Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, will be pleased his side avoided a replay and potential fixture congestion after two goals in the last 12 minutes saw his understrength side come from behind to win a tough third-round tie at Upton Park last night. The Gunners had been on the back foot for an hour of this competitive London derby and trailed thanks to Alessandro Diamanti's goal in first-half stoppage-time.
Aided by the arrival of Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri off the bench, the visitors struck twice in five minutes through Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo for a scarcely deserved win. "It was a very committed game, West Ham tried like mad and we had to be patient," said Wenger. "We have nine injuries, we needed to fight hard to go through but we need some players to come back from injury if we are to build on this."
West Ham are famed for their academy, but the inexperienced look of the side Gianfranco Zola put out is out of necessity as they cannot afford the wages of players at their peak. Frank Nouble, 18, was handed his first start having notched up five appearances off the bench. Although the forward had amassed only 14 minutes of match time in those cameos, he looked assured as he led the line with aplomb.
Arsenal's side had its own youthful edge, but they boasted experience in players like William Gallas and Mikael Silvestre. The absence of Cesc Fabregas because of a hamstring injury left their midfield short on creativity. Arsenal's attacking flair, in the first half at least, was well subdued. They were limited to long-range shots, with Fran Merida and Eduardo bothering Robert Green the most. Valon Behrami, the Swiss midfielder, epitomised the fighting spirit of the home side.
The better chances fell to West Ham. Junior Stanislas put a free-kick just over after 25 minutes and Diamanti curled an effort wide before opening the scoring. The Italian, 26, was played through in first-half stoppage time after Silvestre positioned himself deeper than he should, rendering the offside trap useless. Diamanti fired his low shot to the left of Lukasz Fabianski and it had too much strength for the Polish keeper. Nouble's power ensured West Ham started the second-half much like the first, but the balance of play tilted after 65 minutes when Diaby and Nasri came off the bench.
The leveller came after the best passing move of the game on 78 minutes, it was finished by Aaron Ramsey - who played in the 2008 final for Cardiff City - with Carlos Vela providing the final pass. Vela's penetrating cross after 83 minutes was met by an equally impressive header from Eduardo which looped into the top right corner past the despairing Green. The England goalkeeper will be disappointed at having been beaten by the looping header but the power the Croatian found with his header seemed to come from nowhere. Man of the match: Carlos Vela (Arsenal) @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org