Premier League: Arsenal back on top after 3-1 win at West Ham
Last Updated: 26/12/13 9:03pm
Theo Walcott: Netted twice at West Ham
Theo Walcott struck two goals in three minutes to send Arsenal back to the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 Boxing Day win over West Ham at Upton Park.
Sam Allardyce's men had weathered some heavy pressure in the first period and snatched the lead early in the second through Carlton Cole - only for the Gunners to come up with a whirlwind final quarter and seal a surprisingly comfortable victory.
Best of the Match:
- Man of the match: Theo Walcott. Worked tirelessly up and down the flank and scored two great goals to inspire the win.
- Goal of the match: The third Arsenal goal as Lukas Podolski put the result beyond doubt with an emphatic finish with the outside of his foot after some good work in the box by Olivier Giroud.
- Save of the match: Adrian with an absolutely terrific double save, first parrying Santi Cazorla's shot from outside the area before clearing the follow up effort from Mesut Ozil.
- Talking point: West Ham's mounting injury problems with James Collins being withdrawn early and the Hammers dropping to just a point above bottom-placed Sunderland.
Also pleasing for Arsene Wenger was the successful return of Germany forward Lukas Podolski, who wrapped up the points having come off the bench, but both Aaron Ramsey and West Ham's James Collins were forced off by new injuries during the game.
It was the hosts who produced the first meaningful attempt at goal in the 10th minute - Mark Noble nearly punishing a needless Mikel Arteta foul with a free-kick that forced Wojciech Szczesny into a full-stretch save.
The Gunners were struggling to dissect a determined home defence and when they did in the 26th minute, Walcott should have done better than volley a precision lofted pass from Ramsey wide of the near post.
Santi Cazorla was two feet too high from distance on the half-hour mark and Olivier Giroud cut a frustrated figure having wasted a pair of openings created by well-timed Mesut Ozil passes. Arsenal were left ruing their misses in the very first minute of the second half.
Wojciech Szczesny will take the vast majority of blame for spilling Kevin Nolan's tame long-ranger but his defenders did him few favours, allowing Cole to pounce on the loose ball unattended and tuck home from close range.
The Pole went some way to atoning by smothering a Matt Jarvis attempt, and there were further scares for Arsenal before the hour mark - Joey O'Brien sending a free header the wrong side of the post and Cole failing to turn in a Jarvis cross.
It took a piece of poor goalkeeping to open the floodgates for Arsenal in the 68th minute. Walcott teased George McCartney onto the back foot, shifted the ball inside to shoot off his left foot and, despite making poor contact, Adrian could only usher his effort into the net.
Walcott's second, just three minutes later, was more impressive. Podolski whipped over a cross that James Tomkins could only flick on - prompting Walcott to hang in the air a little longer in order to arrow a header past Adrian.
Podolski had already fired a pair of range-finders - the second a shot from an exquisite Cazorla pass that was well-saved by Adrian - by the time he marked his return to action with a goal. Giroud was his assistant, the Frenchman holding the ball up in the area before teeing up for Podolski to blast home from 15 yards.
Another substitute, Nicklas Bendtner, was a foot away from adding insult to injury as the game drifted into injury time but the Hammers' second half was summed up neatly by Joe Cole's tame attempt to snatch a last-gasp consolation goal.
Barclays Premier League
Thu 26th Dec
Hull City2 - 3Man Utd
A Villa0 - 1C Palace
Cardiff0 - 3Southampton
Chelsea1 - 0Swansea
Everton0 - 1Sunderland
Newcastle5 - 1Stoke City
Norwich1 - 2Fulham
Tottenham1 - 1West Brom
West Ham1 - 3Arsenal
Man City2 - 1Liverpool
Barclays Premier League
|13||Queens Park Rangers||0||0|
|19||West Bromwich Albion||0||0|
|20||West Ham United||0||0|
West Ham v Arsenal
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce thinks Liverpool will have to win the rest of their matches in the league to secure the title.
West Ham striker Carlton Cole insists scoring goals means nothing unless his side gets back to winning ways.
Arsene Wenger felt that Arsenal had proved their title credentials after coming from behind to beat West Ham United.