.



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Simply outstanding. Simply one of the best goalkeeping displays you're ever likely to see.


Lucas Neill
Excellent performance from a player whose influence is proving to be a major factor in our mini-revival.


George McCartney
Another solid performace from a player who is hitting form at the right time. Hopefully the injury won't prove to be too serious.


Anton Ferdinand
Fought like a lion to keep the Arse at bay. One player who has benefitted hugely from a settled back four.


James Collins
Won lots of headers and made some vital interceptions and blocks. Crucially, he stayed on his feet when one on one with his back to goal.


Mark Noble
Started slowly but slowly got to grips with the game. Made some huge tackles in the middle of the park.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Like Noble, did a lot of work in the engine room to frustrate the opposition whilst making a number of good forward runs.


Lee Bowyer
Still to break his duck in front of goal but Lehmann did well to keep that statistic intact.


Matthew Etherington
Seems to have lost the ability to beat his man, but worked hard again.


Carlos Tevez
A little slow to release the ball at times but his most important work was done in defensive areas today.


Bobby Zamora
Another one of those massive Zamora goals. Read Preston, Ipswich, Arsenal (last year). Whilst he may not be the first name on the team sheet but you do wonder where we may be without some of those strikes.


Substitutes


Jonathan Spector
(Replaced McCartney, 45) Playing in unfamiliar territory but an excellent effort.


Luis Boa Morte
(Replaced Zamora, 65) Missed a sitter for the second successive week; fortunately it proved to be immaterial.


Kepa Blanco
(Replaced Tevez, 82) Ruffled a few Arsenal feathers in the last few minutes.


Roy Carroll
Did not play.


Hayden Mullins
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: G.Poll.

Attendance: 60,098.

Man of the Match: Robert Green.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, James Collins, Mark Noble, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Matthew Etherington, Carlos Tevez, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: Bobby Zamora 45                  .

Booked: James Collins 73          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Arsenal

Lehmann, Clichy, Eboue, Toure, Gallas, Fabregas, Gilberto, Ljungberg, Hleb, Rosicky, Adebayor.

Substitutes: Aliadiere (Hleb 65), Baptista (Ljungberg 75), Diaby (Gilberto 85).

Subs not used: Almunia, Senderos.

Goals: .

Booked: None booked..

Sent Off: .

 
Graeme Howlett's Man of the Match: Robert Green


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