Barclays Premier League
Fulham 2-1 Arsenal

 

 

Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell (left) and Gunners defender Laurent Koscielny, who both scored at Craven Cottage, challenge for possession of the ball

 

 

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from Craven Cottage


Fulham started the New Year terrifically as they produced a thrilling late comeback to defeat ten-man Arsenal in an entertaining London derby.

Defender Laurent Koscielny headed Arsenal into the lead at the midway point of the first half but the dismissal of Johan Djourou for two yellow cards proved expensive for the visitors.

Thereafter, Steve Sidwell levelled with a header before the Cottagers completed the job with a dramatic winner in the last minute from a low volley by Bobby Zamora - the subject of widespread transfer speculation regarding a move away from Craven Cottage.

Fulham brought Zamora back into the starting eleven after injury while Stephen Kelly was also returning after a lay-off with ankle trouble while Orlando Sa was left to settle for a place among the substitutes despite opening his Premier League account with a fine goal on New Year's Eve in the 1-1 draw against Norwich City.

Arsenal had another defensive injury to contend with as Thomas Vermaelen was taken off in the second half of Saturday's 1-0 win over QPR with Francis Coquelin, who replaced him in that game, starting in his place as a makeshift left-back.

The Gunners looked to continue their surge up the table which has seen them rise from 15th to 4th in the space of just twelve matches, with their only blip coming in a 1-0 defeat at Manchester City last month. They went into the game three points behind North London rivals Tottenham in third.

Arsenal made a quick start and were on the front foot early as the lively Gervinho and Theo Walcott caused problems down the flanks as the latter stung the palms of back-up Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale, deputising again in the absence of number one choice Mark Schwarzer who had a back problem, after three minutes.

At the other end, Fulham almost punished an Arsenal mistake in midfield as Mikel Arteta, a starter in every Premier League game since joining from Everton on deadline day for £10 million in August, was dispossessed by Danny Murphy in midfield.

The midfielder fed the ball to Zamora, who cleverly shifted the ball onto his unfavoured right foot and struck low across the goalkeeper however it was comfortably saved by Woijech Szczesny, in between the sticks for the Gunners.

The visitors had reason to believe they should have been awarded a penalty in the first half as Fulham captain Murphy inexplicably lost the ball inside his own half and the mistake was immediately pounced upon by Aaron Ramsey, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Boxing Day.

Robin van Persie then played the ball to Gervinho coming in from the left and he went tumbling to the ground under the challenge of Phillipe Senderos. 

The former Arsenal defender appeared to make contact with the Ivorian, who will be travelling to the African Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast next week, but referee Lee Probert did not concur.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Fulham beat Arsenal for the first time since 23 August 2008 when Brede Hangeland scored the only goal of the game.


The hosts were always likely to threaten Arsenal's vulnerability from set pieces with the tall figure of Hangeland coming forward on every occasion and the Norwegian headed a corner over the crossbar, boasting a significant height advantage over French Under-21 international Coquelin, who was the nearest player to him.

Fulham had an excellent clean sheet record heading into the game with seven already this term, only Manchester United and Swansea collected more in the Premier League, and the contest opened up more following a quarter of an hour of Arsenal dominance.

But the visitors took the lead through Laurent Koscielny after 21 minutes as the Frenchman was afforded too much space inside the box as young Wales captain Ramsey floated the ball into him from the edge of the box.

And the man filling in at right-back due to a spate of missing defenders for the Gunners found himself in the box and headed well past Stockdale from seven yards for his first goal of the season and only his fourth in the Premier League.

The Gunners exuded confidence and a marvellous double save from Stockdale, who made a string of fantastic saves to deny London rivals Chelsea in a Boxing Day draw at Stamford Bridge, thwarted a second goal.

Walcott did well on the right hand side and played the ball back to Ramsey, who hit a shot low from inside the box which the keeper got down low superbly to save and was back up again onto his feet to deny his own defender Senderos with great reactions before Gervinho blasted the rebound across the face of goal and it eventually came to nothing.

Bryan Ruiz, Fulham's expensive summer recruit from boss Jol's former team FC Twente, then went on a mazy run by driving at the Gunners defence towards goal however the Costa Rican's left-footed effort squirmed a few yards wide of the right-hand post after holding off first Alex Song and then escaping the presence of Per Mertesacker a few minutes before half-time.

