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West Ham 0-6 Arsenal
by Paul Donovan
at the London Stadium
FORMER West Ham skipper Declan Rice made a triumphant return to the London Stadium today, setting up two and scoring in a shocking 6-0 demolition job by Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal.
The fickle home fans, who began booing every time Rice touched the ball, were forced to eat their words as they streamed for the exits long before the half-time whistle.
The Gunners’ title bid hit the buffers in this fixture last season when they blew a two-goal lead to draw 2-2.
Ironically, the teams had largely cancelled each other out for the first half hour, but there was no chance of a repeat when the deluge began, with William Saliba rising to head home a Rice corner at the back post.
Bukayo Saka was then put through, only to be brought down by West Ham keeper Alphonse Areola. After a VAR check, Saka duly converted the penalty.
A well-placed Rice free-kick from the left saw Gabriel Magalhaes head home at the near post.
The first half rout was completed, when the industrious Martin Odegaard found Leandro Trossard on the edge of the area. He duly curled home Arsenal’s fourth.
The Hammers failed to react positively upon their return to the pitch. The second half saw more of the same, with efforts from Gabriel Martinelli, Trossard and finally Saka being thwarted — his effort was brilliantly saved by Areola at point-blank range.
The winger, though, was not to be denied his second for long, receiving the ball from Odegaard in the area to fire home.
Rice completed the rout with a swerving shot from 20 yards. The former West Ham idol did not celebrate out of respect for his old club, and the few fans that remained in the stadium.
Arsenal then took their foot off the pedal, easily seeing out the game. West Ham did not register one effort worth mentioning in the whole match.
Hammers boss Moyes told Sky Sports: “Yes, it certainly is [up there as one of the most disappointing days as manager of West Ham]. It's one of those days which you don't want to happen very often, and it happened today.
“It’s not been like my teams in the past. I’ll take a bit of time and look at it and see if I can fix it. I take the responsibility, I pick the team but the players have to take responsibility.
“It’s really important we do those jobs really well. We will always try to be as well organised as we can be. Arsenal were very good — we mustn’t take that away. We weren’t good.”
When asked about fans leaving the ground at half-time, the Scotsman said: “I’m a football supporter. I understand that. I don’t think the direction the club is heading in is the wrong direction. It’s grown greatly since we came in. We were fighting relegation. We’re not fighting relegation today.
“We were playing one of the top teams in the country who we took three points off earlier in the season so I have to say the club is in a really good place. We’ve had setbacks through the season and we'll try and come back from this one the best we can.”
So, a triumphant return for Rice who emphatically underlined why he left West Ham last summer. For West Ham manager David Moyes, these are worrying times with a total lack of fight and imagination in his team. The Scotsman will hope to see talisman Lucas Paqueta back soon because without him this season, once of much promise, threatens to fizzle out.
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