West Ham 0 Arsenal 0
Arsenal surrendered two points in their remote pursuit of Manchester United's
long Premiership lead but edged back into second place after again mastering
West Ham at Upton Park.
After beating them comfortably at Highbury in the League and then knocking
them out of the Coca-Cola Cup just after Christmas, Arsenal gained another sharp
psychological edge for next Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final between the two
Honours finished even this time in a goalless but grittily-fought battle in
London's East End, but the Gunners came out with the biggest smiles after
gripping their rivals in a vice-like grip of old-style Arsenal tradition.
And although West Ham had a mountain of possession, particularly in thesecond
half, they rarely looked like beating young goalkeeper Alex Manninger even
though he had to defy ex-Gunner John Hartson late on with a wonderfully brave
But by then Arsenal's limited attacks could have produced two goals from
blatant-looking penalty offences by David Unsworth who seemed to clearly handle
the ball to stop David Platt's first half through-ball and then bundled Nicolas
Anelka down when the French youngster chased fellow countryman Emmanuel Petit's
And right at the end underworked, debut-making French keeper Bernard Lama
brilliantly kept out substitute Luis Boa Morte from six yards.
West Ham, who were without Rio Ferdinand through a calf injury, asked most of
the first-half questions of an Arsenal side lacking Dutch star Dennis Bergkamp,
but the Gunners disciplined defenders had all the answers.
When nippy Hammers' duo Andy Impey and Eyal Berkovic finally negotiated a way
through, the Israeli's stunning 13th minute drive was turned aside for a corner
at full stretch by young Austrian keeper Alex Manninger.
Keown, eventually donning a headband to cover a wound suffered in collision
with Sinclair's elbow after only five minutes, epitomised Arsenal's
determination to resist a rising tide of West Ham raids and hehad Hartson in his
pocket for the first 45 minutes.
With only the teenager Anelka up front, there were never going to be tomany
goal-attempts by Arsene Wenger's side. It took them 30 minutes to test Bernard
Lama on his debut and he comfortably collected his former Paris St Germain
clubmate's spontaneous 18-yard drive when Lee Dixon's crossfield ball sat up
invitingly off Platt's attempted knock-on.
But a minute later Arsenal should certainly have had a penalty when Unsworth
inexplicably handled Platt's attempt to put Patrick Vieira in on goal.
Hammers, who had won 11 of their previous 13 home games in the Premiership,
had another escape when Stephen Hughes forced his way through on the left and
the ever-willing Anelka failed by inches to get a foot to the midfielder's
penetrating low cross just six yards out.
And in first-half stoppage time Tony Adams launched himself into an acrobatic
overhead swipe when Emmanuel Petit's corner bobbed around theWest box and it
again needed merely a scoring touch a the ball flashed across the face of the
goal and out.
But as Hammers were held to their first home goalless draw for 36 matches, it
ended in another night of frustration for ex-Gunner Hartson who is suspended for
Sunday's Cup tie.
West Ham: Lama, Breacker (Potts 46), Pearce, Unsworth, Impey,
Lomas, Lampard, Lazaridis, Berkovic, Hartson, Sinclair.
Subs Not Used: Finn, Abou, Bishop, Mean.
Arsenal: Manninger, Dixon, Vieira, Adams, Platt (Boa Morte 85),
Anelka, Overmars, Keown, Petit, Upson (Winterburn 75), Hughes.
Subs Not Used: Grimandi, Lukic, Rankin.
Ref: P A Durkin (Portland).