Carroll treble dims Arsenal’s title hopes
West Ham United striker Andy Carroll scored an eight-minute hat-trick, but Laurent Koscielny snatched a point for Arsenal in a memorable 3-3 Premier League draw on Saturday.
Goals from Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez had Arsenal cruising, but Carroll scored twice late in the first half and his third seven minutes after the break looked like giving the hosts victory until Koscielny intervened.
For all the excitement, a point apiece did neither side much good, with West Ham still outside the top five and Arsenal now 10 points behind league leaders Leicester City with six games of the season remaining.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger opted to play David Ospina in goal even though Petr Cech was back on the bench and fit after injury.
Carroll was handed a start up front by West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, who was also able to select midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate after his red card against Crystal Palace was overturned.
The East Londoners have seen a number of decisions go against them this season, but Carroll could consider himself fortunate not to have been dismissed after a late tackle on Koscielny resulted in only a yellow card.
But Bilic’s side had reason to feel aggrieved when an offside flag denied Manuel Lanzini an opening goal, with replays suggesting he had been played onside by Hector Bellerin as he headed in Carroll’s overhead kick.
West Ham’s anger intensified when Arsenal opened the scored 18 minutes in, with Ozil right on the offside line as he gathered a pass from Alex Iwobi before neatly beating West Ham goalkeeper Adrian.
The visitors looked in control after that, Ozil shooting straight at Adrian, and a second goal arrived in the 35th minute.
Nigerian teenager Iwobi was once again the provider with a superb lofted pass to Sanchez, who comfortably steered a shot past Adrian.
At that stage it looked a question of how many goals Arsenal would win by, but West Ham turned the game on its head with a thrilling finale to the first half led by Carroll.
The former Newcastle United striker planted a fine header past Ospina from Aaron Cresswell’s left-wing cross on 44 minutes to get his side back in it.
And then in first-half injury time, just 160 seconds later, Carroll levelled the match with a left-foot volley at the second attempt after Gabriel had blocked his initial effort from Mark Noble’s cross.
It brought Upton Park, in its penultimate Saturday fixture, to its feet and Bilic threw caution to the wind at the break by bringing on striker Emmanuel Emenike for centre-back James Tomkins, ditching his three-man defence.
Lanzini had claims for a penalty waved away after a coming together with Bellerin before Payet slammed home from close range, only for the goal to be ruled out for a foul on Koscielny by Carroll.
But West Ham put their disappointment behind them as they took the lead on 52 minutes, Carroll getting his hat-trick as he headed home at the far post from Michail Antonio’s cross.
Carroll went close again from a Payet cross as the hosts ran a shell-shocked Arsenal ragged.
Wenger brought on Aaron Ramsey for his first appearance in a month and the visitors were then denied by Lanzini’s goal-line block from Nacho Monreal’s powerful shot.
But Koscielny made it 3-3 on 70 minutes with a clever finish after Ozil’s cross from the right had been helped on by Danny Welbeck.
The hosts had the better chances to win it, with Ospina thwarting Payet and Cresswell, while Winston Reid volleyed into the side-netting from Payet’s corner.
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