A difficult run of fixtures over the festive period for the Cottagers saw them play Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. Having picked up a point in their previous derby against West London rivals Chelsea, following the 5-0 humilation against United, they appeared to be optimistic of turning things around in this one.

In the second half, Murphy played a free-kick short to Sidwell who tried his luck from distance as his rising effort from thirty yards dipped downwards but not enough as Szczesny watched it travel over the bar with no-one rushing to close down the former Aston Villa midfielder - back after eight weeks out with a hernia problem.

Fulham were annoyed by the fact play was stopped when Djourou lunged in on Clint Dempsey on the edge of the penalty area as the ball broke to left-back John Arne Riise in an excellent crossing position but referee Probert already blew his whistle for a free-kick and handed the Swiss centre-back the game's first yellow card.

From the resulting Murphy delivery, Senderos flicked a header on after goalkeeper Szczesny misjudged whether to come and claim or not which he did and got nowhere near it however it dropped the wrong side of the post from a Fulham point of view. While Walcott was disappointed to be taken off as Tomas Rosicky took his place on the wing just after the hour mark.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

The result means that Arsenal have won two, drawn two and lost two of their six London derby games in the Premier League this season.


Clint Dempsey should have equalised for Fulham, which would have been deserved on balance of play in the second period, as the USA international took up a great position inside the box as excellent build-up play by Ruiz allowed him the space to cross with his left peg.

And the winger, who had scored four goals in his previous seven matches, was inches wide of the target after leaping above German defender Mertesacker.

Szczesny was called into action shortly afterwards as Ruiz, remembered for chipped goals against Bolton and Everton at home, ran onto the ricochet off Mertesacker as Dembele battled to keep the ball in the box for Fulham.

The 20-year old in goal for the Gunners made the save, closing his knees as he fell, however the reaction on the face of the Fulham player suggested he should have done better.

The undoubted turning point of the game came with thirteen minutes to go when Zamora looked to go on into the box and was stopped with an arm placed across his body by former Birmingham defender Djourou, already on a yellow card and warned for a foul on Fulham substitute Kerim Frei which went unpunished minutes earlier, was given his marching orders for a second booking.

The red card prompted a change in tactics from Arsene Wenger, who desperately tried to hold onto the lead, as French defender Sebastian Squillaci came on for his first league appearance of the season - the 29th different player used this season by the Gunners - in place of Ramsey as Koscielny moved to centre-back and Squillaci slotted in at right-back for the final ten minutes.

It did not take long for Fulham to make their extra man count as Szczesny was indecisive in failing to catch Dempsey's corner and 31-year-old centre-back Senderos, who spent seven years at the Gunners, knocked the ball on for Sidwell to power his header in from a few yards out with six minutes left on the clock.

The midfielder also scored in the corresponding fixture on the final day of last season against his former club in a 2-2 draw.

And as Arsenal struggled to cope with the governance of the hosts, former West Ham and Tottenham striker Zamora, goalless in his previous matches and back in the fold after injury, had the last say when capitalising on a poor defensive header from Squillaci popped back into the danger zone to volley low into the bottom corner.

It left Szczesny with no chance on the stroke of 90 minutes, giving the Cottagers a famous winner and completed an unlikely comeback with Arsenal, before the red card to Djourou, seemingly in total command of the match. 

Fulham, who last beat Arsenal nearly three and a half years ago, won for the first time in five games to move eight points clear of the relegation zone.

Their fourth win at home this season ensured they have now collected four points off the Gunners having drawn 1-1 at the Emirates at the end of November as the home supporters went wild at the full-time whistle with manager Martin Jol celebrating his first ever victory over Wenger having failed to win any of his previous nine attempts as Spurs boss.


Follow our Chief Football Editor Adam Higgins on Twitter



 

 

Monday 2nd January 2012

Barclays Premier League

Craven Cottage (West London)

 

Fulham 2-1 Arsenal                                              KO 5:15pm             Live on Sky Sports 1/HD1          (HT 0-1)

Sidwell 85      Koscielny 21
Zamora 90


Fulham:
  (4-4-1-1)  12 Stockdale
 
7.5/10, 2 Kelly - 7.5/10, 5 Hangeland - 7/10, 14 Senderos - 7.5/10, 3 John Arne Riise - 7/10, 23 Dempsey - 8/10, 13 Murphy (C) - 6/10 (Frei 69 - 2.5/10), 4 Sidwell - 7/10, 11 Ruiz - 8/10, 25 Zamora - 7.5/10, 30 Dembele - 9/10.

