Gary Lim: Is Andy Carroll ready for England?
Hat-trick by Hammers striker all but ends Arsenal's flickering title hopes
WEST HAM 3
(Andy Carroll 44, 45+2, 52)
(Mesut Oezil 18, Alexis Sanchez 35, Laurent Koscielny 70)
In the space of about 10 minutes, England's forgotten man all but extinguished Arsenal's Premiership flickering title hopes, and perhaps sent a message to Roy Hodgson that he could still be useful at the European Championships.
Andy Carroll may be remembered at Anfield as the £35-million ($66.71m) flop, but he was the toast of Upton Park yesterday with a quick-fire hat-trick that helped West Ham claw back from a two-goal deficit and eventually draw 3-3 with the Gunners in a thrilling London Derby.
The Hammers once again showed why they have been one of the most improved teams this season with a display of free-flowing football.
Even if the result didn't do their own top-four chances much good, manager Slaven Bilic can at least take heart from a battling display.
For Arsenal, this was a big blow to their already slim title chances.
The 90 minutes that unfolded resembled the story of their season.
They had West Ham on the ropes.
Yet, somehow, they allowed their opponents to wriggle free from their grasp.
This was an excellent chance to reduce the gap on leaders Leicester and second placed Tottenham.
But Arsenal will know they threw away an opportunity to close the gap after going 2-0 up.
The 10-point gulf to the Foxes, with both teams left with six matches, looks almost impossible to bridge now.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger must be wondering what got into his defence in those chaotic moments after they had seized a commanding lead in the game.
Whatever it was, it couldn't have done their reputation of choking under pressure any good.
Mesut Oezil's cool finish in the 18th minute had given the Gunners the lead, before Alexis Sanchez's clinical strike in the 35th minute extended the advantage.
But West Ham fought back fast and furious.
Carroll's powerful header from near the penalty spot reduced the deficit for the hosts a minute before half-time.
In stoppage time, he hauled the Hammers back on level terms, and Wenger will be especially livid at how the tall striker was given two shots at it.
After his initial mis-hit effort came back off a defender, Carroll lashed home his follow-up attempt to make it 2-2.
And he wasn't done yet.
All game, Bilic's men were trying to use Carroll's 1.91m-tall frame to their advantage and his aerial prowess would prove crucial once again.
From the far post, he produced a goal-bound header that David Ospina seemed about to stop until Gabriel Paulista diverted the ball into his own net.
For the first time, West Ham were in front.
Alas, the hosts were denied their victory when Laurent Koscielny scored from close range to ensure both teams shared the spoils.
It was scant consolation for Arsenal, however.
The day belonged to the 27-year-old Carroll, who scored his first Premiership hat-trick since hitting three against Aston Villa for Newcastle back in 2010.
The goals take his Premiership tally to seven in 21 appearances this term, despite making just eight starts.
He couldn't have done his chances of playing for England at Euro 2016 any harm, especially when the Three Lions are lacking a striker of his physical attributes and aerial prowess.
This was a reminder of what the injury-prone forward is capable of when he's at his devastating best.
Just ask Arsenal.
3: Andy Carroll is the first Premier League player to score a hat-trick against Arsenal since Wayne Rooney in August 2011.
- Aston Villa 1 Bournemouth 2
- Crystal Palace 1 Norwich 0
- Southampton 3 Newcastle 1
- Swansea 1 Chelsea 0
- Watford 1 Everton 1
WHAT THEY SAY
"Do we still have an opportunity to win the title? I don’t know. We dropped two points today, let’s see the results over the weekend. We made it more difficult today."
— Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
"It was a great game of football, magnificent. I’m not happy with (just) a point to be fair, but I’m happy with everything else."
— West Ham manager Slaven Bilic
"(I think we’re) still in it. Obviously we’d have liked the three points, but it was against Arsenal, who are going for the title. It’s going to be a tough game, we’re happy with the draw, I think."
— West Ham’s hat-trick hero Andy Carroll
With Andy Carroll in ya team.... don’t mess about... put the ball in the box and he will cause havoc. He stays fit then get him on the plane.
— Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand