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Arsenal 3-1 Fulham: Cottagers still fighting

last updated Sunday 29th April 2007, 8:14 PM
Simon Davies
Simon Davies gets the Fulham goal

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.

Match Stats Arsenal Fulham
Goals 3 1
Possession 49% 51%
Goal attempts 10 7
On Target 5 1
Corners 7 6
Off-sides 3 1
Fouls 6 10
Yellows 2 4
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet

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 ball.

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.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:
"We create more chances than anyone in the league but we don't score as many and that tells you we waste chances.

"We were great in the first half but sat back in the second and were a little bit poor. But we came back and showed our quality late on.

"Our season is not over. We want to finish third, show respect to the fans that come every week and we have a responsibility to the other teams too to put on performances."

Fulham boss Lawrie Sanchez:
"I think we were a bit naive - a point would have been fantastic but we just got a rush of blood to the head after the equaliser and went hell for leather looking to seal survival on the day.

"We got punished by a quality Arsenal attack but that's football. It can be very cruel.

"We have got two games - one at home - and we have got a chance to show our fans what we are made of - and that means stringing two halves together of good football, which I know we can do."

Arsenal: Lehmann, Eboue, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Hleb, Fabregas, Silva, Diaby, Julio Baptista (Denilson 71), Adebayor.
Subs Not Used: Almunia, Senderos, Djourou, Hoyte.

Booked: Silva, Eboue.

Goals: Julio Baptista 4, Adebayor 84, Silva 87 pen.

Fulham: Niemi, Rosenior (Volz 68), Knight, Christanval, Bocanegra, Davies, Brown, Diop, Jensen (Dempsey 59), Radzinski, McBride (Helguson 59).
Subs Not Used: Lastuvka, Montella.

Booked:Brown (11, f), Helguson (85, f), Bocanegra (85, f), Volz (89, f)

Goals: Davies 78.

Att: 60,043

Ref: M Clattenburg (Co Durham).

Source soccernet
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