x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Gunners firing blanks

West Ham blow a huge hole in Arsenal's Champions League hopes with a battling draw at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal's Gael Clichy, left, goes past West Ham United's Valon Behrami.
Arsenal's Gael Clichy, left, goes past West Ham United's Valon Behrami.

LONDON // West Ham blew a huge hole in Arsenal's Champions League hopes with a battling draw at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners had plenty of chances to win the game and will be regretting not having picked up three points against their London rivals. Arsene Wenger sprung a major surprise in his team selection when he left Robin Van Persie on the substitutes' bench.

Van Persie has been in superb form and netted the crucial equaliser against Everton last Wednesday, but the Arsenal boss opted to play Emmanuel Adebayor alongside Nicklas Bendtner. There were no shocks in the West Ham team as Gianfranco Zola kept faith with the team that recorded a convincing 2-0 win over Hull.Wenger was looking to close the gap on Aston Villa and his team almost broke the deadlock after just four minutes.

Samir Nasri's corner fell to Abou Diaby whose header took a deflection off James Collins and the ball hit the top of the bar. Arsenal came close again on 20 minutes when Nasri's cross picked out Bendtner who rose above Collins and flashed his header just wide. The Gunners suffered an injury blow when Emmanuel Eboue was forced to leave the field on 33 minutes following a challenge by Scott Parker. Eboue was replaced by the teenage forward Carlos Vela, and he immediately gave some much needed energy to the Arsenal midfield with his probing runs down the left hand side.

West Ham always looked dangerous on the break and had a golden chance to take the lead on the stroke of half-time when Collins saw his header cleared off the line by Gael Clichy. But Arsenal continued to create the best chances and came close again on 50 minutes when West Ham keeper Robert Green raced out of his goal to deal with a high cross and could only punch the ball straight into the path of Kolo Toure who saw his half volley superbly cleared off the line by Collins. West Ham were having to defend for their lives and escaped once again on 62 minutes.

Bacary Sagna broke away down the right hand side and crossed in for Adebayor who looked certain to slide the ball past Green, but he fired his shot past a post. The Arsenal fans finally got their wish on 68 minutes when Van Persie was brought on to replace Bendtner as Wenger tried everything to break the deadlock. And Van Persie had the chance to do just that in injury time but shot wide from inside the box.

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