A late Alex Song header devastates Hammers
For much of the match it looked like a combination of the woodwork and an impressive performance by the West Ham goalkeeper, Robert Green, would be enough to earn the visitor’s a valuable point.
However, Alex Song’s late intervention left bottom of the table West Ham devastated. Arsenal defender Gael Clichy cut inside from the left flank before delivering a right-footed cross, which the diving Song turned into the net with his head to relieve the frustration around the Emirates stadium.
After a goalless first half Arsenal came out strongly in the second period and almost immediately went in front after Samir Nasri’s long range shot was only kept out by the cross bar.
The home side maintained the higher tempo as their intricate passing game began to find gaps in a tiring West Ham defence. Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, also brought on Theo Walcott and Niklas Bendtner for Denilson and Andrey Arshavin, respectively as the Gunners sought to break the deadlock.
It was the lively Walcott who had the biggest impact, as the woodwork frustrated the Gunner’s once again midway through the second half. A fabulous ball from Fabregas found Walcott in space on the right flank. The England international then used his speed to race away from Ilunga but his shot across the goal came back off the left hand post before rolling kindly into the arms of Green.
The England keeper then did much to restore his reputation after his World Cup disaster against the United States by saving well from both Fabregas and Walcott in a franctic last ten minutes.
West Ham manager, Avram Grant, had intimated his game plan to contain Arsenal with his team selection. Frederic Piquionne was asked to lead the attack on his own as Carlton Cole was dropped for Luis Boa Morte who took his place in a five-man midfield. In West Ham’s only other change, Henrita Ilunga was brought in for the injured Matthew Upson. Arsenal made only one alteration to the team that beat Manchester City last weekend as the fit-again Laurent Koscielny came in for Johann Djourou.
The plan worked well as, despite a bright opening and closing to the first period, Arsenal were unable to break down the Hammers in a goalless first-half. As many would have predicted prior to the match, Arsenal dominated possession and territory whilst West Ham were reliant on set-pieces and the impressive Mark Noble as their only creative outlets.
Andrey Arshavin took the game to the visitors in the opening 15 minutes as he broke frequently down the left flank. However, the Russia international seemed to fade as the half wore on and the focus of Arsenal’s attack switched to the right hand side of the pitch where Bacary Sagna exploited a lack of defensive discipline by the Hammer’s Jonathan Obinna.
Indeed, it was a break by Sagna that led to the first clear-cut chance of the match, midway through the first period. The Arsenal defender ran on to an exquisite through-ball by Alex Song before laying the ball back to Cesc Fabregas. However West Ham’s keeper, Robert Green, saved the Spaniard’s shot by diving impressively to his right.
However, a resolute West Ham defence stood firm until just before the break when Green was called into duty twice in quick succession. Firstly, he saved well from an Alex Song shot before tipping over a Squillaci header from a corner.