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Saka’s brace propels Arsenal to overwhelming win over West Ham

LONDON — Declan Rice marked his return to his former club West Ham by scoring a brilliant long-range strike and setting up two first-half goals in Arsenal’s 6-0 win in the Premier League that saw Bukayo Saka gain some redemption on Sunday.

Rice was jeered relentlessly by many West Ham fans clearly still unhappy that he chose to move to Arsenal for a reported 105 million pounds (then $138 million) in July. By the time he was substituted in the 67th minute, the England midfielder had helped to condemn his first club to its joint-heaviest league loss at home and to help Arsenal claim its joint-largest league victory away — and its biggest in the Premier League, according to stats company Opta.

West Ham conceded four times in a 10-minute spell before halftime, with Rice’s set-piece deliveries assisting headed goals by Arsenal centrebacks William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes. Home fans were seen leaving the Olympic Stadium in the hundreds before the halftime whistle.

“We smelled blood today,” Saka said, “and went for the kill.”

Saka had been another of the first-half scorers, along with Leandro Trossard, and the England winger added the fifth in the 63rd.

His last appearance at West Ham saw him miss a penalty when Arsenal was leading 2-1, in a costly 2-2 draw that sparked the team’s end-of-season implosion and led to Manchester City retaining the league title. He received dreadful racist abuse after that spot-kick failure, too.

Rice delivered the final blow by curling in a shot from 25 yards (meters), to which he responded by holding up his hands in a signal that he wasn’t celebrating the goal. He was almost immediately substituted — and even got some applause from the West Ham fans still in the ground.

The resounding win for Arsenal came a day after victories for title rivals Liverpool and Man City and massively improved the goal difference of Mikel Arteta’s team.

Arsenal is in third place, behind second-place City only on goals scored and two points adrift of Liverpool.

“Brilliant performance. From start to end we dominated and controlled everything,” Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard said.

“We are focusing on ourselves. We don’t care too much about the other teams. We keep working hard.”

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