West Ham United 0 Arsenal 1
Friday, 28th September 2007
by Josh Tappin
This game was always going to be a big one. Think back to 5th November last year; Marlon Harewood pouncing on a teasing cross from Matty Etherington made Arsene Wenger bring out his handbag and scuffle with Alan Pardew. However, nearly a year on, a new manager and a few new additions to the squad, Arsenal knew that they would have to fight to beat West Ham at Upton Park.After a 90-minute run out in midweek against Plymouth, Scott Parker lined up next to Mark Noble for his first Premiership start. Craig Bellamy?EUR(TM)s groin hadn?EUR(TM)t improved so up front was the new partnership of Deano and Henri Camara.
Arsenal made their intentions clear from the off. They wanted to get on the scoresheet early and when the ball fell to Adebayor in the 18-yard box he had the first clear chance of the game. Fortunately for the home crowd, he screwed it wide.
After twelve minutes of cautious play by both sides, Alexander Hleb floated a ball into West Ham?EUR(TM)s area that was met by the head of striker Robin Van Persie. Rob Green managed to get a touch on it but the ball squeezed in after striking the post.
The game seemed to quieten down after the goal; neither side had any clear-cut chances to boast about. Upton Park was getting restless, as the partnership of Ashton and Camara seemed to be lacking any kind of communication, which was visible from the stands. With 27 minutes on the clock, Mark Noble caught Arsenal midfielder Hleb late in a challenge and he crumpled to the floor in a heap. Noble was lucky to get a yellow card, some say, as similar tackles have been dealt with by a straight red. Hleb couldn?EUR(TM)t continue and was replaced by Emmanuel Eboue.
Scott Parker seemed to be doing okay in the heart of West Ham?EUR(TM)s midfield. His somewhat circular motions to get away from pressure seemed to make the crowd chuckle even though it seemed to be doing the trick. However, with just over half an hour gone, Parker was halfway through his doughnut-like technique when Mathieu Flamini slid in from behind and caught him just below the knee. After Parker?EUR(TM)s injury record the crowd seemed pleased once he managed to get up and run it off until half time.
The last 15 minutes were uneventful, as the majority of the game had been. Both sides created a few scrappy chances but nothing clear-cut. Ashton saw a low drive go wide but that was the only real chance West Ham had of grabbing an equalizer.
The second half came - but Parker didn?EUR(TM)t. He hadn?EUR(TM)t been able to run off that challenge by Flamini so Hayden Mullins took his place.
The injury curse struck again literally a minute into the second half. Anton Ferdinand was complaining of what looked like a hamstring pull. Danny Gabbidon took his place.
With just under 10 minutes gone in the second half a chance fell to goalscorer Van Persie. His curling shot looked destined for the top corner but the fingertips of Robert Green saved West Ham again as he deflected the ball onto the post. The United players knew it was a lucky escape.
West Ham began to play the ball around more smoothly which led to Dean Ashton having possibly West Ham?EUR(TM)s clearest chance yet of equalizing. A Lee Bowyer cross was swung in but Ashton nodded straight at the bemused Almunia who would have been beaten if the header was directed any other way.
Fredrik Ljungberg, who joined from the opposition in the summer, thought he had levelled for West Ham when Henri Camara threaded him through. He coolly slotted the ball past Almunia and sent Upton Park into chaos. It was short-lived however as the ever present flag of the linesmen ruled the goal out for offside. Almunia seem relieved but West Ham were livid; replays show that Ljungberg was marginally onside which the linesmen failed to notice.
When West Ham visited the Emirates in April, Robert Green showed why he should be in contention for the England goalkeeper spot. Shot after shot rained on him that day but nothing seemed able to beat him. Today was no different. Green pulled off a string of stunning saves to stop Arsenal running away with the game. Flamini, Clichy and Adebayor had shots stopped by Green who once again looked invincible.
Luis Boa Morte was added to the mix late on to replace Bowyer but was ineffective. To the frustration of the West ham crowd Arsenal defended well until the end and even when Ashton had a header hooked clear by Van Persie, West Ham?EUR(TM)s heads never went down. As the familiar scenes of the crowd emptying before full time took over the game slowed down and cheers from the Arsenal support ringed around Upton Park as the final whistle blew.
After taking six points from Arsenal last season West Ham had every right to be disappointed. Bad decisions had affected the game along with the ever-present curse of injuries. Arsenal remained top of the table and their fans sung with joy as they filed out of the Centenary Lower and spilled onto Green Street.
With Aston Villa away to come next weekend, Alan Curbishley will be hoping that key members such as Bellamy and Ferdinand are fit again. West Ham lacked the pace and cutting edge of Bellamy and he has seemed to make the difference when he has been on the field.
Reo-Coker and Harewood face their former teammates in which should be an interesting battle. Many people are touting Noble to flatten Reo-Coker but let?EUR(TM)s just wait and see.
But tonight the Hammers sit 11th in the table ?EUR" a position I?EUR(TM)m sure that the majority of fans would be happy to be in come next May.
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Player RatingsRobert Green
Played well, made some important saves.
Looked tired, sloppy passing, not playing as well as he can.
Another impressive game from Linda.
Doing okay until the injury.
Some good headers but still uses his big toe for forward balls.
Good quality passing until the injury.
Strong as usual. One risky tackle.
Played well. Good cross for Deano's chance.
Looked fitter and sharper. His 'goal' should have stood.
Some good runs off the ball but couldn?EUR(TM)t produce with the ball at his feet.
Did okay but should have scored with the header.
(replaced Parker, 45) The midfield had more shape once he was on.
(replaced Ferdinand, 48) Produced a great tackle when one-on-one. Some good headers.
Luis Boa Morte
(replaced Bowyer, 83) Ineffective.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Lee Bowyer, Freddy Ljungberg, Henri Camara, Dean Ashton.
Booked: Lee Bowyer 16 Mark Noble 28 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Senderos, Clichy, Hleb, Fabregas, Flamini, Diaby, Adebayor, Van Persie.
Subs not used: Fabianski, Denilson.
Goals: Van Persie (13).
Booked: Flamini (58), Eboue (90).
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Robert Green.