Arsenal Buries Fulham With Late Rally
Arsenal kept up the pressure on third-placed Liverpool following a 3-1 victory over Fulham, which leaves Lawrie Sanchez’s men with much to do to stay in the Barclays Premiership.
The fast-fading Cottagers have failed to win for 10 league matches, and are just one point above the relegation zone after being well beaten at Emirates Stadium, despite a brief rally when they levelled through Simon Davies.
Julio Baptista, on loan from Real Madrid, had fired the Gunners into an early lead, only for the hosts to be pegged back inside the final 13 minutes following a mistake by goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. However, victory was secured through a fine finish from Emmanuel Adebayor and Gilberto’s late penalty.
Given the rest of the weekend’s results and the impending visit of Liverpool, it could well be an all-or-nothing trip to Middlesbrough on the final day of the season for Fulham if they are to remain in the top-flight.
Arsenal, meanwhile, will head into their last two matches of the season – against Chelsea and then at Portsmouth – with renewed hope they can at least salvage a third place finish from what has been a campaign of disappointment at their impressive new home.
There was a minute’s applause before the match in honour of the late former Arsenal and England midfielder Alan Ball, as well as ex-Gunner Arthur Milton, who had played both football and cricket for his country.
The home faithful did not have to wait long before they were on their feet again as Arsenal raced into the lead after just four minutes. Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor held the ball up on the edge of the box, before knocking it back to Alexander Hleb and accepting a quick return.
The big African then ghosted into the right side of the area, and chipped a cross back to the far post. Baptista got in front of rightback Liam Rosenior to power a header past Antti Niemi for his 10th goal of the season.
Arsenal had so often this season trailed here to early goals – a trait which proved costly to their hopes of challenging for the title. There seemed no such problems this afternoon, however, as Fulham looked everything like a side in freefall at the wrong end of the table.
On 15 minutes, Arsenal had another great chance. Full-back Gael Clichy broke quickly down the right, and cut the ball back from the edge of the area to Fabregas. He in turn fed Baptista on the overlap, but this time the Brazilian, on loan from Real Madrid, drilled his shot horribly wide.
In a rare moment of action at the other end, Rosenior almost atoned for his error when he drilled a 20-yard half-volley over the bar. As the half-hour mark passed, Hleb was sent away down the right, and his cut-back from the goalline found Cesc Fabregas on the penalty spot.
The Spaniard went to place the ball in the bottom corner, but somehow Niemi got down to his left to produce a brilliant reaction save. The Finn was at it again when, on 32 minutes, he produced an acrobatic flying stop to keep out a bullet header from Adebayor following Clichy’s left-wing cross.
Fulham, to their credit, slowly started to see more of the ball as half-time approached. However the visitors were unable to find a decisive pass in the final third to unlock the home defence.
Once again, Arsenal pressed from kick-off following the restart and it should have been 2-0 on 48 minutes. Hleb fed the ball to Adebayor on the edge of the Fulham penalty area.
The Togo striker made space for himself, and shaped to shoot. However, Philippe Christanval recovered ground well and pressurised Adebayor enough for him to blast the ball horribly wide.
There was then a warning for Arsenal, however, when midfielder Claus Jensen flashed a low 18-yard drive across goal. Fulham continued to frustrate the home side and enjoyed a decent spell of their own as the hour mark approached.
Fulham grabbed a lifeline with 13 minutes left when Lehmann came to punch a deep left-wing cross, under pressure from substitute Heidar Helguson. The German – who signed a new, one-year deal with the Gunners on Friday – failed to make decent contact.
The loose ball fell to Simon Davies on the edge of the box, and he swiftly lobbed in back into the net. Lehmann had to then save from Brown at the near post – before Arsenal restored their lead with a quick counter-attack on 84 minutes.
Fabregas picked out Adebayor on the edge of the Fulham area. He turned inside Christanval before dispatching a low strike into the bottom left corner. Gilberto wrapped things up from the penalty spot after Brown had brought down Hleb.
Match report thanks to ESPN Soccernet.