Alexandre Lacazette came off the bench to keep Arsenal in the hunt for a Champions League place as his late strike survived a VAR review to seal a vital 1-0 win against West Ham on Saturday.
Mikel Arteta’s side struggled to find any momentum for long periods at the Emirates Stadium and could easily have been behind before Lacazette settled a scrappy London derby.
The French striker turned in Mesut Ozil’s header with 12 minutes left, but it took several minutes before VAR finally confirmed the German was onside when he laid on the goal.
Arsenal’s third successive Premier League win lifted them within five points of fourth placed Chelsea, who face Everton on Sunday.
Earning a Champions League berth still looks a long-shot for Arsenal, especially after this uneven display.
But the Gunners, who face Manchester City on Wednesday, are unbeaten in their last eight league games and showed commendable spirit to make the late breakthrough.
West Ham have lost five of their last seven league games and, with only one win in their past nine, they are destined for a nervous finish to the season as they battle to avoid relegation.
Arteta admitted this week that only a victory against West Ham would keep their Champions League bid alive.
He got his wish, but only just.
There was no pre-match handshake between the teams following the Premier League edict to ditch the ritual over coronavirus fears.
Listless for long periods, Arsenal didn’t look too keen on any contact once the game started either.
Granit Xhaka carelessly surrendered possession to Jarrod Bowen, whose long-range drive slipped through Bernd Leno’s grasp onto the near post.
West Ham should have gone ahead when Michail Antonio raced onto Pablo Fornals’ pass, but with the unmarked Sebastien Haller screaming for the ball, the winger could only send a woeful delivery yards behind him.
Pablo Mari, on loan from Flamengo, was making his Premier League debut at the heart of Arsenal’s defence alongside David Luiz, while Greek centre-back Sokratis was used out of position at right-back.
But Arteta’s reshuffled rearguard were easily exposed by Mark Noble’s pin-point pass and Leno did well to get down quickly at the feet of Haller after the West Ham striker moved menacingly towards goal.
West Ham’s enterprising opening was nearly undone when Sokratis thumped his close-range header onto the bar from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cross.
There were still plenty of holes for David Moyes’ men to exploit and only a shocking miss from Antonio stopped them scoring just before half-time.
Issa Diop climbed above Aubameyang and headed Noble’s corner to Antonio, who somehow managed to screw wide from just two yards.
For the first time in over a year, Arsenal had failed to record a shot on target in the first half of a home league game.
They finally tested Lukasz Fabianski when Eddie Nketiah darted onto Bukayo Saka’s pass and flicked his shot at the Hammers keeper.
West Ham remained a threat and it took a superb save from Leno to deny Antonio’s close-range header from Haller’s flick.
Arteta sent on Lacazette in place of Nketiah for the final 30 minutes and his arrival turned the game.
He saw his appeal for a penalty rejected by VAR after Angelo Ogbonna appeared to haul him down.
But Lacazette broke the deadlock with his ninth goal of the season in the 78th minute.
Aubameyang’s shot deflected off Declan Rice and looped to Ozil, whose header found Lacazette for a clinical close-range finish.
A lengthy VAR review prolonged the agony for West Ham before it was finally ruled that Ozil was onside when he set up Lacazette.
Haller almost snatched an immediate equaliser but his effort was pushed away by Leno as Arsenal held on.
Manchester City cruised to a 2-0 win over West Ham on Wednesday as Pep Guardiola’s side returned to action for the first time following the club’s shock two-year ban from European competitions.
Goals from Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne lifted City’s spirits as they cemented their hold on second place in the Premier League.
The Champions League and Europa League suspension for alleged financial fair play regulations drew a furious response over the weekend from City supporters who have long believed UEFA hold an agenda against their Abu Dhabi-owned club.
Yet the attendance at the Etihad Stadium for the visit of David Moyes’ struggling side was disappointing, with approximately 10,000 empty seats greeting the two sets of players before kick-off.
That may have been due, in part, to the fact the fixture was rescheduled from its original date 10 days earlier due to storms.
Live TV coverage and gridlocked early evening Manchester traffic also did not help supporters arrive in good time for a fixture in which their team was seeking to close the 25-point gap to leaders Liverpool.
