Arsenal showed the resilience which will help them in their title chase as they recovered from a half-time deficit to beat West Ham 3-1 in their Premier League clash.
The Gunners dominated the early stages but went behind when William Saliba brought down Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma converted the spot kick.
West Ham were resilient in defence and it took a stroke of luck to get back on level terms as Martin Odegaard’s poor attempted shot fell into the path of Bakary Saka, who controlled perfectly before slotting coolly past Lukas Fabianski.
The West Ham goalkeeper will then have been disappointed to get beaten at his near post by a low shot from Gabriel Martinelli, which put the Gunners in front, before Eddie Nketiah brilliantly spun Timo Kehrer in the area and slotted inside the far post.
The win puts the Gunners seven points clear at the top of the table, while the Hammers remain fifth bottom.
Arsenal won’t be phased by being front-runners – There was a moment which typified the relaxed manner in which Arsenal go about their football. With the game at one-apiece, Soucek had committed a foul near the centre circle having trapped the ball between his legs to stop Arsenal attacking. At this moment, their skipper Martin Odegaard lifted up Soucek’s leg to get it out of the way before turning around and laughing.
Against one of the most stout defences in the league and only just managing to get on level terms in fortuitous circumstances there were excuses to be frantic, but the Gunners displayed the fun mentality of a five-a-side with friends. Whether the injury to Gabriel Jesus proves crucial or not, and Eddie Nketiah’s goal tonight could do wonders for his self-belief, it does not feel that Arsenal will mentally capitulate and hand the title to Manchester City.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Bakary Saka (Arsenal) – He almost put Arsenal in front in the first half when his finish was ruled out for offside, but he was behind the decisive moment in the game. Though he was fortuitous with Odegaard’s miss-hit pass falling into his path, he produced an excellent first touch and then ice-cold finish, waiting for Lukas Fabianski to go to ground before slotting into the other corner. For Martinelli’s goal, he also won possession at the crucial moment, out-muscling England team-mate Declan Rice to win the ball 35 yards from goal, and the ball was then moved via Granit Xhaka to the Brazilian for the crucial goal.
Arsenal: Ramsdale 7; White 7, Saliba 6, Gabriel 6, Tierney 6; Partey 6, Xhaka 7, Odegaard 8, Saka 8*, Gabriel Martinelli 7; Nketiah 7.
Subs: Zinchenko 6, Vieira 6, Elneny 6.
West Ham: Fabianski 6; Coufal 7, Kehrer 5, Dawson 7, Cresswell 6; Rice 6, Soucek 7; Benrahma 7, Lucas Paqueta 6, Bowen 7; Antonio 7.
Subs: Fornals 7, Mubama 6.
25′ PENALTY FOR WEST HAM! Bowen got behind the Arsenal defence and went down in the penalty area.
27′ GOAL FOR WEST HAM! Benrahma puts the ball down the middle of the goal as Ramsdale dives to his left.
53′ GOAL FOR ARSENAL! That was lucky. A poor shot from Odegaard fell right into the path of Saka and he coolly took the ball in his stride and wrong-footed Fabianski to level the game.
58′ GOAL FOR ARSENAL! Martinelli scores at Fabianski’s near post which he will be fuming about. Everyone expected a ball across the box from Martinelli when he was played through by Xhaka but the shot skimmed over Fabianski’s foot and into the near post.
69′ GOAL FOR ARSENAL! What a goal from Nketiah! If that doesn’t give him belief he can lead the Arsenal line nothing will. Odegaard plays a little ball into Nketiah inside the area and he turnes Kehrer before striking just inside the far post.