West Ham 2 Arsenal 2: Our winning run is over

By Brian Dawes
Last updated : 25 August 2002
Dafoe battles for the ball with Sylvain
Despite their 4-0 drubbing by the Newkie Broons on Monday night it should be noted that the Hammers had lost only once at home in the league since 3 November 2001 and Kanoute wasn't available at St.James' Park. Records are made to be broken and we'd done that already, but our winning sequence ran to 14 and ended with the 'Ammers.

Gilberto was not chanced after his long trip to Brazil, while Pires, Ljungberg, Van Bronckhorst and Jeffers were still not available. So our starting line-up was the same that opened against Birmingham. Taylor, Luzhny, Toure, Kanu and Pennant being today's subs.

Off the pitch the Gooners opened with 'Double, double, double - Sol Campbell has won the double, while the Scum at the Lane have won feck all again Sol Campbell has won the double'. On the pitch it was the Hammers who opened the brighter of the two sides and it remained pretty well that way until half time. The first foul, as ever, was on Vieira and it was Carrick's turn today. Defoe was caught offside early on, as was Schemmel. The Hammers pressed forward and had the best of midfield but had no end product to show for it. There were some half-decent moves by Arsenal such as Wiltord's cross-field ball to Parlour, but his cross was blocked and Ray's display generally today was fairly anonymous.

Henry had chances that might have been taken including one that he fired wide following a fine ball from Dennis. Wiltord also had a chance when his shot on the turn went over following a decent move involving Pat, Dennis and Ray. Kanoute was fouling well as the Gooners chanted 'No noise from the Cockney boys' but it didn't stay that way, the noise I mean. Pat couldn't find Dennis when a chance looked on. Lauren put in a good cross after Lauren started the move by dispossessing Cole. Defoe fouled Lauren from behind but no yellow was flashed. We may have trailed behind on the midfield possession but West Ham didn't look like breaking us down, and a lot of their play was showy rather than functional.

A break for Henry should have seen us ahead but James saved well. At the other end Sinclair hit Seaman's right hand post with a cracker that Dave had let go, believing it to be going wide. Dennis got a card for his only tackle of the game on the half-way line, it looked very harsh from my seat behind the goal but as Mike Winnett had reminded me there's that not so new interpretation of the rules for refs this season. You know the one; 'All players should be given the benefit of the doubt, unless it's Arsenal'. Sinclair fired over shortly after as the Hammer's pressure mounted.

Ashley Cole, as expected had been taking unwarranted stick all match to which we responded 'Ashley get your medals out'. Cole himself was responding with some good tackles but he lost his man a couple of times and wasn't always helped by our midfield whose shape wasn't all it might have been in front of our back four. Kanoute made another late tackle, this time on Cole but the home ref Barry didn't want to know. Pat started getting stuck in about now and Sylv also worked back to good effect but we didn't take control. We then started to concede more free kicks in wide positions plus a number of corners but our headed clearances were fine, which is just as well.

Another fast break ended with a Wiltord cross. More Hammers pressure followed but still no end product. Nige won a big tackle before Schemmel set up Kanoute with a sitter that he blasted into the top of the stand. How we laughed. Keown was playing well, another move saw Vieira outpaced for Henry's through ball. Cisse chops Edu - no yellow. Big move by Cole on the left before Seaman does well to block out Kanoute who looked to be their main threat all day. We did get the odd corner but as usual made nothing of it. Ashley Cole was kicked but the homer's card stayed in his pocket. Wiltord did well despite being held back, but then Edu was booked for a deliberate foul. Just as we approached half time the Hammers took a deserved lead when a cross from their left was too deep for their front men but found Joe Cole in space on our right and he planted the ball back low just inside Seaman's far post. Dave's slow motion dive couldn't get to it and we were 1-0 down.

Henry in celebration mode
A foul on Henry just before the break saw Edu hit his shot into their wall. Another chance gone where we might have capitalised. Letting West Ham play football had been a mistake and Arsenal had looked like they were beginning to believe the hype that now surrounds them. Granted we hadn't played at all well but we also hadn't matched the Hammers in will power. We were very unlike our usual selves at this point.

No Dennis for the second half and the laid back Kanu is on for a bit of a stroll around. Vieira lost out to Carrick very early in the second half and that set a pattern of dominance by the home team. They were up and their crowd was up. Kanu had a wrestling match and Pat had a shot blocked as the Gunners attacked 'our' end. West Ham had already started time wasting but that ended after they scored a second. Cole had just picked up a yellow card for what looked like a decent tackle so failed to dive in and prevent a cross from their right. Kanoute won the race to the near post and put them further ahead. 2-0 and it wasn't looking good.

The Hammers pressed on and Dave made a great full length save from Kanoute. Their lively number 14 then hit one just wide with an angled shot. Dailly fouls Parlour but the free kick goes the other way. OK so I'm biased, but if you want an unbiased report you shouldn't be reading this anyway, I tell it like I saw it. Parlour replaced by Pennant and we thought it should have happened earlier. Repka gets a yellow for a foul on Henry; it was deserved but far from their worse foul on the day. We looked pretty well dead and buried until Thierry turned on the magic with a brilliant shot on the turn when I could see nothing on for him. 1-2 and it was a screamer.

A good move followed but Wiltord was caught offside, we had at last started to play though. Kanoute backs into Lauren and wins a free kick. Keown then got booked when up against Defoe; I don't know what for. Nigel leaves the field to an ovation from both sets of fans and was replaced by Breen. 'Who?' Good turn and cross by Jermaine. Joe Cole throws the ball away - nothing.

Joe Cole cuts in from the right, gets into our box and goes down. Penalty given. Our defence were seriously pissed off with the ref, so much so that Pat talked his way into the book. It did serve to hold up the penalty though. At 3-1 we would have been out of it but Kanoute took it, Dave dived to his right and saved the placed shot low down. It was still 2-1, game on. A long range Henry shot was hoping to catch James off his line but the shot was nowhere. Breen fouls Kanu and the Gooners raise an ironic cheer directed at Mr Barry. Joe Cole hoofs up field. Then Repka hoofs up field as our pressure mounts. Henry to Kanu who tries a chip but it was crap. Edu was chopped but his free kick was a limp one along the ground to James.

Toure having played left-side midfield last week came on at right back to replace Lauren today. Moncur, the Scum reject, produced an awful foul on Wiltord and got a yellow for his trouble. Keown was up in their box and crossed from short range, when with a bit more bottle he might have blasted it. Then we're level at 2-2 and it was Wiltord who crashed home, after I think, Kanu worked a millimetre or so of space for the Frenchman.

The five amigos!
Kanoute tries a flash overhead kick, very West Ham, but it's an indirect free kick for dangerous play. That rule has never made sense to me, why indirect for dangerous play? Edu was fouled from behind, yet again. Our Brazilian was fits and starts today but to his credit he kept going when things were not going his way. Henry took the free kick and James tipped the deflected shot just over. Another big hoof clear from the so-called 'academy of football' follows from the corner. Edu axed again - nothing. Right at the death Toure steamed in to have a shot blocked at point blank range to deny him cult status. Final whistle to the sound of 'That's why we're the Champions' and 'We even gave you a start'. Good spirit from the Arsenal in the end but it was a long time coming.

So we now stand on 698 Premiership points. Our winning sequence finally ended on a record 14, the 12th being totally unforgettable. Our unbeaten League run has been stretched to 23 and we've now scored in each of our last 41 games. One more record before I go. You may have noticed Everton celebrating 100 years in the top flight and a massive 49 consecutive seasons in the top division. Well just for the record Arsenal are now in their 77th consecutive in the top division.

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