Arsenal missed the chance to return to the top of the Premier League as Tomas Soucek’s controversial first-half strike, then Dinos Mavropanos’ header on his return to his former club earned West Ham a 2-0 London derby win.
The Gunners controlled the first half with chances but West Ham’s Soucek tapped home from close range on 13 minutes from Jarrod Bowen’s cross from the byline – but VAR took a long look at whether the ball had gone out of play from the assist.
A three-and-a-half minute VAR check resulted in the goal being given with no clear angle available to determine whether it was in or out.
After half-time, returning defender Mavropanos, who played just eight times for the Gunners between 2018 and 2020, headed in a second for the visitors from James Ward-Prowse’s corner.
How the Hammers dealt Arsenal a title blow
West Ham were given a pre-match scare as Lucas Paqueta went down injured in the warm-up and hobbled down the touchline, but the Brazilian took to the field despite rumours he had been replaced by Benrahma.
Both sides showed their intent to attack early as Ward-Prowse blazed over from the edge of the area, while Saka fired straight at goalkeeper Alphonse Areola after entering the box from the right channel.
Then came West Ham’s controversial opener as Emerson crossed and a mix-up between Gabriel and Oleksandr Zinchenko saw the ball nearly go out for a corner. On the byline, Bowen squared it to Soucek for a tap-in but question marks were raised over whether the ball had gone out.
A long VAR check ensued before the ball was eventually given, with replays showing no clear evidence that the ball had gone out, so the on-field decision stood.
Arsenal tried to find a response but only took until the half-hour mark to get some decent shots away. Gabriel Jesus clipped the ball up to Saka who nodded a shot towards goal, only for Areola to tip it over the bar using his one-handed reflexes.
Gabriel Martinelli curled wide from inside the box before Saka went even closer, striking the post from a tight angle from close range. Meanwhile, Paqueta’s evening was ended in the first half, in an injury blow to the Hammers.
Arsenal showed more attacking intent after half-time as Declan Rice tried to steal the headlines against his former club but blazed just over from the edge of the box – and the £105m man ended up picking the ball out of his own net moments later.
Ward-Prowse whipped a corner in from the left and Mavropanos escaped Gabriel’s clutches to head home unmarked via help from the underside of the bar. The Greek defender refused to celebrate against his former side.
Arteta reacted by bringing on Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah in attacking switches – and it nearly brought about success only for Jesus’ wayward finishes denied the home side from a route back in.
First, the Brazilian striker met a cross from the right unmarked in the box but could only fire straight at Areola, who held it well. Then, Ben White stood up a glorious chance for Jesus to nod into an empty net, but his effort flew over.
Arsenal kept going and ended up mustering 30 shots on goal – the best after Jesus’ misses falling to Leandro Trossard who was denied by Areola in the box.
There was still time for Rice to hack down Emerson as the Gunners’ frustration overflowed. Benrahma took the penalty and went left, so did Raya, as the Arsenal goalkeeper avoided further damage to the scoreline.