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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at the London Stadium

Arsenal left dejected after second successive two-goal overturn - as Hammers bounce back

West Ham United (1) 2 Benrahma pen 33, Bowen 54

Arsenal (2) 2 Jesus 7, Odegaard 10

In an alternative universe, Arsenal would be going into Friday night’s home game against rock-bottom Southampton with the chance to open up an 11-point lead over Man City.

Unfortunately for the Gunners, they repeated last weekend’s frustrating lapses when the gane was seemingly under their control and surrendered a 2-0 lead for the second week running.

Doing it a rampant Anfield against a Liverpool side attacking the Kop end in the second half is one thing, doing it at the London Stadium against a Hammers team struggling to survive and midway through a two-leg European tie was quite another.

Having scored twice in the opening 10 minutes, there really were few excuses for letting this one slip out of their grasp, but complacency set it and it allowed the Hammers back into the contest with a penalty.

The two teams’ respective fortunes then changed entirely as the Gunners missed a penalty of their own and Jarrod Bowen levelled it up moments later, to complete the transformation.

Suddenly, it was front-foot football from the Irons. They pressed collectively higher up the pitch and no longer stood off in admiration. The Gunners created little and never looked like regaining the lead.

The Hammers should have a spring in their step now when they take on Gent for a place in the Europa Conference League semi-finals on Thursday.

It took just six and a half minutes for the Gunners to carve West Ham open.

Calm exchanges of passes on the right edge of the area culminated in Ben White rolling the ball to the far post for Gabriel Jesus to tap in unmolested.

And in almost the next attack, a ball hit from wide and deep on the left by Gaby Martinelli was met with a perfect volley by skipper Martin Odegaard ghosting into the right side of the box – again take advantage of being given the freedom of the park.

The Hammers were nowhere, but they got a lifeline through carelessness in the Arsenal ranks.

Thomas Partey dithered in a dangerous area and his pocket picked by Declan Rice. A ball inside to Lucas Paqueta invited a goal, but Gabriel tripped the Brazilian to concede a penalty.

Unlike last week, when Mo Salah obligingly missed from 12 yards, Said Benrahma made no mistake with a low shot to Aaron Ramsdale’s left.

Five minutes after the restart, with West Ham back in it and believing again, the Gunners had a chance to puncture the fightback when they won a penalty of their own after Michail Antonio handled a Martinelli shot.

But Bukayo Saka, normally so reliable for Arsenal from the spot, blasted wide of the target.

And just moments later, Jarrod Bowen got on the end of a lofted pass to fire past Ramsdale.

The Irons might have gone on to win it nearly won it too – Antonio heading onto the crossbar with a far-post header.

So damage aplenty for the Gunners, who know it is not enough to merely draw games to have any chance of winning a title while a relentless Man City regularly get to 95 points.

Their lead at the top is now four points, but they have played one game more than the champions. It is beginning to look increasingly as if only a win or a draw at the Etihad will do now, if the dream of a first title since 2004 is to be realised.

For the Hammers, there is still work to do, but another precious point keeps them vital places above the dotted line. Less than a week on from that crushing defeat to Newcastle, they look like a team that knows it has enough in the tank to survive.

Hammers: (4-2-3-1) Fabianski – Coufal, Zouma, Kehrer, Cresswell – Soucek, Rice – Bowen, Paqueta (Downes 87), Benrahma (Fornals 90) – Antonio (Cornet 87). Subs not used: Areola, Anang, Johnson, Lanzini, Ings, Emerson

Gunners: (4-3-3) Ramsdale – White, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney (Vieira 85) – Odegaard (Nketiah 90), Partey (Trossard 66), Xhaka – Saka, Jesus (Jorginho 66), Martinelli (Nelson 85). Subs not used: Turner, Smith Rowe, Kiwior, Walters


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