Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United made history on Saturday lunchtime at London Stadium during their Premier League clash with Unai Emery’s Arsenal at London Stadium, by beating the North London opposition at home for the first time since 5 November 2006.
Two days after the one-goal victory that was played out in front of a record Hammers home crowd of 59,946 and saw Academy of Football product Declan Rice score a second-half winner. Join us as we analyse Five Massive Moments from the free-flowing London derby.
Fabianski brilliantly denies Lacazette
Our first Massive Moment arrived just 13 minutes into proceedings in Stratford and had things unfolded slightly differently with it, the relatively even match could have followed an entirely different trajectory.
After the hosts started the game well in their search for a first league victory of 2019, the fifth-placed away team started to grow into the game more and began to create chances of their own. The main danger came from Premier League joint-top scorer, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.
However, while he helped to create the danger, the Massive Moment was almost entirely orchestrated by his fellow forward Alexandre Lacazette and at that point, it was the best chance of the afternoon. And would go on to become the best chance of the entire match for the Gunners.
Being laid off by Alex Iwobi in the centre of the field, the Frenchman ran at the Irons defence and had them flapping. Stand-in centre-back Angelo Ogbonna was out of position, leaving a gap for Lacazette to exploit with his excellent pace, getting through on ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
As has so often been the case this season, the Pole was Pellegrini’s saving grace as he pushed away Lacazette’s close-range effort and he couldn’t convert the follow-up. This save set Fabianski well on his way to a fourth clean sheet of the campaign, denying his opponent an eighth PL strike of 2018/2019. Had this gone in, it could well have been a plane-sailing afternoon for Emery’s men.
Rice misses golden opportunity to break the deadlock
The Gunners would soon be punished for their lack of cutting edge on the day. But not before our second Massive Moment, which so very nearly saw a beloved young Hammer with 54 first-team appearances to his name score his first professional goal.
Yes, this would indeed be Rice as he sent begging a golden opportunity for the Irons to score and take the ascendancy at the perfect time, in the 45th minute. When Arsenal would have no time to reply before the end of the first period.
Up until this point, both teams had wasted opportunities and the home side perhaps had the then 19-year-old to thank for the Gunners not taking one of theirs. In the 22nd minute, Rice stole in to stop Lacazette from tapping home from Sead Kolasinac’s cut-back.
Though, the best one for West Ham was about to arrive and leave the majority of London Stadium grimacing with their heads in their hands. Club-record signing and star man Felipe Anderson’s corner delivery picked out Rice to head from the centre of the box.
Had the Irish international being linked with a switch of international allegiance to England hit the target, there was a high chance he would have broken the deadlock, instead, firing wide of Bernd Leno’s right-hand post. This meant that the sides entered the break at 0-0.
Rice makes up for miss in special moment
That parity would last just three second-half minutes, with a certain Rice making up for his miss on the stroke of half-time and raising the roof on the London 2012 Olympic Stadium, in our third Massive Moment.
In nearly two years of senior football since making his debut away at Burnley on the final day of the 2016/2017 season away at Burnley, the central defensive midfielder who can also play at centre-half had yet to find the back of the net. In 54 first-team appearances.
That fact was about to change in a very special moment for the man signed from Chelsea in his early teens. One that would come just weeks after he brought up 50 senior appearances in Claret & Blue and signed an eagerly-awaited new contract that will keep him in East London until 2024.
Much like in his initial miss the other side of the break, Anderson was involved, eventually picking up the pieces of his failed corner to put in another fairly weak cross. Although, the ball could only be headed away by Kolasinac into the path of new signing and former Gunner Samir Nasri, making his PL debut in Claret & Blue.
The ex-France international saw Rice free straight away and calmly pushed the ball onto him, with the defensive-minded star smashing the ball into the top corner from just inside the area. It was a finish more akin to a weathered striker and one that made him the first teenage scorer of the decade for the club. And more crucially, would give the Irons all three points.
Iwobi comes within inches of levelling
With the best part of the second period still left to play, all West Ham needed to do was hold onto the lead in order to make it a historic and special day for everyone affiliated with the team. However, there was still the threat of a strong Arsenal spoiling the party, leading to our penultimate Massive Moment.
This was what so nearly happened when the side with surprisingly the fewest clean sheets in the entire league this campaign, enjoyed arguably their best spell of the encounter, in and around the 65th minute.
Their most clear-cut opportunity in this period fell to a man you wouldn’t expect to miss, an integral part of the North Londoners’ fearsome attack, Nigerian international Alex Iwobi. He has been involved (scoring or assisting) in six league goals this term.
He came within inches of adding to that tally and levelling the scores with just over 20 minutes remaining. A cross-field ball by starlet Ainsley Maitland-Niles was flicked on by substitute Aaron Ramsey, finding Iwobi in behind the defence on the left flank.
Rightly, he entered the box and aimed for the far corner, his low shot beating Fabianski and looking for all the world like it was about to bulge the net in the bottom corner. It somehow stayed out and whistled past the left-hand post. The home team could count themselves lucky on this occasion but it surely meant they were heading for a seventh home win of the season in all competitions.
As cheerful as the entire day turned out to be for members of the Claret & Blue Army, with their side comfortably seeing out a memorable triumph and claiming some London bragging rights. It was a day tinged in slight sadness and one that may be remembered for something other than the fantastic result.
The reason for this is our final Massive Moment, one that may have not been too significant in terms of its bearing on the game and the eventual outcome, but very significant in the recent history of the Hammers.
If you hadn’t guessed it yet, the Massive Moment involves the possible farewell of reigning Betway Hammer of the Year Marko Arnautovic, who has scored 18 goals and registered eight assists in 47 appearances in East London. And that’s just in the Premier League.
With speculation and comments from his brother and agent Danijel Arnautovic suggesting that a move to the Chinese Super League could be imminent and take place in this window. Arnautovic was substituted for Andy Carroll in the 71st minute.
As he left the field of play, the Austria and West Ham vice-captain waved to the crowd in all directions and appeared to mime the words “goodbye.” It goes without mentioning that if he departs, the club’s second-top scorer despite missing much of this season through injury, will be sorely missed.
So, now that we have well and truly analysed the five key Massive Moments as Pellegrini’s East Londoners moved up to ninth in the top-flight table and hauled themselves over the 30-point mark. Will we be looking back on in-depth yet more positive Massive Moments come this time next week? After the Irons have visited AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium? Join us once again, then, to find out.
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