West Ham 0 Arsenal 2 (Faubert og 75, Adebayor 90)
From the moment Robert Green prevented Van Persie from scoring by catching the ball two yards outside of his area, and escaped without a red card, I thought the script for this match was written. And so it proved for 75 minutes, Green producing a string of excellent saves en route to what appeared to be more points dropped for Arsenal.
Bendtner, Van Persie and Walcott had all been denied, the latter two also hitting the woodwork, before the deadlock was finally broken with fifteen minutes left. Adebayor, on as a substitute, fired a cross shot across the goal, and Faubert, unsure who was behind him, slid the ball into his own net. The feeling was one of relief more than joy, as the afternoon had been one of the most frustrating in recent memory.
Some of the play up to that point had been lacklustre, devoid of the usual zip, and West Ham were defending their goal admirably. They even had some excellent chances of their own, Almunia superbly denying Bellamy after an Arsenal-like counter attack.
Late on, Adebayor added some gloss to the scoreline, rounding Green and slotting home after Bendtner played him through from the left back position – one of the best passes you’ll see all season. The two had earlier combined for Adebayor to force another fine save from Green, yet the Sky commentators still managed to get in a comment about the two ‘not getting along’. They seemed fine to me.
There was still time for Carlton Cole to get sent off for a lunge at Song, and I have to be honest, I thought the red card was harsh. It was a tackle borne out of frustration, but it was one footed and came from the side. A yellow would’ve done.
The only argument you could make is that by Phil Dowd’s standard of yellow cards, it was certainly a red, but that was only down to the ineptitude of the official, who was dreadful all day. I’m really glad that after the late goals I can criticise him without running the risk of being accused of sour grapes, because he put in an awful performance.
Some referees communicate with players very well – Martin Atkinson, Howard Webb and even Steve Bennett spring to mind – but others treat footballers like naughty schoolkids, and while Rob Styles leads the way on that front, Dowd id not far behind. Every time there was a mistimed tackle yesterday, he would scold the player like a repressed primary school teacher. The Respect campaign doesn’t stand a chance when men like him treat the players with such a lack of it.
There was only one bad tackle in the entire game yesterday, yet it ended with six cards. And the number of times he insisted free kicks were moved two yards and retaken was getting beyond a joke by the end.
So I feel a bit for Cole, whose tackle was stupid but not dangerous, and who will now miss three games. For us, thoughts turn to Spurs on Wednesday, perhaps revitalised by the arrival of Harry Redknapp over the weekend. We’ll see.
Until then, enjoy only being a point behind Hull.