Arsenal 1 v Fulham 1

Thomas Vermaelen made amends for a 65th minute own goal with a leveller eleven minutes later that preserves Arsenal’s unbeaten run but sadly halts the recent five game winning run. The mid-week Champions League exertions were clearly taking their toll on an Arsenal side who still strode forward purposefully, but lacked the cutting edge to breach a Fulham side who were happy to defend. With time running out, and in search of the winner, Arsene Wenger had Robin Van Persie, Theo Walcott, and introduced Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh in a very attack minded final few minutes, and despite going close in a frantic late spell, only some fine saves from, Mark Schwarzer ensured that honours would finish even.


Wenger made two changes from the mid-week Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund, and gave Andrey Arshavin and Johan Djourou a start, with Gervinho and Laurent Koscielny dropped to the bench. The opening exchanges were never going to set the Emirates crowd alight, but Arsenal did create enough to take the lead. Arshavin had the ball in the net but was flagged offside from Van Persie’s pass, and after a neat flowing move, Van Persie set up Aaron Ramsey. The Wales captain thought he had opened the scoring, but Schwarzer clawed the ball away from the net. Walcott has many attributes to his game, and he was not shirking his defensive duties here either. He ran over 60 yards the put a tackle in to win back possession, a move that met with considerable appreciation from the Emirates faithful.


Mid way through the half, Walcott paced past Danny Murphy and John Arne Riise, to put in a great pass for Ramsey. Van Persie was to his left, but Ramsey’s shot had power, but the direction sent the ball skywards, when much more was anticipated by all and from himself in particular. Fulham had held firm,but their first effort reminded us of their threat, as Bobby Zamora struck over the bar. Three minutes before the break, the hitherto redundant Wojciech Szczesny was called into action and produced a fine low save from Moussa Dembele. Per Mertersacker has had to find his level in the rigours of the Premiership, but still has some way to go. The giant German did have a header sail just wide of the upright, as the half finished goalless, but he was later to be replaced.


The Gunners went in search of the opener, but Schwarzer and some robust defending from Brede Hangeland and former Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos kept the score 0-0. Van Persie thought he had opened the scoring on the hour mark. He switched the ball between his left and right foot, to tee it up on his favourite left foot. The shot was going in, but agonisingly, Chris Baird cleared off the line for Fulham. Five minutes later, and very much against the run of play, Fulham took the lead. Murphy crossed from the right, and under pressure from Riise, Vermaelen’s attempted clearance fell the wrong side of Szczesny.


Johan Djourou has been in fine form at right back, and Wenger could do worse than keeping him there, and have Vermaelen partner Koscileny and Andre Santos at left back. The Swiss defender has adopted well to his new role, and had a firm header saved by Schwarzer. Eight minutes before time, Vermaelen got the leveller. Walcott chased away on the right, and his cross had only Van Persie and the Belgian to aim for. The ball missed the former, but the Arsenal number five powered in a header that finally got beyond the Fulham ‘keeper.


Suddenly the complexion of the game changed and the Emirates crowd roared on for a winner. Gervinho was cutting in with precision from the left, but his shot after a good move was again saved by Schwarzer. Appeals for a handball off Hangeland from Gervinho’s effort were hushed away from referee Mike Dean. Deep into time added on, Mikel Arteta swung in a corner that Van Persie swooped onto, but once again, Schwarzer was to deny the Gunners, as frustratingly for the Emirates crowd and Wenger, the score finished at a goal a piece.