It was a curiously subdued atmosphere, therefore, rather than the expected frenzied demonstration of anti-UEFA rhetoric.
There were a couple of home-made banners proclaiming “UEFA Cartel” and “UEFA Mafia”, as well as chants of adulation praising City owner Sheikh Mansour and boss Guardiola.
There were also taunts to UEFA that “we’ll see you in court” and crude songs aimed at the governing body.
But not until Rodri headed City into a 29th-minute lead did City fans become truly animated as their team maintained their complete dominance against the visitors.
It is fair to say, however, that there will be a very different atmosphere when City next play at the Etihad in the Champions League, with Real Madrid the visitors on March 10 in the last 16-second leg.
City’s chief executive Ferran Soriano was clearly in a combative mood when discussing the approach to their latest confrontation with UEFA.
“The fans can be sure of two things. The first one is that the allegations are false,” said Soriano, who confirmed the club will take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“And the second is that we will do everything that can be done to prove so.”
Guardiola was equally defiant when asked to comment on the suspension before kick-off.
“The first moment was impacted but after a few hours we cannot control, we support the club 100 percent,” he said.
A second-half goal from De Bruyne at least ensured that City returned from the winter break, and five days of controversy, with the minimum of fuss.
However, it promises to be events in European law courts, rather than a football pitch, that has a greater impact on the club over the coming months.
Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling will miss Sunday’s Premier League clash against West Ham and could face a race to be fit for their Champions League showdown with Real Madrid after suffering a hamstring injury.
Sterling limped off during Sunday’s defeat at Tottenham and the club have confirmed the injury will sideline the England international this weekend.
“Raheem Sterling will miss our game against West Ham this weekend after scans revealed he has suffered damage to his left hamstring. Everyone at City wishes @sterling7 a full and speedy recovery,” City said on their Twitter account.
Liverpool moved an incredible 19 points clear at the top of the Premier League as Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain secured a 2-0 win at West Ham on Wednesday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have turned the title race into a procession and the runaway leaders saw off struggling West Ham to make it a remarkable 23 victories from 24 league games this season.
Salah opened the scoring with a first-half penalty at the London Stadium and Oxlade-Chamberlain wrapped up Liverpool‘s 15th successive league win after the interval.
Second-placed Manchester City are now so far behind Liverpool that the question is not if but when the Reds clinch their first English league title since 1990.
The Reds have won 31 of their past 32 league fixtures, only dropping points in a 1-1 draw at Manchester United in October.
With 14 games left, Liverpool‘s incredible run has given historic overtones to their impending title coronation.
The European and World champions are now 41 games unbeaten in the league — just eight away from the 49-match English top-flight record set by Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ across 2003 and 2004.
Matching that Arsenal team’s achievement in going an entire league season without defeat is within Liverpool‘s reach, as is Manchester City’s Premier League record of 100 points.
Liverpool‘s latest success on a chilly night in east London will be just a footnote when the full story of their likely title triumph is written, but they still managed to record another small piece of history.
They have now beaten all 19 of the other teams in the league at least once this season — the first time the club have achieved that feat in the top-flight.
Klopp attracted criticism for announcing he and his first-team players won’t be present for the FA Cup fourth-round replay against Shrewsbury next week as it falls within the Premier League’s winter break.
Instead, Klopp will send Liverpool‘s youth team to the match, but at this rate, they will win the title so early that his stars will have plenty of time to put their feet up in the final weeks of the domestic season.
– Swaggering Liverpool –
Faced with West Ham’s massed defence and lacking the pace and penetration usually provided by the injured Sadio Mane, Liverpool initially monopolised possession without a cutting edge.
Salah and Jordan Henderson finally combined to open up West Ham for the first time.
Andrew Robertson was the beneficiary and the left-back’s clip over Lukasz Fabianski was trickling towards the goalline when Issa Diop got back to clear.
It wasn’t vintage Liverpool but their pressure eventually produced Salah’s opener from their first shot on target in the 35th minute.
Roberto Firmino deftly controlled Trent Alexander-Arnold’s pass and flicked the ball into the six-yard box, where Divock Origi was bundled over by Diop.
Jonathan Moss awarded the penalty and, after a lengthy VAR check for a possible handball in the build-up, Egypt forward Salah stepped up to send Fabianski the wrong way for his 16th goal of the season.
