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Arsenal 1 - 0 West Ham: match report

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1 - 0 Song 88'

Today had the appearance of one of those all-too-familiar matches where Arsenal lack everything but sharpness in the final third against a dogged opposition.  In the 88th minute, a goal came from a decreasingly unlikely source, Alex Song, who burst through to place home a diving header from a sumptuous Gael Clichy cross, giving Arsenal a 1-0 victory over local enemies West Ham United.

Arsenal fielded a pretty standard lineup, Denilson featuring with Song and Cesc Fabregas in the midfield, and Samir Nasri, Marouane Chamakh, and Andrei Arshavin the trio up front.  West Ham played Frederic PIquionne at the top, with Mark Noble, Scott Parker, Luis Boa Morte, Valon Behrami, and Victor Obinna the five behind him.

Both sides had half-chances in the opening period, Arshavin having a good effort deflected wide.  West Ham won free kicks in dangerous positions, but Arsenal managed to clear the danger more or less effectively on each of them.

Arsenal's best chance of the first half arrived when Bacary Sagna beat his man to the byline and cut back for Cesc Fabregas, who's first-time hit looked destined for the back of the net before Robert Green (who was excellent on the day) flew across to catch.

Arsenal continued to try to fashion chances, but their first touch was often a bit heavy and their passing not as crisp as expected.  Despite their dominating possession, West Ham managed to fashion some chances on the break, Mark Noble's shot saved by Lukasz Fabianski towards half-time, which arrived after a long period of first-half injury time.

After the break, Arsenal looked a little more incisive, but the West Ham defenders and Robert Green were up to the task.  Green wasn't able to get his hands to a stupendous Nasri free kick from 30 yards that curled away from the keeper before smashing against and over the bar.

The Gunners continued to press, a mad scramble ensuing in the 60th minute on the edge of the West Ham area, three Arsenal shots being blocked in quick succession, the Hammers' backs against the wall.  Fabregas' shot in the melee smashed directly into Parker's chin, and the midfielder toddled dizzily off for treatment before reemerging a couple of minutes later.

Wenger introduced Theo Walcott for Denilson shortly thereafter, and it would not be long before Fabregas did his thing, releasing the winger on the right hand side.  Walcott opened his body and shot past Green, only to see his effort rebound back off the post into the keeper's grateful, loving arms.

Arsenal were really going for it now; Nicklas Bendtner emerged in place of Arshavin, and the attacks continued.  Precious seconds ticked away off the clock before Song worked the ball out to Clichy on the left.  The Frenchman left Julien Faubert in the dust, cutting inside into the penalty area and lofting a right-footed cross into the soft underbelly of the West Ham defense between Green and his teammates.  Bendtner missed contact with his foot, but Alex Song, who had gone forward a lot on the day (to the mild irritation of Wenger, even), made a wonderful diving effort and crashed the ball across the line with his peroxide head.

It was his third goal in three games, the Cameroonian developing a habit for popping up in the right place at the right time.

Emmanuel Eboue immediately came on for Marouane Chamakh as Arsenal starved the five minutes of injury time, claiming the win after West Ham's last long free kick was claimed by Fabianski.  1-0 to the Arsenal, who keep pace with Chelsea, and gain ground on Manchester City (who lost to Wolverhampton 2-1).  Manchester United stay third after a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.