Arsenal 2-1 Fulham Match Report
Arsenal got their Premiership season off to a perfect start with a thrilling 2-1 win over fellow Londoners Fulham. The home side fell behind in the opening minute following a catostrophic error from German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann and proceeded to pepper the Fulham goal until Kolo Toure won the penalty to allow Robin van Persie to level the match in the 84th minute. Arsenal completed the marvellous fightback when Alexander Hleb finished cleverly in the 90th minute after a lovely lofted pass from Cesc Fabregas.
I watched the game live via PSi and was quite impressed with the peformance by Arsenal. It was a real shame to go behind again at the Emirates Stadium – especially to the awful goalkeeping bungle that Lehmann produced – but the resiliance shown by Arsene Wenger’s young team was very encouraging. Before van Persie’s penalty broke Fulham’s back their goalkeeper Tony Warner – who was called in before kick-off after an injury in warm-up to first-choice keeper Anti Niemi – had the game of his life and made some great saves from the likes of Tomas Rosicky, van Persie and Hleb. Even Toure had a shot cleared off the line before Arsenal finally found the net.
Hleb stars as a support striker
I have to be honest and say that I got rather panicky from the 70th minute onwards with the score at 0-1. The game was in so many ways a repeat of last season with Arsenal having all the play but struggling to find the finish to match their good work. But the side continued to play good football as the half wore on and received their rewards after Toure was felled in the area after a lovely run and van Persie confidently converted the penalty. At 1-1 and with Nicklas Bendtner rampaging around up front for the final ten minutes Arsenal were always a good chance to eventually win it and they did so when Hleb finished calmly after chesting down a lovely pass from Fabregas.
The team lined up exactly as I predicted yesterday – with the exception of Mathieu Flamini starting alongside Fabregas in the centre of the park. As usual, Flamini had a good game, giving it is all and justifying his selection in front of the likes of Denilson and Abou Diaby (where has he got off to?). There was no place for Eduardo da Silva as Hleb started in behind van Persie and Bacary Sagna made an assured debut on the right side of defence. Everyone did quite well – Hleb and Rosicky were particularly effective – but the defence did look a little shaky at times. This was mostly the case when Sagna, Clichy and co attempted to play their way out of defence under immense pressure from Fulham when a long hoof upfield would have been the better option.
An encouraging start to the season
Remarkably, Lehmann bounced back after his horrendous start and Emmanuel Eboue did not look out of place on the right side of midfield. There will be many people who criticise the fact that Arsenal missed so many chances but in all reality the boys hit the target more than they missed and the difficulty they had in finding a goal was more down to the goalkeeping of Warner than poor finishing. It was great to see van Persie smash home his penalty under intense pressure and even better to see Hleb take a shot late on when last season he may have passed to Bendtner or van Persie. He was duly rewarded with a winning goal that will do his confidence the world of good.
So, whilst most people expected a comfortable win for Arsenal, Fulham proved to be a tough nut to crack in the opening match. I mentioned yesterday that the result was more important than the performance for the game and I felt that Arsenal performed admirably and won the match. With champions Manchester United dropping points at home to Reading, Wayne Rooney breaking his foot again and Chelsea pushed all the way by Birmingham you have to feel that the Premiership is anyone’s for the taking this season. Let’s hope that the boys can build from this performance and do the job against Sparta Prague on Wednesday.
What do you think?
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Arsenal FC Blog Fantasy League – Round 1 Update
The first round of Fantasy Premier League kicked off on the weekend and there was some lovely, and some not-so-lovely, performances from some of the teams entered in the Arsenal FC Blog Fantasy League. There were 43 teams entered before the round began and the top scoring side was Conrad Pinnin’s oddly named outfit; pimpin pimpin, which scored 64 points. Conrad’s midfield contained Michael Essien, Steven Gerrard and Cesc Fabregas who all got goals and he was also smart enough to put in Robin van Persie as captain for the round. It’s still pretty tight at the top with BudDozers, BERKELEYharriers, Enfants Terribles and my own team Arsenal FC Blog all cracking the 60-point mark. The next round is only a couple of days away, and with Arsenal out of action with Champions League duty I think many managers’ benches will come into play. Thank goodness I have Carlos Tevez sitting there waiting patiently! Good luck!
To join the Arsenal FC Blog Fantasy Premier League click here.