West Ham salvage a draw

2009-01-31 19:20

London - West Ham repelled a bombardment of Arsenal attacks to salvage a 0-0 draw on Saturday, denying the Gunners another opportunity to gain ground on Aston Villa for a Champions League place.

Arsenal dominated the opening stages, attacking down the flanks and winning a series of corners. Abou Diaby hit the crossbar in the fourth minute from a corner from fellow midfielder Samir Nasri, whose pace down the left side before the break was often too much for West Ham captain Lucas Neill.

Arsenal looked far more confident in the final third of the pitch compared to recent performances, and was crossing the ball into the area with frequency instead of infinitely passing the ball around the edge of the area.

Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna made a quick run down the right in the 12th minute and swung in a fine cross that was flicked away by West Ham's Jack Collins before it could reach Emmanuel Adebayor. In the 19th, Nicklas Bendtner's header from a few yards out missed wide.

West Ham barely ventured into Arsenal's half and goalkeeper Manuel Almunia stood idly trying to keep warm on a windy, cold day at Emirates Stadium. The Hammers' only clear chance in the first half came in injury time when Collins' header from a corner drifted toward goal and Arsenal defender Gael Clichy cleared the ball.

Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Eboue was replaced in the 36th minute by Carlos Vela after the Ivorian injured his right leg in a strong tackle by Scott Parker.

The Gunners opened the second half strongly, nearly scoring in the 50th after goalkeeper Robert Green punched a ball into the path of Arsenal defender Kolo Toure, whose overhead kick was cleared off the line by Collins. Arsenal fans were shouting for Robin van Persie to come off the bench by the 60th and they got their wish nine minutes later when the Dutchman came on for Bendtner.

In the 64th, Adebayor side-footed a shot wide after sliding to meet a cross following a series of brilliant passes. In the 72nd, Adebayor was unmarked a few yards out and headed a cross from Vela right at Green.

However, Aston Villa drew 0-0 at home with Wigan to ensure Arsenal stayed only five points behind fourth place and the final Champions League berth.