Arsenal edge competitive London derby

The Hammers' recent hold over the Gunners was finally broken by Robin van Persie's first-half winner.

The Dutchman's 12th-minute header ended our four-match unbeaten sequence against Arsene Wenger's table-toppers, who had previously seen West Ham United historically become the last team to win at Highbury and the first side to leave the Emirates Stadium with three points, while also recording a draw and a victory at the Boleyn Ground.

But this time around it was not to be for Alan Curbishley's men, who just could not battle their way back into an exciting derby that saw Robert Green also make another string of super stops to always give Hammers hope.

Both clubs had enjoyed some Carling Cup cheer in midweek but having made eight changes for the 2-0 victory over Newcastle United, it was back to business for Wenger, who had only retained Philippe Senderos before dispensing with ten of Tuesday's Young Guns, as he returned his focus to the Premiership.

Indeed, the Arsenal boss made just two switches from the side that had confidently despatched Derby County in a five-goal rout, last Saturday to cement their position in top spot, as Van Persie replaced Eduardo (groin) and Aleksandr Hleb returned for the rested Theo Walcott.

Following their late, late show against Plymouth Argyle on Wednesday evening, Curbs made six changes to his seventh-placed side as Green, Anton Ferdinand, Matthew Upson, Mark Noble, Lee Bowyer and full debutant Henri Camara came in for James Collins and substitutes Richard Wright, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Luis Boa Morte and Carlton Cole.

And in an electrifying opening, both sets of players started justifying their recalls as Emmanuel Adebayor drilled a low 15-yarder inches wide after Gael Clichy and Vassiriki Diaby embarked on a first-minute raid down the left flank.

In reply, former Gunner Freddie Ljungberg forced former team-mate Manuel Almunia to bravely race out and pluck the ball off his studs, before the relieved Arsenal 'keeper then saw Dean Ashton turn and send a powerful, rising 18-yard shot inches over his crossbar.

The early evidence suggested that a goal was on the cards and, sure enough, on 12 minutes Adebayor laid the ball back to Hleb and the Belarus international's right-wing cross into the six-yard box was met by Van Persie, whose downward header crept between the sprawling Green and the base of his right-hand post.

Shortly afterwards, the consequently cautioned Lee Bowyer summed up the Boleyn Ground frustration with a challenge on Mathieu Flamini and, as West Ham looked towards the focal point of Ashton for some attacking inspiration, they found their attempted forays upfield stifled by a string of offside flags,

On the half-hour mark, Noble also went into referee Alan Wiley's book for a challenge on Hleb, who was carried off and replaced by Emmanuel Eboue, who quickly invited Flamini to unleash a 25-yard shot that rattled into Green's rib-cage.

And as the half drew to a close, the alert Hammers' 'keeper then fisted Van Persie's clever, angled, byline free-kick aside, before getting down to thwart Flamini once more, and leave the East Enders facing just a single-goal deficit at the interval.

The limping Scott Parker (tweaked knee) was replaced by Hayden Mullins at the break and, within just two minutes of the restart, Curbishley was forced into another reshuffle when Ferdinand hobbled away with a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Gabbidon.

And things might have got yet worse for the relieved Hammers' boss, who had the gutsy Green to thank for tipping Van Persie's 20-yard curler onto his left-hand post with a marvellous flying save.

As the hour mark neared, Ashton met Bowyer's right-wing centre with a powerful close-range header that thudded into Almunia's torso before disappointed former Gunner, Ljungberg, then had an effort ruled out by a marginal offside flag.

Back in April, Green had been the Hammers' hero in the 1-0 win at the Emirates Stadium and, once again, he produced a catalogue of top-notch stops to deny Adebayor, Clichy and Flamini, who was also cautioned for a foul on Bowyer.

At the other end, Ashton went close with a 25-yard grass-cutter that scorched just inches wide, while the striker's late downward header was also hooked clear by Van Persie and although Arsenal old boy Boa Morte was introduced at the expense of Bowyer for the closing minutes, West Ham just could not muster that elusive equaliser.