Subs not used:  38 Etheridge, 6 Baird, 18 Hughes, 15 Gecov, 16 Duff, 9 Orlando Sa 

Booked:     None

Arsenal:  (4-3-3)  13 Szczesny - 7/10, 20 Djourou - 6/10, 4 Mertesacker - 7/10, 6 Koscielny - 8/10, 39 Coquelin - 7.5/10, 8 Arteta - 6.5/10, 16 Ramsey - 5.5/10 (Squillaci 81 - 1.5/10), 17 Song - 7/10, 14 Walcott - 6/10 (Rosicky 65 - 2.5/10), 10 Van Persie (C) - 7/10, 27 Gervinho - 6.5/10 (Benayoun 74 - 2/10).

Subs not used:  1 Almunia, 49 Miquel, 23 Arshavin, 29 Chamakh

Booked:     Djourou (63)

Sent-off:   Djourou (78)


My Man of the Match:
   Moussa Dembele (Fulham) - Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:   Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) - Rating 5.5/10

 

 

Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire) - 9/10
Attendance: 25,700 

 

 

Match Facts

Possession: Fulham - 54%                 Arsenal - 46%

Shots: Fulham - 21                    Arsenal - 17

Shots on target: Fulham - 8                   Arsenal - 10

Shots off target: Fulham - 13                  Arsenal - 7

Corners: Fulham - 4                    Arsenal - 3

Fouls: Fulham - 6                   Arsenal - 12

Offside: Fulham - 4                     Arsenal - 4

Assists: Fulham - 2 (Senderos, Kelly)                  Arsenal - 1 (Ramsey)

 

 

MANAGER & PLAYER REACTION:-



Fulham manager Martin Jol

"I am relieved after any game when we get the three points on the board and against a top side like Arsenal, it is even better and it comes with the added incentive in this particular match for coming in the final minutes which has kept the fans on edge and also gives them little time to fight back. The fans wanted to see more from us after a poor first half from our point of view but we stepped up our game in the second half and deserved something from the match I felt. We did it before against Liverpool and Chelsea so we have some players with excellent quality who can make the difference as you saw. Maybe he (Wenger) could accuse me of trying to do something but I don't think players can do that. The only thing I did was put Kerim Frei on the flank as he got straight at him. He is an exciting player and he wanted to go one-against-one all the time. That was probably the problem for Johan Djourou. He probably could have had a second booking before that, to be fair so I cannot really say anything on the matter. It was amazing for us as a club to have come so far in the season and to record these types of results is special for us. It is also extra special from my point of view as it is the first time I have beaten Mr Wenger in a Premier League match. We played ever so well in the second half. Sometimes if you can't score at the right times you end up with a draw but I think in the end the win was deserved."


Click here for the post-match thoughts of Fulham boss Martin Jol

Click here for the views of Fulham striker Bobby Zamora after the game





Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

"The referee influenced the game in completely the wrong way, in my opinion. When (Johan) Djourou got the first yellow card, they tried every time to get him a second yellow and the referee was naive enough to give it. I saw it coming, you know. I do not need to make stories for newspapers. I tell you the game I have seen. I don't care about the rest. I think we were playing well in the first half with a few created chances and we should have had a penalty. We know Phillipe Senderos very well, he was a great servant to our football club and is a top-class defender but for me, he has 200% definitely brought down Gervinho inside the box and the referee was very naive today. In the second half, we were tired in the last 10 minutes which has cost us dearly and we have conceded two goals in that period partially through poor defending and been beaten in a match that we should have won and could have wrapped up before half-time. I am extremely disappointed as we were the better team for large periods in the game and we needed the points to keep up our pursuit on the Champions League places. After the red card, we looked vulnerable and nervous. We lost the game because we were down to ten men."


Click here to hear the thoughts of Gunners boss Arsene Wenger

 

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