Two own goals allow Arsenal to rescue a point at West Ham

Home side were 3-0 up after 32 minutes before shooting themselves in the foot

Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette celebrates scoring his team’s third goal during the Premier League draw with West Ham United. Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette celebrates scoring his team’s third goal during the Premier League draw with West Ham United. Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

 

West Ham United 3 Arsenal 3

There may not be a more absorbing contest than this all season. West Ham had it in the bag, or so it seemed, after steaming into a three-goal lead within 32 minutes. Jesse Lingard, Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek put them on course to move level with fourth-placed Chelsea but then Arsenal, who were awful until that point, stirred thrillingly. If they were fortunate to score twice through own goals by Soucek and Craig Dawson, Alexandre Lacazette’s equaliser was just reward for the marvellous football they played when the shackles came off. Ultimately a draw between two fine, but flawed, sides was fair but a point apiece told little of the story.

West Ham’s start yielded exactly the reward it deserved. They set into Arsenal at a ferocious tempo and, perhaps freshened by a clear week of preparation, were simply a couple of gears quicker in executing every action. Soucek had twice come close when two goals in as many minutes gave them an advantage they would never have expected to squander.

Lingard had been ineligible for last weekend’s defeat against Manchester United but his return to the starting lineup here was never in question. His opener was a blistering finish, slicing across the ball and sending it plum into the top corner from 20 yards after Michail Antonio had perceptively picked him out from the left. Perhaps one of Calum Chambers and David Luiz could have stopped Antonio’s progress at source; nonetheless, Lingard’s fifth goal in seven games underscored his renaissance since arriving on loan.

It was followed almost immediately by a sequence of events that spoke amply of the difference in alertness on show. When Bukayo Saka bundled Antonio over outside the right corner of Arsenal’s penalty area, the visitors were on their heels and unprepared to deal with any piece of quick thinking. Lingard had realised exactly that and released Bowen down the inside-right channel; the angle was not especially promising but Bowen shot low and Bernd Leno, perhaps caught as cold as his defence, allowed it to squirm through him.

Still West Ham came and still Arsenal, six of whose outfielders had not started against Olympiakos on Thursday, showed no sign of coping. The third goal was self-inflicted to a large extent given the move began when Kieran Tierney, usually so reliable, miscontrolled a lofted Leno pass to the left touchline. Declan Rice cleaned up and, seconds later, Vladimir Coufal was sizing up a delivery into the box. He stood it up perfectly for the onrushing Antonio, easily beating David Luiz in the challenge, to head downwards and in via a slight deflection off Soucek.

The scoreline was a perfect reflection of what had passed. Arsenal had barely produced an attack of note even though Mikel Arteta had started both Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who began on the right, for the first time since 18 January. Belatedly they stirred and, in their first moment of serious threat, Chambers galloped onto Martin Ødegaard’s pass and centred low from the right. Lacazette controlled and shot sharply in an instant; this time a touch from Soucek served West Ham less well, given the ball was going wide, and Arsenal’s hopes were revived.

They would have gone in at half-time feeling some genuine momentum if Saka, sprinting clear down the middle, had not been denied by a sprawling save from Lukasz Fabianski. Two minutes after the restart they came even closer when Chambers, stabbing an audacious pass over the defence, sent Lacazette away. The resulting dinked effort beat Fabianski but not Issa Diop, who was racing back and hurled himself into a heroic clearance from in front of the line.

The impetus had shifted: this was now a test of an invigorated Arsenal’s ingenuity and, on the other hand, West Ham’s ability to fend off any further inconvenience. Only one side passed it and the hosts’ lives soon became decidedly more difficult, Arsenal striking again just after the hour via a familiar combination. Ødegaard, the best player on the pitch since his side had gone three down, released Chambers again with a reverse pass and the deputy right-back’s driven cross was hammered into his own net by the luckless Dawson.

This was now exhilarating fare. Tierney made a goal-saving block from Antonio as West Ham stirred; then Aaron Cresswell did similarly after Ødegaard took aim at the other end. It felt as if two completely different Arsenal sides had taken to the field, although they should finally have been buried when Antonio somehow studded against the post from a yard out after brilliant approach play from Saïd Benrahma.

How costly that was. Nicolas Pépé had only just been introduced when, found by Ødegaard, he swept over an undefendable first-time ball for Lacazette to bullet in the equaliser. In a breathtaking finale Leno parried from Rice while Pépé, leaning back, could not beat Fabianski. Neither side could find a winner; everyone had to breathe out heartily at the end. – Guardian

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