Belfast Telegraph

Allardyce fumes but Arsenal show their firepower

West Ham 1 - Arsenal 2

By Tom Peck

If this was a battle for the Champions League it was a worthy contest, but one side took their chances and the other didn't. One now has six points from the festive period thus far, the other has none.

Without having been the better side, Arsenal finished the first half two goals up. West Ham enthralled in the second as they fought to overturn the lead, but couldn't quite do it.

It was, in the end, two refereeing decisions in the first half that settled the match, both of which enraged the east London crowd.

A searing 25-yard shot from Alex Song in the opening few minutes was ruled out, with only the referee and his assistant appearing to have any idea why. More than one West Ham player was in an offside position, and, arguably impeding Wojciech Szczesny's view of the strike, but it was an explanation Sam Allardyce did not accept.

Then, on 41 minutes, Winston Reid fell over in the West Ham box, and as he stood up again he tripped Santi Cazorla, a penalty was given and West Ham were behind.

"Obviously it was a very poor decision to disallow the goal," Allardyce said. "If we'd have been allowed that goal, as we should have been, I don't think we'd have lost to Arsenal here. It would have kicked the lads on and Arsenal would have found it very difficult."

Welbeck's well-taken goal before half-time put the match all but out of West Ham's reach. They attacked in waves in the second half, and scored a scrappy goal with nine minutes after the restart gone, but it wasn't enough.

"I don't see any real point in confronting a referee and you know you're 100 per cent right. You don't get anywhere by telling him how wrong he's been," Allardyce said. "But we've ended up losing a game that was a great spectacle."

Amidst the controversy it was a controlled performance from Arsenal. "Everyone did their job very well," Wenger said.

One such player was Laurent Koscielny, finally reunited with Per Mertesacker in the heart of the Arsenal defence. Without either of those two, Arsenal are vulnerable.

"You need to be stable defensively," Wenger admitted. "When you miss important players it is not easy to be stable.

"We won away from home. We have a big game in front of us now at Southampton. We have the right to believe we can finish in the top four, but there are many teams who also think they can do it."

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