Manuel Lanzini wasted a golden opportunity to equalise early in the second half when the West Ham winger scuffed straight at Alisson Becker.
Firmino almost doubled Liverpool‘s lead when he swivelled onto Robertson’s cross and forced Fabianski to save.
Liverpool‘s second goal punished David Moyes’ team in ruthless style as they authored a swaggering counter-attack in the 52nd minute.
Breaking from a West Ham corner, Henderson found Salah and he flicked a superb pass with the outside of his boot to Oxlade-Chamberlain, who raced clear to slot a cool finish past Fabianski.
Liverpool were still surprisingly creaky at the back, but Angelo Ogbonna headed over from close-range.
Declan Rice’s effort was saved by Alisson, with the rebound deflected onto the post by Alexander-Arnold, before Alisson denied Rice with another fine stop
West Ham crashed out of the FA Cup as their former manager Slaven Bilic led West Bromwich Albion to a surprise 1-0 win, while Tottenham were held to a 1-1 draw by Southampton in Saturday’s fourth-round action.
Albion boss Bilic, sacked by the Hammers in 2017, made eight changes as he prioritised the Championship leaders’ push to return to the Premier League.
But Albion took a shock lead at the London Stadium when Conor Townsend drilled in his first goal for the club after nine minutes.
West Ham, struggling in the top-flight under new boss David Moyes and now without a win in four games, were given a lifeline when West Brom’s Semi Ajayi was sent off in the 72nd minute after his push earned a second yellow card.
Sebastien Haller should have equalised with a headed chance and Manuel Lanzini then dragged his shot wide, but Albion held on.
West Ham were jeered off by their furious fans, while Croatian Bilic, who also played for the east Londoners, celebrated a sweet success with his Albion players.
At St Mary’s, Christian Eriksen was left out amid reports in Italy suggesting the Tottenham midfielder has agreed to a move to Inter Milan, while Gedson Fernandes made his full debut for Jose Mourinho’s men.
Tottenham’s last visit to Southampton was a painful one, with Harry Kane suffering a torn hamstring in a Premier League defeat on New Year’s Day, a clash that saw Mourinho embroiled in a touchline row with a member of the Saints’ coaching staff.
Mourinho’s side struck in the 58th minute on their return to the south coast.
South Korea forward Son Heung-min fired home from Erik Lamela’s pass for his 12th goal of the season.
But Southampton hit back to equalise through Sofiane Boufal’s powerful strike from Danny Ings’ cross in the 87th minute.
Newcastle had to settle for an embarrassing 0-0 draw with third tier Oxford at St James’ Park as their wretched FA Cup form haunted them again.
Steve Bruce’s side are looking to make the fifth round for the first time since 2006, but they needed a replay to beat minnows Rochdale in the previous round and they will have to go the distance again after this limp display.
Burnley and Norwich made a combined total of 12 changes at Turf Moor, with the Canaries running out 2-1 winners.
Grant Hanley’s 53rd-minute goal and a 57th-minute strike from Josip Drmic put Norwich in control before Erik Pieters reduced the deficit in the 74th minute.
Cardiff fans were warned not to sing “racist or homophobic songs” after two incidents were reported during their 1-1 draw at fellow Championship side Reading.
Sheffield United won 2-0 at second-tier Millwall through Muhamed Besic’s 62nd-minute goal and Oliver Norwood’s 84th-minute strike.
Kelechi Iheanacho’s early goal sealed a 1-0 win for Leicester at Championship side Brentford.
Brendan Rodgers’ team are chasing a trip to Wembley on two fronts and they took the next step in the FA Cup after surviving a hard-fought fourth-round clash in west London.
Leicester, who have never won the FA Cup, are hoping to reach the final for the first time since 1969.
In the League Cup, they are through to the semi-finals and head to Aston Villa in the second leg on Tuesday after being held to a 1-1 draw in the first match at the King Power Stadium.
Despite Jamie Vardy’s absence with a glute injury, it took Leicester just four minutes to go ahead when Nigerian striker Iheanacho met James Justin’s cross with a clinical close-range finish.
Chelsea travel to second-tier Hull in Saturday’s late game.
