De­clan the un­likely Ham­mers hero as Marko bids farewell

Sunday Mail (UK) - - Sport - ........1 Arse­nal ............0

West Ham hero Mark No­ble hailed “spe­cial” mid­field part­ner De­clan Rice as his first league goal sunk Arse­nal.

The Ir­ish in­ter­na­tional’s strike in 48 min­utes was left unan­swered by a Gun­ners side that was off the pace.

The only down­side for Irons fans was when striker Marko Ar­nau­tovic left the field and ap­peared to wave good­bye to the Lon­don Sta­dium.

The Aus­trian is sub­ject to a £35mil­lion bid from Chi­nese club Shang­hai SIPG.

But the Ham­mers sup­port can worry later. For now, they’ll cel­e­brate their first win over Arse­nal since 2015.

They’ ll be par­tic­u­larly pleased with the awe­some per­for­mance of Rice, who turns 20 to­mor­row.

And skip­per No­ble heaped praise on the young­ster.

He said: “I would be sur­prised if De­clan sleeps tonight. He is a spe­cial tal­ent and works hard.

“If any young foot­ballers need some­one to look up to, De­clan is your man.

“I’ve been in his po­si­tion so he knows I’m al­ways there if he needs me.”

Rice said: “It’s hard to put this feel­ing into words. I don’t want to turn 20 now! I can’t speak highly enough about Mark, he has helped me ev­ery day since I broke into the team three years ago.”

The game started fiercely with chances for both sides.

Fil ipe An­der­son was un­lucky to drag a shot just wide just be­fore Mat­teo Guen­douzi came close with a 25-yard rasper.

Rice should then have opened the scor­ing but his header from an An­der­son de­liv­ery went wide.

While Ar­nau­tovic grabbed the head­lines, an in­com­ing sign­ing flew un­der the radar.

Samir Nasri played his first game since an 18- month ban from foot­ball for a vi­o­la­tion of dop­ing rules.

And it was the French mid­fielder who set up Rice to stroke home early in the sec­ond half.

Two clearly off­side goals were all Arse­nal could muster from then on.

And Gun­ners boss Unai Emery said: “We need to be com­pet­i­tive both home and away. Away we are not tak­ing the re­sults we want.”

SCREAMER Rice roars after his shot beats Leno (below right) then Ar­nau­tovic waves to fans

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