West Ham 1 – 2 Arsenal
By Paul Fletcher
Arsenal came from behind to score two late goals and stun brave West Ham in their FA Cup third-round tie.
Alessandro Diamanti beat the Arsenal offside trap in first-half injury time before shooting in off the post.
Robert Green denied Abou Diaby and Alex Song but Aaron Ramsey equalised with 12 minutes remaining, defeating the keeper with an angled shot on the turn.
Eduardo headed into the top corner from Carlos Vela’s cross to seal a tie against Stoke in the fourth round.
The Gunners had not lost in the third round of the competition since 1996 but until manager Arsene Wenger introduced Diaby and Samir Nasri after 64 minutes it looked as though they might taste defeat at Upton Park.
West Ham are struggling in the Premier League but they were full value for their advantage after a first-half performance of skill and energy.
They came close to a second but Lukasz Fabianski made a good save to deny Junior Stanislas – and the game changed after Wenger shuffled his pack.
The victory continued Arsenal’s excellent recent form, and while West Ham now face a long, bitter struggle for Premier League survival, Arsenal continue their quest for honours on several fronts.
Arsenal can close the gap on leaders Chelsea to one point in the league if they win their game in hand against Bolton on Wednesday and have a Champions League tie against Porto to look forward to in February.
Yet for the first hour the Gunners were below par – and certainly during the opening 45 minutes they had little more than long-range efforts to show for their endeavours.
Green saved from Fran Merida, Carlos Vela and Eduardo, who had been gifted possession by James Tomkins, while Thomas Vermaelen shot over after a poor one-handed clearance from the West Ham keeper.
In contrast, the Hammers’ effort and industry led to several near misses – with Fabianski, one of five changes for Arsenal, making a brilliant one-handed save to deny Diamanti and Luis Jimenez dragging a shot wide after Jack Wilshere squandered possession.
The Hammers improved as the half wore on and scored after Diamanti superbly held his run to just stay onside.
The Italian collected the influential Valon Behrami’s through ball and closed in on goal before striking beyond Fabianski.
Zola obviously instilled into his players the folly of trying to sit on their lead and striker Frank Nouble, making his full debut, shot wide before Fabianski denied Stanislas shortly after the restart.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Hammers boss Zola
West Ham were increasingly dominant but Wenger then made his double substitution.
Arsenal started to dominate possession and it took superb reactions from Green to deny Diaby and then Song.
But the Hammers keeper could not prevent Ramsey from levelling after a swift passing move had unlocked the home team’s defence.
Song slipped the ball to Vela, who in turn flicked the ball towards Ramsey, with the Wales international striking the ball into the bottom corner.
Eduardo then headed beyond Green, who might be disappointed he did save the effort, while it could have got even worse for West Ham but Daprela cleared off the line from Vela.