By Sedara Philip
Arsenal’s Premier League title hopes suffered a devastating blow as they threw away a two-goal lead for the second week running to draw 2-2 with West Ham United at the London Stadium.
Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard put Mikel Arteta’s side two goals to the good inside the opening 10 minutes, but Said Benrahma and Jarrod Bowen responded either side of a missed Bukayo Saka penalty for the relegation-threatened Hammers, who capitalised on another Arsenal collapse to give Manchester City a helping hand in the race for glory.
A few meaty challenges flew in from those in claret and blue during the early exchanges, but as was the case against Newcastle, the Hammers’ backline was carved open at will.
It took Arsenal just seven minutes to draw first blood, as an intricate passage of play around the penalty area ended with Odegaard slipping in Ben White, who squared for Jesus to tap home at the back post.
David Moyes’s backline barely had time to regroup before they were breached again, as Gabriel Martinelli’s cross to the back post was on the money for Odegaard, who ghosted in unchallenged to volley home in the 10th minute to put Arsenal in cruise control.
West Ham were being made to pay for comical defending, but rather than going for more, Arsenal were content to knock the ball around as the game approached the half-hour mark, with West Ham showing little signs of a revival.
However, as complacency crept in for Arsenal, West Ham gave themselves a lifeline out of nowhere, as Thomas Partey gave the ball away to Declan Rice in a dangerous area – the Ghanaian stopped and appealed for a handball against the Hammers’ captain, which fell on deaf ears.
Rice advanced into the box and cut back for the onrushing Lucas Paqueta, who went down under a challenge from Gabriel Magalhaes, and David Coote wasted no time in pointing to the spot in the 33rd minute.
Four months after scoring from the spot at the Emirates, Benrahma sent Aaron Ramsdale the wrong way from 12 yards to cut the deficit in half, and there were shades of Anfield for Arteta’s side as West Ham suddenly sprung into life.
The Gunners got to half time with their slender lead intact, and it was their turn to step up to the penalty spot in the 52nd minute, as Michail Antonio was penalised for handball.