Saturday, March 14, 2015 6:05 pm
Arsenal consolidated on third spot on the league standings following a 3-0 win at home to West Ham United in one of five Premier League matches played so far on Saturday.
With the return trip to overturn a 3-1 deficit at Monaco in mind, Arsène Wenger rested Santi Cazorla and Hector Bellerin while Theo Walcott was handed a starting place following Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s hamstring injury picked up in Monday’s win at Manchester United in the FA Cup.
Walcott could have given Arsenal a fourth minute lead after a Giroud flick on put him through on goal but a moment of hesitation from the England forward saw the chance snuffed out.
Alexis Sanchez saw a 16th minute header saved by West Ham goalkeeper Adrian while Arsenal’s David Ospina punched a goal-bound Kevin Nolan half-volley clear four minutes later.
Arsenal dominated play from then on, with Adrian tipping over Ramsey’s glancing touch towards goal just before the half-hour mark before making further saves from Walcott and Sanchez minutes later.
Adrian had a slip up to thank two minutes before the break, as his parried save off a Mesut Özil shot rolled to the path of Walcott who fired over with a gaping goal at his mercy.
Adrian’s heroic resistance was however broken on the stroke of half-time when a sleek interchange of passes ended with Giroud nicking the ball of Ramsey before slicing a shot in off the post to put Arsenal in front.
West Ham showed more competitiveness at the start of the second half, with the lively Matt Jarvis shooting over from close range after Arsenal dealt poorly with a cornerkick while a Nacho Monreal interception prevented Jarvis being put through on goal by Diafra Sakho on the hour mark.
West Ham’s resolve was finally broken with two quick goals in the closing minutes, as Ramsey finished off a neat interchange between him and Giroud to score the second in the 81st minute while substitute Cazorla set up Flamini to seal the win with his first touch three minutes later.
The result gave Arsenal a record eighth successive home win to put the Gunners on 57 points, a point behind Manchester City that play at Burnley in the evening kick off.
Elsewhere, Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor scored a brace each as Aston Villa handed Sunderland a 4-0 thumping at the Stadium of Light.
Villa had had trouble scoring in recent times but a comprehensive result at Wearside saw Tim Sherwood’s team go six points clear of the relegation zone.
A slightly deflected low strike from Benteke put Villa in front after 16 minutes while Agbonlahor doubled the lead just two minutes later.
A throng of Sunderland fans streamed out of the stadium after Agbonlahor made it 3-0 in the 37th minute before a Benteke header a minute before the break sealed Villa’s biggest away win in the Premier League.
Other matches on Saturday saw Brown Ideye head in the lone goal in West Bromwich-Albion’s 1-0 win at home to Stoke City, while Queens Park Rangers sank deeper in relegation worries after losing 3-1 in the early kick-off at Crystal Palace.
Leicester City remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League following a goalless draw at home to Hull City in a match that saw Tom Huddlestone sent off in the 72nd minute for Hull.