West Ham 3 – 3 Arsenal. A pulsating London derby as a hat-trick from Andy Carrol effectively extinguishes Arsenal’s title challenge.
Arsenal’s title challenge goes up in smoke
With the games fast running out and Leicester City showing no signs of slowing down, Arsenal needed to win all their remaining 7 games to even stand a remote chance of lifting the Premier League. For the bulk of the first half, it seemed like it was going to be yet another routine win for the Gunners.
With 18 minutes on the clock, Arsenal found themselves 1-0 ahead. Pressing and probing for any gap, the ball soon found its way to Iwobi on the edge of the West Ham box. Seeing Ozil desperately trying to keep onside, Iwobi slid the ball through to the German. Opening up his body, Ozil took a touch to push the ball forward, with his second to place the ball past the diving Adrian with a simple sidefoot finish.
A little past the half an hour mark and another Arsenal goal meant they were 2-0 up and cruising. Coquelin found himself in a world of space in the West Ham half and needed no second invitation to spray the ball to Iwobi. While his control was somewhat suspect, his flick over the West Ham defence to the onrushing Alexis Sanchez was not. With a swing of his right foot, the ball nestled into the bottom corner despite the best efforts of Adrian.
Yet in typical Arsenal fashion, they somehow let slip their commanding lead and found going into the break with the scores tied 2-2 after a quickfire Andy Carroll brace. A third for Carroll early in the second half meant that they had a little over half an hour to save their season.
To their credit, both Arsenal and Arsene Wenger threw caution to the wind in their search for goals. First Coquelin, then Elmeny came off as Ramsey and Giroud came on in their place. Unsurprisingly, substitute Giroud played a huge role in Arsenal’s eventual equalizer. It was the Frenchman’s clever flick that found its way to Ozil in space. The German’s cut-back that Welbeck touched on for Koscienly to bury the ball into the top corner.
With the season in the balance, Arsene Wenger eventually threw on Walcott as well in search for a winner yet it was too little too late as Arsenal huffed and puffed to no avail. 10 points behind leaders Leicester City with just 6 games to go, it looks like a disappointing end to the season yet again for Arsenal.
Andy Carroll stops Arsenal
In and out of the team so far this season, Andy Carroll had a snowball’s chance in hell of making the Euro 2016 squad.
Four minutes into the game and Carroll was already making his mark on the game, albeit in the wrong way. A cynical tackle through the back of Arsenal defender Koscielny meant that the Englishman found himself in the book even before some supporters have found their seats.
Two minutes into the second half and Gabriel felt the full force of Carroll’s elbow hit his jaw as both players jumped up for a header. While there was no intention to hit the Arsenal centre-back, Carroll could count himself lucky not to be seeing a red for a frankly reckless challenge.
Yet apart from his on-field indiscipline, 9 minutes and 50 seconds was all Carroll needed to swing the game back West Ham’s way.
With half-time nearing, a long diagonal ball found Payet in space. Laying the ball back to Cresswell, the left-back swung a delicious cross into the Arsenal box. Adopting his favourite movement to leave himself isolated against the full-back, Carroll left Monreal for dead and planted his header firmly past Ospina.
Two minutes into injury time in the first-half and Carroll equalized for the Hammers. Managing only to half clear the ball, the Arsenal clearance finds Noble, who promptly floated the ball towards Carroll at the far post. Left completely unmarked, Carroll had time to chest the ball down before hitting his shot towards the goal with his right foot. Despite his effort being blocked by Gabriel, Carroll still had the presence of mind to volley the rebound with his favoured left foot unerringly into the back of the net.
Seven minutes into the second half and Carroll had his third. Brilliant control and acceleration from Michail Antonio meant he had time to look up and find Carroll after bursting into the Arsenal box. Sending an inviting cross into the box, Carroll completely overpowered Bellerin and tucked his header into the goal from close range. Not only did he have his hat-trick, his third goal also meant that West Ham had overturned a two-goal deficit to take the lead.
While the Hammers could not hold on to all 3 points by the final whistle, Andy Carroll can be proud of the shift he put in today. He could not have done any more to ensure that England manager Roy Hodgson would have taken note as well.
Referee Craig Pawson has a busy afternoon
A London derby with both sides with needing all 3 points, there was little doubt that West Ham v Arsenal would be an electric affair. Indeed, there were many debatable moments throughout the game.
The first one came on 13 minutes after good interchange between Lanzini and Payet eventually finds its way out wide to Noble. Without even breaking stride, Noble hits a teasing cross into the Arsenal box with the outside of his right foot towards the giant Andy Carroll. Showing surprising ability for a man of his size, Carroll meets the cross with a bicycle kick that bounced into the ground. With the Arsenal defenders statuesque, Lanzini nipped into the box to head the ball past Ospina. Unfortunately for Hammers fans, the assistant referee’s flag came up immediately. It was the wrong call though as Bellerin had failed to push up fast enough and was playing Lanzini on.
On 50 minutes, Carroll pressured Koscienly in the Arsenal box in an attempt to get the ball. Wrapping his arms around the defender, Carroll also blocked the onrushing Ospina right before Payet tapped the loose ball into the open goal. In this instance though, referee Pawson was spot on with his decision.
A high octane game with potential penalty calls and tackles flying from both sides, Pawson’s got the bulk of his calls right with the draw between two closely matched side the fair result.