London, United Kingdom | AFP | Declan Rice’s first West Ham goal secured a 1-0 win over Arsenal in a capital city derby clash at the London Stadium.
The victory in Saturday’s early kick-off saw the Hammers move up to eighth in the Premier League table, on 31 points, ahead of the bulk of the weekend’s fixtures.
Teenage midfielder Rice gave himself an early present for his 20th birthday on Monday by scoring the only goal of the game three minutes into the second half.
“I can’t put it into the words,” an elated Rice told Sky Sports. “The lads are always on at me to take the shot on more.”
– ‘Special talent’ –
West Ham captain Mark Noble was almost as pleased as Rice himself, adding: “I am delighted for this young man to score the goal…He is a special talent and keeps working hard.”
Defeat dented Arsenal’s bid to break into the top four, with the Gunners still adrift of Chelsea — their next opponents — in the race for a Champions League place.
“It is difficult to win if you don’t score,” said Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny, after a defeat that meant the Gunners had won just one of their last seven away Premier League matches.
The defender, looking ahead to next weekend’s clash with Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium, said: “It is a home game against an opponent in the top four. We know what we need to do. We need to prepare all week for this important team.”
West Ham named Marko Arnautovic in their starting line-up despite the Austrian forward’s brother and agent saying Thursday he wanted to move to the Chinese Super League.
And it appeared Arnautovic was waving goodbye to the home fans in a London Stadium record of over 59,000 when substituted in the 71st minute.
“We will see what happens in the next days,” said Manuel Pellegrini, the West Ham manager.
“It is an issue that the club must see what is the best for the player, for the club and for everyone.”
Former Arsenal favourite Samir Nasri started against his old club as the midfielder made his Premier League debut for the Hammers.
Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi returned from injury for Arsenal but there was no place in their squad for Mesut Ozil.
The match was goalless at the interval following near-misses by Arsenal midfielder Matteo Guendouzi and Hammers playmaker Felipe Anderson.
That all changed in the 48th minute courtesy of Rice, a Republic of Ireland Under-21 international.
Granit Xhaka’s poor clearing header fell to Anderson, whose ball came to Rice via a neat lay-off from Nasri and Rice’s first-time shot gave Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno little chance.
Arsenal pressed for an equaliser but the Hammers survived three minutes of stoppage time as they held on for victory.