After a thrilling encounter at Old Trafford where League One table toppers Leeds United caused the biggest upset of the third round by beating Premier League holders Manchester United our attention then turned to Upton Park where a London derby was took place between West Ham United and Arsenal in the third game of ITV’s live weekend of FA Cup action.
Arsene Wenger who has not won a trophy in five years once again stuck to his policy of giving youth players a run in the cup with: Aaron Ramsey, Fran Merida, Jack Wilshere and Carlos Vela all starting for the Gunners.
Gianfranco Zola gave England Under 18 international Frank Nouble his first start for West Ham having made six previous appearances as a substitute. Swiss left-back Fabio Daprela also made his first appearance for the Hammers, deputising for the injured Herita Ilunga.
Neither side created any reputable chances inside the opening ten minutes, it was West Ham who had the better start especially with their defensive duties; they certainly managed to keep Arsenal on the back foot clearing anything the Gunners threw at them.
Arsenal won a free-kick inches to the left of the West Ham penalty area in the 22nd minute, but Eduardo’s shot was duly saved by England number one Rob Green. The Hammers were also given a free kick in a similar position at the other end just seconds later but it was curled high and wide by Junior Stanislas.
There was a lot of sloppy football from the Premier League sides, both giving away possession too much, which is why neither side managed to put a decent attack together going forward.
It was the home side who managed to break the deadlock bang on half-time. Alessandro Diamanti beat the Arsenal offside trap to latch on to a through ball from Radoslav Kovac. The Italian poked the ball past the onrushing Lukasz Fabianski who managed to get a hand to it as it baubled into the bottom right-hand corner.
The goal gave the Hammers a somewhat deserved lead at the break. Arsenal have had no fluency going forward and haven’t created a single clear cut chance, also their defence had questions written all over it as this goal proved.
West Ham were the ones came out all guns blazing at the start of the second half creating three chances in as many minutes in the opening stages. The best being a shot from Junior Stanislas outside the Arsenal penalty area to test Fabianski who made an excellent fingertip save.
It took 64 minutes before Arsene Wenger decided to shuffle the deck of cards as he brought on Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri in place of Fran Merida and Jack Wilshere. The second half was certainly a lot more entertaining than the first was and it was West Ham who looked more likely to add to their tally rather than Arsenal grabbing an equaliser.
As we entered the final quarter of an hour Arsenal managed to find the equaliser that they so needed. A flick on in the box from Carlos Vela landed at the feet of Aaron Ramsey who made no hesitation in slotting the ball emphatically into the back of the West Ham net.
The Gunners always looked to be the more dangerous side after this, so it was no surprise when completed their comeback in the 82nd minute with a beautifully headed goal from Eduardo. Carlos Vela was the supplier; he floated the ball in from the left wing and the Croatian managed to get his head on the end of the ball to knock it into the top corner of Rob Green’s net.
Five minutes were added on at the end of the game but it came to no avail for West Ham who were unable to find an equalised. Arsenal progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup; while there may have been a shock at Old Trafford sadly there was none at Upton Park. A valiant effort from the Hammers, but the Gunners showed their quality when they needed to.