Another big week for West Ham United started with a huge result in their quest for Premier League survival, as they came from two goals down to pick up a point against leaders Arsenal in Stratford on Sunday afternoon.
David Moyes made eight changes from the team that played the first-leg of their UEFA Europa Conference League quarter-final against KAA Gent three days earlier, as Łukasz Fabiański, Aaron Cresswell, Thilo Kehrer, Tomáš Souček, Lucas Paquetá, Saïd Benrahma and Michail Antonio came in for Alphonse Areola, Ben Johnson, Emmerson Palmieri, Flynn Downes, Manuel Lanzini and Danny Ings, who all dropped to the bench.
Nayef Aguerd and Angelo Ogbonna picked up minor knocks after the game in Belgium last week and were left out of the matchday squad here. Pablo Fornals and Joseph Anang were also named amongst the substitutes. Striker Gianluca Scamacca is set to miss the rest of the season after having surgery to cure his knee problem. Vladimír Coufal retained his place, meaning he was able to make his 100th appearance for the club.
The home side had initially started the match well and might have been awarded a penalty when Rob Holding handled Cresswell’s shot but nothing was given and VAR didn’t even review it. After surviving that scare, Mikel Arteta’s side then really put the pressure on and it was clear to see why they are currently in top spot.
It only took them seven minutes to go ahead, as some scintillating play from the visitors allowed Gabriel Jesus to beat a helpless Fabiański. Three minutes later and the majority inside the stadium were fearing that a repeat of Newcastle United was on the cards when Gabriel Martinelli set up Captain Martin Ødegaard to give the former Arsenal goalkeeper more trouble.
The Hammers had put in a resilient performance to win away at newly-promoted Fulham eight days earlier and they suddenly sparked themselves into life just after the half-hour mark.
Captain Declan Rice stole in to win possession from Thomas Partey and play the ball to Paquetá. He was brought down by Gabriel and referee David Coote awarded a penalty. Benrahma went for precision, rather than power this time but still beat visiting goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
Moyes’ men were turning the tables, as they searched for an equaliser. Pressure was piling up by this point and they were really letting their opponents know that they had a contest on their hands. Antonio and Paquetá tried their luck but neither could beat Ramsdale for a second time.
West Ham still have a lot of tough games left before the end of the season but if they are going to retain their top-flight status, they know that they will have to take points off some of the Premier League’s biggest names and they had a belief that they could start here!!!
The second-half began and that belief was put aside for a while. On fifty three minutes. The hosts tried to clear the danger from a corner but instead, play was pulled back for handball by Antonio. It looked harsh but a penalty was given.
Fabiański has saved some crucial spot kicks for his team in the past but to be honest, he wasn’t even tested by this one, as Bukayo Saka didn’t even hit the target.
In Belgium on Thursday night, the Irons employed the long-throw tactic. It caused problems for KAA Gent and it was proving tricky for the Gunners too!!!
Coufal took it but it wasn’t properly dealt with, as the ball found its way back to Kehrer. The German international then sent it back into the area for Jarrod Bowen to incite scenes of pandemonium for the home supporters as the scores were level.
The East Londoners were harbouring hopes of turning one point into three and might have done so, had a Claret and Blue shirt been in the right place to connect with Bowen’s cross.
Up the other end, Saka had the chance to make amends for his missed penalty but Fabiański came out on top again.
Antonio was closest of all the home side’s players to finding a winner. Benrahma crossed the ball over to him but unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, as he headed against the post.
Moyes made a double change on eighty seven minutes, with Downes and Maxwel Cornet being introduced for both Paquetá and Antonio.
Even with five minutes of stoppage time added and Fornals replacing Benrahma deep into the allotted period, neither team were able to clinch three points.
Having picked up a point here, the Hammers will be spurred on to finish the job off against KAA Gent and confirm a semi-final place.
One player that won’t feature in Stratford on Thursday night is defender Arthur Masuaku, as he has now made a permanent switch to Beşiktaş.