Denilson puts 10-man Arsenal top of the pile

Arsenal 2 West Ham United 0: Almunia makes penalty save to preserve lead but Wenger rages at injustice of Vermaelen's red card

Playing Imperial Commander to Chelsea's Kauto Star and Manchester United's Denman, Arsenal last night confounded the notion of a two-horse race by hitting the front of the Premier League chase. This race is not run of course and after the other two have had another outing today, they will be going head to head in Manchester on Saturday week. Arsenal will enjoy watching that one.

West Ham, in contrast, face home matches of huge significance against Wolves on Tuesday and Stoke on Saturday. They wasted an opportunity for an unexpected point here when missing a penalty and then playing against 10 men for the whole of the second half after Thomas Vermaelen was sent off for conceding it. Denilson had put Arsenal ahead in a match of few chances before Cesc Fabregas converted a late penalty to ease fears among the home crowd.

Even while a man short, they were the better side and can continue looking forward to an undemanding set of League fixtures before and after the eagerly awaited ties with Barcelona. So eagerly awaited, in fact, that Arsène Wenger felt his team had become "a bit distracted" by the draw on Friday. As he said, they lacked urgency after scoring early on and it took the sending-off to bring the essential sharpness back to their work. Alex Song, outstanding in midfield in the first half, was equally impressive slotting into Vermaelen's role after the interval and West Ham were only once close to equalising, when the substitute Carlton Cole clipped a post.

The East Enders had arrived with no greater cause for optimism than on the previous Saturday's trip across London to Chelsea. Gianfranco Zola shuffled his pack but Scott Parker, the best visiting player by far on that occasion, was held back for Tuesday.

Like last week they fell behind early, but this time failed to draw level before half-time. Barely five minutes had been played when Denilson was blessed with a lucky break off Valon Behrami and Radoslav Kovac, sending a low drive past Robert Green. As was to be expected, there was much intricate passing thereafter, though with surprisingly few shots to trouble Green, who was watched by Fabio Capello's assistant Franco Baldini.

Little else happened until added time at the end of the first half when Guillermo Franco, chasing a long ball down the middle, went over under gentle contact from Vermaelen. Martin Atkinson, the referee, saw his assistant signal a penalty, backed his man up and decided that Vermaelen was the last defender and had to be sent off. Alessandro Diamanti did not hit his kick well and Manuel Almunia pulled off a good save to his left.

The referee soon booked Kovac for a dive and would probably have had to do the same to Franco had he not awarded a penalty. Wenger obviously felt that should have been the decision and was straight across to complain to the fourth official and waited to confront Atkinson as the teams went down the tunnel. "I felt it was very harsh," he said. On the other hand, Sol Campbell conceded a penalty in similar circumstances at Hull last week and stayed on the field.

Wenger was forced into another change early in the second half with an injury to Nicklas Bendtner. That left Andrey Arshavin at centre- forward, while Cole came on to fill the same role for West Ham, followed by Benni McCarthy. Despite that physical presence and the extra man, the visitors were unable to create any significant chances until 12 minutes from the end when Cole's left-footed drive hit the post. Soon afterwards Matthew Upson handled under pressure from Fabregas, who succeeded where Diamanti had failed from the penalty spot.

Zola, one of life's great optimists, was as positive as ever, lamenting only a failure to use the extra man properly. Wenger purred like an affectionate racehorse trainer praising the "hunger, talent, nerves and maturity" of his charges.

Attendance: 60,077

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Man of the match: Song

Match rating: 6/10

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone