Gunners fire to send Hammers crashing out
By Tom Dowsett
Monday 04 Jan 2010 11:38:00
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West Ham United turned in a brave performance but were on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat to high flyers Arsenal, therefore ending any hopes of an FA cup run this season.

Gianfranco Zola made two enforced changes from the team that lost to Tottenham last time out with Fabio Daprela deputising for the injured Herita Ilunga and Frank Nouble making his first team debut in place of the suspended Franco.

The Hammers started well, with Diamanti firing over after cutting in from the right.

Shortly after there was action at both ends, Merida had a low, 25-yard strike comfortably saved by West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green after 12 minutes, before Arsenal slowly built some pressure on the home defence.

Arsenal had included Wales teenager Aaron Ramsey in their starting line-up and both he and Merida had shots charged down before James Tomkins gave the ball away. Eduardo pounced and the Croatian forced Green to make a full-stretch save as his 20-yard effort looked set to creep into the bottom corner.

West Ham responded when Alex Song conceded a free kick for his challenge on Daprela. Junior Stanislas stepped up to take it and and saw his dipping effort sail just over.

The frenetic pace continued and the Hammers pressure finally paid off when the excellent Valon Behrami slipped the ball through for Alessandro Diamanti, who shot past Lukaz Fabianski who's outstretched hand could not prevent the ball going in off the post.

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 The hosts again started strongly in the second half, with both Nouble and Stanislas coming close to increasing the lead.

Arsenal made a double change after 65 minutes, replacing Merida with Diaby and Wilshere for Nasri.

The changes seemed to galvanise the visitors, who until then had lacked any real penetration in the final third.

Green made a fantastic double save to deny first Diaby after he burst into the penalty area and then the follow-up effort from Song.

Arsenal's equaliser eventually came when Ramsey smashed a low shot into the far corner after collecting Vela's pass through a crowded penalty area.

With the momentum now firmly with the visitors, Vela provided a cross which Eduardo met ahead of Matthew Upson to loop the ball over a bewildered Green.

All of which means the Gunners march on to round four where they will face a tricky trip to Stoke, while Zola and the Hammers have only Premier League survival left to contend with as Wolves visit Upton Park next Sunday.

 

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