Hammers frozen out

Two late goals saw Arsenal freeze West Ham United out of the FA Cup with a 2-1 victory on a bitter January afternoon at the Boleyn Ground.

Alessandro Diamanti looked to have set the Hammers on course for a sixth FA Cup win over the Gunners in eight attempts, only for Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo to steal the tie for Arsene Wenger's side.

The last two times West Ham lifted the world's most famous knockout trophy - in 1975 and 1980 - they had beaten Arsenal en route, but it was not to be this time around.

It had all looked so promising seconds before half-time, when Diamanti latched on to Valon Behrami's pass, beat the Arsenal offside trap and found the net via the fingertips of goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and the inside of the post.

The goal looked like capping a memorable afternoon for Gianfranco Zola on the day he handed full debuts to England Under-19 forward Frank Nouble and Switzerland U19 left-back Fabio Daprela and a first-team bow to young winger Anthony Edgar.

Ultimately, though, it was Arsene Wenger's Barclays Premier League title-chasers who proved too strong, gaining revenge for the second-half comeback the Hammers launched in the league meeting between the two sides in October.

As a whole, the game had everything a supporter could wish for from a London derby and an FA Cup tie put together. Despite both managers not being able to choose from a number of regular starters, the stand-ins put on a performance it was impossible to take your eyes off.

Arsenal began the better of the two sides, with Spanish midfielder Fran Merida and Croatia striker Eduardo, twice, testing Robert Green with well-struck shots.

As the game wore on, however, the Hammers began to grow in confidence, and deserved the half-time advantage fashioned for them by Diamanti. The goal was the Italian's third in consecutive home games following penalties against Chelsea and Portsmouth.

Earlier, Diamanti had also tested Fabianski with a curling effort, while Luis Jimenez dragged his shot wide after good work from Radoslav Kovac.

West Ham started the second 45 minutes on the offensive, with Nouble twice going close before Junior Stanislas brought out the best in Arsenal's Polish goalkeeper with a swerving 25-yard effort.

The Hammers were made to pay for their profligacy in devastating circumstances as the game entered its closing stages.

First, Alex Song and Carlos Vela combined to release Ramsey, who lashed a low left-foot shot inside Green's far post.

The Mexico forward was again the provider a little more than four minutes later, curling in a cross from the left flank that Eduardo sent spinning into the top corner with an inch-perfect header.

Having taken the lead, Arsenal finished strongly, with only a miraculous goal-line clearance from Daprela denying Vela a third. Later still, Green produced a fine save to block Ramsey's low shot.

Zola and the home support among the 25,545 will no doubt have taken heart from the performances of the young players - most notably Daprela and Nouble - but they will be hoping for better fortune when Wolverhampton Wanderers visit in the Barclays Premier League next Sunday lunchtime.