West Ham sacked manager Manuel Pellegrini after Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Leicester left the Hammers just one point above the Premier League’s relegation zone.
A run of just two wins in 14 games, including seven defeats in their last nine league matches, saw patience run out with the 66-year-old former Real Madrid and Manchester City boss.
“It is with great disappointment that we’ve had to make this decision,” West Ham joint-chairman David Sullivan said in a club statement.
“Manuel is a gentleman and it has been a real pleasure to work with someone of his calibre.
“However, it has become clear that a change is required to get the club back on track in line with our ambitions this season. We felt it was necessary to act now in order to give the new manager as much time as possible to try and achieve that goal.
“It has become clear that a change is required to get the club back on track in line with our ambitions this season.”
West Ham overcame a difficult start to finish 10th in Pellegrini’s first season in charge.
However, the Chilean has failed to provide enough of a return on a significant transfer spend over the past 18 months with over £100 million ($130 million) splashed on Felipe Anderson, Sebastien Haller, Pablo Fornals, Andriy Yarmolenko, and Issa Diop.
A much-changed Leicester bounced back from a Boxing Day thrashing by Liverpool to beat West Ham 2-1 on Saturday as Tottenham’s charge towards the Premier League top four stalled in a 2-2 draw at Norwich.
Leicester had taken just one point from their previous three games to realistically end an unlikely title challenge, but remain second best in the table behind runaway leaders Liverpool after ending a three-game winless run.
Brendan Rodgers made nine changes to the side outclassed by the European champions two days ago with Jamie Vardy among those missing due to the birth of his daughter.
Kelechi Iheanacho and Demarai Gray made the most of their chance for a rare Premier League start by scoring either side of half-time, although Gray also saw an early penalty saved by Lukasz Fabianski.
The Foxes move 10 points behind Liverpool having played two games more and stretch their lead over Manchester City in second to four points.
Pablo Fornals levelled for the Hammers just before half-time, but they remain just one point above the relegation zone after a seventh defeat in nine games.
Arsenal caretaker manager Freddie Ljungberg believes a weight has been lifted off his players’ shoulders after a three-goal blitz in nine second-half minutes beat West Ham 3-1 on Monday to end the Gunners’ worst winless run in 42 years.
Another miserable night for the Swede seemed in store when the visitors trailed at half-time to Angelo Ogbonna’s deflected header.
However, Arsenal suddenly sparked into life after Gabriel Martinelli scored his first Premier League goal as Nicolas Pepe finally started to deliver on his club record £72 million fee by curling home a brilliant second, before crossing for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to secure all three points.
“It means so much for the players. They have been living under enormous pressure and you see it in their performances,” said Ljungberg.
“You can see the players have been a bit low and you see in the dressing room the relief and how happy they are.”
A first win in 10 games in all competitions lifts Arsenal up to ninth and cuts the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea to seven points in the battle for Champions League qualification next season.
Ljungberg reacted to taking just one point from his opening two games in temporary charge against lowly Norwich and Brighton by making five changes with Martinelli and Pepe among those coming into the side.
Pepe’s inability to make an impact has been one of the major reasons for Arsenal’s struggles, but the Ivorian looked a new player after curling home his first Premier League goal from open play 24 minutes from time.
“Nicolas is an amazing football player, but it is not easy to come from the French league into the Premier League and adjust straight away,” added Ljungberg.
“It was an amazing goal and he’ll get better and better.”
West Ham ‘dominated for 60 minutes’
Not much had improved in Ljungberg’s first two games since replacing the sacked Unai Emery and it was the same tame and lifeless Arsenal for the first hour against a West Ham side that have won just once in their last 11 games.
“I think we dominated the game for 60 minutes and after that in 10 minutes we lose the game,” said West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini, who is under increasing pressure as his side sit just one point above the relegation zone.
Another home defeat means the Hammers have taken just one point from their last five games at the London Stadium and the home side were booed off at full-time.
“You understand the boos because the last five games we played here we didn’t win,” added Pellegrini. “You cannot concede three goals in every game.”
In a first half of precious little good football it was fitting the opener arrived in scrappy fashion as Ogbonna’s attempted header came off his shoulder and deflected off Martinelli to wrong-foot Bernd Leno in the Arsenal goal.
