Arsenal 0 West Ham 2
The last time that Slaven Bilic tasted an away win on English soil, it was 2007, he was in charge of Croatia and there was a bloke with a brolly in front of the opposite dugout. If that victory has been freeze-framed on the minds of England fans, then this one will be, too, for those that follow West Ham.
Bilic’s managerial tenure at the east London club is up and running, and in fine style, after this cool and calculated victory over an Arsenal team who laboured horribly to turn possession into penetration. Sound familiar?
Cheikhou Kouyate and Mauro Zarate got the goals for West Ham but the headline item here was the misery that Petr Cech suffered on his Arsenal debut. The goalkeeper had been plucked from Chelsea in order to cure Arsenal's neurosis at the back but it was him who looked like the wreck.
He will watch the replays of both goals through his fingers. On the first, from Dimitri Payet’s free-kick, and after he had seen Kouyate break off Nacho Monreal, Cech took the decision to race from his line. He never looked like getting to the ball first and when Kouyate did, he had the simple task of nodding into the empty net.
It was a terrible moment for Cech and the second goal was similarly grim. Zarate, who appeared to have no future at West Ham under Sam Allardyce, struck low from distance and time seemed to stand still as Cech failed to read the shot. When he did get down and across, the ball had already beaten him.
Bilic was at this stadium with Besiktas at the beginning of last season, for the Champions League play-off, and he suffered a narrow defeat. Since his glorious night at Wembley with Croatia, he has played four away games in England – with Croatia and Besiktas – and not tasted success.
This one was worth the wait. Bilic got his tactics spot on and how the travelling supporters revelled in the three points. Optimism had not been high within their ranks beforehand, in light of the Europa League exit on Thursday night against Astra Giurgiu while they had drawn one and lost six of their previous seven visits to the Emirates Stadium. But Bilic's team was resolute throughout, with their three-man midfield working hard to deny their opponents space and the defence in suffocating form.
The first half was marked by a high-tempo and intense commitment, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, in particular, quickening the pulses with his driving runs up the Arsenal right. Angelo Ogbonna, the new signing, was booked for a late challenge on him – one of three Hammers to receive a yellow card inside the first 38 minutes.
Arsenal pressed onto the front foot, although they pockmarked their football in the first half with loose passes and they went close when Aaron Ramsey's shot from outside the area in the 31st minute deflected off Aaron Cresswell, looped up and hit the crossbar. But for all of their approach work, Arsenal did not create too much of clear-cut note inside the penalty area.
They were largely restricted to shots from distance and when they did get into the box, West Ham's defenders stood tall. Ogbonna made an important tackle on Olivier Giroud, who started up front ahead of Theo Walcott and James Tomkins, West Ham's stand-in right back, made another on Mesut Özil in the 45th minute.
By then, West Ham were ahead through Kouyate’s header but they had flickered on the counter-attack, with Payet, the other new signing in the starting XI, looking quick and threatening. He showed his technique when he kept a difficult ball in on the by-line before jinking inside and crossing. Diafra Sakho almost got a toe to the ball. Sakho had previously seen a thrusting run halted by Per Mertesacker.
If the half-time score had not been any part of Arsenal’s script – or, indeed, been forecast by too many people – things got worse for them, and Cech, when West Ham doubled their lead. Giroud had drawn a decent save out of Adrian moments earlier at the other end, following good work from Oxlade-Chamberlain when Zarate stunned the home crowd into silence.
Cresswell's run had been halted inside the area but Oxlade-Chamberlain lost the ball to Zarate, who spun and sized up his shooting chances. The danger did not look pronounced but when he belted low from outside the area with his right foot, Cech reacted late. Perhaps, his view was obscured by Laurent Koscielny, who was standing in front of Zarate and when Cech did get down, it was too late. The roar from the visiting enclosure exploded like a firecracker.
Wenger introduced Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez in wide areas – Oxlade-Chamberlain was switched to right back – and he went all-out attack. But Arsenal could not summon the grandstand comeback, despite belatedly created a couple of openings. West Ham gloried in the upset.