Sunday, 27 November 2011

Arsenal 1-1 Fulham

Arsenal missed the chance to close in on the top four with a draw at home against a spirited Fulham side. The first half was a fairly dull and uneventful affair, which perhaps said more about Fulham's determination and resilience than it did about anything to do with Arsenal, who had more than enough attacking weapons on display throughout the opening 45 minutes. Andrey Arshavin almost managed to set up Robin van Persie for an early Arsenal chance, the Russian forcing Brede Hangeland to swing out a leg to thump the ball clear just before Van Persie could pounce in the box from close range. Seconds later, Arshavin had the ball in the back of the net after a neat assist from Van Persie. Unfortunately for Arsenal, however, the midfielder was rightly flagged offside. Aaron Ramsey was the next man in a red shirt to attempt to grab the opener, the Welshman firing a shot on target that forced Mark Schwarzer into a fingertip save. Fulham's main early attacking outlet came in the form of Bobby Zamora, who showed his strength after the 20 minute mark, firing a shot on the turn just over the bar. Minutes later, though, Theo Walcott used his pace to break down the left, the Englishman setting up Ramsey in the box before watching on helplessly as the midfielder fired over the bar from close range. Hangeland proved that he's as much of an attacking threat as he is a defensive asset after the half hour mark, thumping a header just wide of the target, but Arsenal ended the half frustrated after failing to break Fulham's resistance. The second half provided more of the same, with Arsenal's attempts to make a breakthrough largely ending in frustration, and the Gunners were made to pay for their predictable attacking play when Fulham took a shock lead. The source of the goal was Thomas Vermaelen, the defender poking the ball past Wojciech Szczesny in an attempt to clear the danger away from John Arne Riise, who had made a magnificent run into the Arsenal box. Arsenal used the goal as the motivation they needed to press forward in numbers and with a real sense of urgency. Van Persie almost turned provider for their equaliser, the striker swinging a corner onto the head of Johan Djourou, whose header forced a great save from Schwarzer, but ultimately it was the same man who had scored at the wrong end who made the breakthrough; Vermaelen made a fine run into the box before firing a header past Schwarzer from a pinpoint Walcott cross. Despite a flurry of late Arsenal chances as the minutes ticked away, Fulham managed to keep their shape and clung onto a point that will go down much better in West London than it will in North London.

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