West Ham battle to victory over Arsenal as superb Rice scores his first Hammers goal
PUBLISHED: 14:42 12 January 2019
PA Wire/PA Images
The Hammers full deserved their Premier League victory over the Gunners
West Ham United 1 Arsenal 0
West Ham United gave their record home crowd of 59,946 their teenage kicks at the London Stadium, where 19-year-old Declan Rice shot down the Gunners with the 48th minute winner.
Turning 20 on Monday, the talented central midfielder helped himself to an early birthday present with his first-ever goal for the club in 55 outings in the Claret and Blue, to condemn Arsenal to their first defeat on Hammers soil since 2006.
Both teams had successfully navigated their way through their FA Cup third round ties last weekend and, following their victory over Birmingham City, the Hammers made a quintet of changes as ex-Gunner Lukasz Fabianski, skipper Mark Noble, Aaron Cresswell, Pablo Zabaleta and Felipe Anderson returned in place of Xande Silva plus substitutes Adrián, Arthur Masuaku, Pedro Obiang and Grady Diangana.
That meant another start for Marko Arnautović, who had been centre-stage all week – scoring against the Blues, before reluctantly being substituted, ahead of finding himself embroiled in much-hyped transfer speculation surrounding a supposed £35million move to China.
But the Austrian only found himself playing a cameo role in the opening exchanges of this game as Noble climaxed an early free-flowing move with a weak shot towards Bernd Leno and then former Gunner, Samir Nasri – heavily jeered by the visiting fans – combined with Cresswell to force the first corner of the match, which resulted in Anderson curling well wide from 20 yards.
In reply, Alexandre Lacazette also sent a long-ranger sailing past the angle, ahead of forcing Fabianski to save his angled shot, before then nodding over the top, as the quarter-hour mark approached.
Having kicked-off in fifth-spot - five places and 13 points ahead of West Ham – Arsenal had made seven changes from the side that had won at Blackpool last Saturday evening, as big guns Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang plus Leno, Matteo Guendouzi, Laurent Koscielny, Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi each returned to the fold, albeit Mesut Özil was conspicuous by his absence from the squad.
Livewire Lacazette was also denied in the act of shooting by the reliable Rice after Sead Kolasinac had carved his way down the left, while at the other end, Nasri finally brought Arnautović into play, with the recently-arrived Frenchman collecting a one-two return and sending an angled curler across the face of both Leno and the far post.
Certainly, with the Hammers hugging both touchlines in a bid to stretch Unai Emery’s men, Manuel Pellegrini’s side were finding room to play and, growing into the contest, Arnautović also had an effort blocked as both player and crowd ignored those midweek shenanigans to unite as one.
Indeed, the Austrian then used his significant strength to set up Nasri, who cleverly invited Anderson to fire a low, skidding 18-yarder narrowly wide and, as this lunchtime derby ebbed and flowed, Guendouzi let fly with a rising 20-yarder that just cleared Fabianski’s crossbar.
Bang on half-time, Rice had wastefully nodded Anderson’s corner wide to keep it goalless at the break and, just after the restart, the escaping Brazilian was chopped by Mustafi, who saw yellow for that tackle.
While the consequent free-kick came to nothing, West Ham still pressed as Arsenal failed to clear their lines and, when Noble calmly recycled the ball out to Anderson deep in the right-hand corner, Xhaka could only nod the clearance to Nasri, 15 yards out.
With no way to goal, the Frenchman intelligently laid the ball back to the in-rushing Rice, who made amends for squandering that first-half header by sending an 18-yard, side-footer beyond the outstretched left arm of Leno and inside the right-hand upright.
Emery responded with a double-substitution that saw Xhaka and Mustafi replaced by Lucas Torreira and Juventus-bound Aaron Ramsey for the final half-hour and, within seconds of their arrivals, the new boys saw Kolasinac cautioned for felling Michail Antonio.
Ramsey soon floated over a hanging left-wing centre that Aubameyang nodded high into the Stratford skies and, seconds later, the Arsenal striker burst clear but under pressure from Cresswell, his effort flew wide.
Alex Iwobi also sent a low, angled shot just a whisker wide of the far post as Arsenal desperately tried to restore parity and then Guendouzi’s shot was held by Fabianski.
With Héctor Bellerin replacing Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Pellegrini shuffled his own pack, too, with Robert Snodgrass and Andy Carroll coming on for Nasri and Arnautović, who departed with a wave to his Claret & Blue fans rising as one to give him a standing ovation.
Looking good and value for their deserved win the Hammers saw out the closing stages to record only their second victory over the Gunners in their last 22 Premier League meetings and make Rice’s birthday that little bit extra special.
HAMMERS: Fabianski, Zabaleta, Cresswell, Diop, Ogbonna, Rice, Noble, Nasri (Snodgrass 71), Antonio (Obiang 81), Anderson, Arnautović (Carroll 71). Unused subs: Adrián, Masuaku, Pérez, Diangana.
GUNNERS: Leno, Mustafi (Ramsey 59), Kolasinac, Koscielny, Sokratis, Guendouzi, Xhaka (Torreira 59), Maitland-Niles (Bellerin 68), Iwobi, Lacazette, Aubameyang. Unused subs: Cech, Lichtsteiner, Monreal, Nketiah.
Booked: Mustafi (46), Kolasinac (60)
Referee: Jonathan Moss