But one moment changed the course of the game when Sead Kolasinac burst down the left and crossed low for Martinelli to slot home his eighth goal of the season after impressing in the League Cup and Europa League.
Suddenly the confidence which Emery and Ljungberg bemoaned had drained away from their players in recent times was restored, none more so than in Pepe, who cut inside onto his favoured left foot and curled into the top corner.
Pepe then turned provider for Aubameyang to slide in for his 13th goal of the campaign.
“At half-time, Freddie told us to play with a higher tempo,” said Aubameyang.
“We have the quality in the squad, and if we believe in ourselves, we can go forward and win games. We will take this second half as an example for the rest of the season.”
Aaron Cresswell eased the pressure on Manuel Pellegrini as the West Ham defender fired his struggling side to a shock 1-0 win at Chelsea on Saturday.
Pellegrini was reportedly given two games to save his job this week, but the Hammers boss might have earned much-needed breathing space with a first win in eight Premier League games.
It was West Ham’s first victory at Stamford Bridge in 14 visits dating back to 2002.
The Hammers had lost their last three matches, increasing the speculation that former Manchester City manager Pellegrini was set for the sack.
Now Pellegrini goes into Wednesday’s trip to Wolves with renewed hope of avoiding the axe after West Ham moved six points clear of the relegation zone.
Inflicting a second successive Premier League defeat on Chelsea made the hard-fought result even sweeter for West Ham fans.
After last weekend’s loss at Manchester City, fourth-placed Chelsea’s momentum has stalled a little following one of the least coherent displays of Frank Lampard’s maiden season in charge.
West Ham’s slump has coincided with the poor form of reserve keeper Roberto following an injury to first-choice Lukasz Fabianski.
Pellegrini finally lost patience with Roberto after he conceded nine goals in his last three games, handing 33-year-old David Martin his debut after his pre-season move from Millwall.
It proved a successful gamble and Martin cried tears of joy after keeping a clean-sheet on his first top-flight appearance.
When Martin was called into action for the first time, his save from Mason Mount’s low drive drew extra loud cheers from the West Hams crammed into the Shed End behind him.
Chelsea were dominating possession without finding the final touch needed to break down West Ham’s massed defence as Christian Pulisic headed Pedro’s cross wastefully over.
Martin then misjudged Reece James’ deflected cross and watched in panic as it clanged off the near post, with the resulting corner headed woefully wide by Kurt Zouma.
– Lack of cutting edge –
Despite Chelsea’s territorial superiority, they remained creaky at the back.
No top-10 team had conceded more than the 19 goals Chelsea had allowed heading into the latest round of fixtures.
Pellegrini’s men almost took advantage of the holes in Chelsea’s defence when Robert Snodgrass swung over a cross and Michail Antonio found space for a diving header that Kepa Arrizabalaga pushed away at full stretch.
Martin fumbled Mateo Kovacic’s long-range effort before recovering quickly to block Olivier Giroud’s attempt to knock in the rebound.
With Tammy Abraham ruled out with a hip injury suffered in the midweek Champions League draw at Valencia, Giroud was making his first start since August 18.
But the France striker was totally anonymous for long periods and Chelsea lacked a cutting edge as a result.
When James whipped over a teasing cross, Giroud arrived too late to make contact and Pulisic, just behind him, scuffed it wide to cap a frustrating half for Chelsea.
There was even more angst for Chelsea after the interval as a penalty appeal for handball against West Ham’s Fabian Balbuena was turned down before the visitors snatched the lead in the 48th minute.
Felipe Anderson and Pablo Fornals worked the ball wide to Cresswell on the edge of the Chelsea area and the left-back tricked James with a clever cut-back before curling a fine finish into the far corner.
Chelsea’s defensive vulnerability had been laid bare and the Hammers nearly capitalised again when Balbuena’s header from Snodgrass’s corner was saved by Kepa.
As Chelsea ran out of ideas, Antonio thought he had doubled West Ham’s lead when he bundled in Snodgrass’s cross, but VAR disallowed the goal for handball by the forward.
It didn’t matter as West Ham held firm in the closing stages to win for the first time since beating Manchester United on September 22.