Filed: Sunday, 25th October 2009
By: Staff Writer
Seven years ago a missed Freddie Kanoute penalty against Arsenal at the Boleyn was the catalyst for relegation.
Had Alessandro Diamante suffered a similar fate today West Ham fans would perhaps be forgiven for fearing a similar predicament - but instead the Italian's converted spot kick was enough to earn United an impressive point, having come from two goals behind.
This current season has mirrored 2002/03 in many ways already. In Zola, West Ham have a young, inexperienced manager coming off the back of a good first season having seen his squad stripped to the bare minimum - much as Glenn Roeder did in the summer of 2002.
Kanoute's missed penalty that day - which would have put West Ham 3-1 up and in a virtually unassailable position (the game was eventually drawn 2-2 with Sylvain Wiltord snatching a late equaliser) - led to West Ham going until the end of the following January without a home win, a situation that virtually condemned Roeder's team to relegation.
Whilst Diamanti's 80th minute spot kick failed to provide that vital first home league win - and with Christmas being just eight weeks away - the Hammers aren't exactly out of the woods yet. But United will no doubt draw plenty of encouragement - and dare say it, renewed confidence - having come from two goals behind to take what was in the end a well-deserved point.
For long periods of the game that outcome had seemed most unlikely; Arsenal, comfortable having opened the second half with a two goal advantage rarely needed to leave second gear and were dealing with everything West Ham threw at them with comparative ease.
But Carlton Cole's fifth goal of the season 16 minutes from time sparked a revival - a revival that was completed just six minutes later when substitute Diamanti's spot kick levelled the scores.
Arsenal started the game with the same team that played in Russia on Tuesday, whilst West Ham reverted to a 442 formation with Guillermo Franco and Jonathan Spector brought in for their first league starts of the season.
The change in philosophy appeared to pay dividends as the Hammers more than matched Arsenal during the opening exchanges, but once again it was a defensive error that led to the visitors taking the lead 16 minutes into the game.
Full-back Bacary Sagna left Herita Ilunga for dead with a clever one-two on the right byeline before centreing for Robin Van Persie to nod Arsenal ahead. Not for the first time this season Robert Green was left with egg on his face having come for the cross and missed it, leaving Van Persie an empty net in which to score.
The visitors' lead was doubled on 37 minutes when William Gallas converted a Van Persie corner from close range. Once again there were question marks over Green who this time failed to come for the ball - despite it being pitched inside his six yard box.
The second half was to follow a similar pattern to the first, with West Ham huffing and puffing but, as has been the case for much of 2009, failing to hit the opposition where it hurts. That was until Cole stabbed home a mistimed punch by Vito Mannone (diverting a Dimanti free kick) from close range on 74 minutes to reduce the deficit to one.
Clearly bouyed by the goal, West Ham pushed forward in search of an unlikely equaliser and it arrived just six minutes later to the delight of the home crowd, some of whom had booed United off at half time.
The busy Cole, who was excellent once again went down under a challenge from Alex Song and referee Chris Foy, in as a late replacement for Steve Bennett pointed to the spot. No doubt the fact that Foy had dismissed a similarly strong penalty appeal just four minutes earlier when Parker appeared to be felled by goalscorer Gallas was weighing heavy on his mind.
As in the aforementioned 2002 fixture, Arsenal resorted to their usual delaying tactics in an attempt to put off the spot kick taker. But the freshly shaven Diamanti - on as a 56th minute replacement for the ineffectual Mark Noble - was having none of it, and a full two minutes after the penalty had been awarded drove his effort into the right-hand corner of Mannone's post, sending the Boleyn into raptures.
The away fans - who numbered around 3,000 and had made more noise than a crowd 20 times their number ever make at the Emirates - were silenced for the first time in the afternoon and duly taunted with chants of "2-0 and you f***ed it up" which no doubt came across loud and clear on TV with the game being broadcast by SkySports.
The final few minutes saw the game reach a frenetic pace as both sides burst forwards whenever possible in search of a winner. West Ham had Rob Green to thank for making a stunning point-blank range save from Van Persie to keep the scores level, whilst Cole had a great chance during injury time which he squandered by delaying a possible shot.
During all of that there was a red card for Scott Parker; quite why was a mystery as his challenge on Cesc Fabregas has appeared to be a perfectly legal one, although speculation suggested that his second yellow card of the afternoon (his first being given for a foul on Eboue) may have been awarded for deliberate hand ball.
Despite the setback, ten-men West Ham managed to hold on for the point - and then some, for it was they, backed by a rejuvenated home crowd, who appeared the more likely to score a winning goal in the closing stages despite having the man disadvantage (not withstanding Van Persie's aforementioned chance).
Although credit will naturally go to the players, full marks should also be given to Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke for their part in the turnaround. Zola has been oft-critcised for his propensity to delay making substitutions, but today both goalscorer Diamanti and youngster Zavon Hines were introduced well before the hour mark in an attempt to spark life back into the team - which they duly did.
Although the point leaves the Hammers in the bottom three of the Premier League and without a home win in the league, the team's morale will receive a welcome boost from the result which although being worth just one point, felt a little like three - unlike in 2002 when Kanoute's missed penalty, combined with Henry's late leveller was a massive setback.
Although Scott Parker's dismissal will result in his temporary absence, Zola also has the benefit of a virtually full-strength squad from which to choose. Battle recommences at the Stadium of Light next Saturday afternoon where the Hammers will be looking to continue their revival.
West Ham Utd 2 Arsenal 2: match facts
West Ham United: Green, Spector, Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga, Behrami (Kovac 90), Parker, Noble (Diamanti 56), Collison, Franco (Hines 64), Cole.
Subs not used: Kurucz, Faubert, Da Costa, Stanislas.
Goals: Cole (74), Diamanti (pen 80).
Booked: Hines (71), Collison (75), Parker (78).
Sent off: Parker (85).
Arsenal: Mannone, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Eboue (Bendtner 82), Song, Diaby (Eduardo 88), Fabregas, Arshavin, van Persie.
Subs not used: Almunia, Silvestre, Nasri, Gibbs, Ramsey.
Goals: Van Persie (16), Gallas (37).
Booked: Eboue (77), Mannone (80).
Referee: Chris Foy (3/10).
Next three fixtures
Sunderland: Stadium of Light, Saturday 31st October
Aston Villa: Boleyn Ground, Wednesday 4th November
Everton: Boleyn Ground, Sunday 8th November
Crystal Palace 1-0 West Ham Utd [3rd Dec 2013]
Reid goes under the knife [22nd Nov 2013]
Diame seeking new deal [21st Nov 2013]
Pellegrini on...West Ham United [20th Oct 2013]
Behave yourself: West Ham top fans' table [11th Oct 2013]
Early Xmas gift for Hammers [9th Oct 2013]
Rav gets England nod [3rd Oct 2013]
Jack Collison set for Bournemouth [1st Oct 2013]
Hammers face Burnley trip [25th Sep 2013]
by Staff Writer
04:02PM 27th Oct 2009
''Well spotted Steve ... you are quite right.''
by Steve Page
10:40PM 25th Oct 2009
''Nice write-up, but at the risk of being accused of pedantry, it was Wiltord who equalised in 02/03; Henry got L'Arse's first, when we were 2-0 up.''
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