Premier League – Arsenal top with win over West Ham

Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win over West Ham despite playing half the match at the Emirates with 10 men.

Denilson opened the scoring early on for the Gunners, but they then had Thomas Vermaelen sent off just before half-time. Manuel Almunia saved Alessandro Diamanti‘s penalty, garnered from the foul that saw Vermaelen walk, and Cesc Fabregas scored a spot-kick of his own late on to bag a deserved second for the home side.

The Gunners end the day one point above Manchester United and three above Chelsea, who play Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers respectively on Sunday.

Arsene Wenger’s side took the lead after five minutes through Denilson’s sixth goal of the season. The Brazilian played a one-two with Nicklas Bendtner on the edge of the box before sidefooting a clinical low finish past Robert Green.

At that point it looked as though the Gunners were going to run away with the game, as they served up several prime examples of the stylish quick passing game that has come to define them under Wenger.

Denilson had the chance to double his tally but miscued his acrobatic volley, while the returning Fabregas had a shot blocked inside the area.

Sol Campbell was perhaps fortunate to stay on the pitch after he escaped any punishment for a two-footed challenge on Diamanti, before collecting a booking for a nasty foul on Junior Stanislas that caught the young forward’s ankle.

However, for all of Arsenal’s mesmeric football, West Ham had the chance to level just before the break from the penalty spot. As Vermaelen and Guillermo Franco tussled for a long ball, the Mexican striker hit the ground and the referee’s assistant signalled that his shirt had been tugged as he entered the box. Referee Martin Atkinson immediately showed Vermaelen a red card, even though the Belgian defender had actually failed in his attempt to pull the striker back.

Nevertheless, Diamanti placed the ball on the spot, only for Manuel Almunia to save the penalty.

Despite the red card coming just before the break, Wenger did not make a substitution until the hour mark, with Alex Song slotting into defence sufficient cover for Vermaelen’s absence.

Arsenal’s numerical disadvantage counted for little against a West Ham bereft of creativity, and they continued to dominate the possession.

The introduction of Carlton Cole did eventually add some degree of potency to the Hammers’ attack, and the England striker hit the foot of the post with a neat shot from the edge of the box.

A second Arsenal goal was fully warranted and it arrived on 83 minutes when former Arsenal defender Matthew Upson handled from Fabregas’s chipped pass.

The Arsenal captain fired his spot-kick low down the middle for his 15th league goal of the season to ensure his team’s sixth-straight league victory.

Tony Mabert / Eurosport

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