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Arsenal 4 Fulham 1 - Match Report

last updated Saturday 23rd February 2002, 5:26 PM
Arsenal 4(3) Fulham 1(1)
Fulham were swept aside by nspired Gallic flair of the highest quality, Arsenal appropriately effected a much-needed renaissance in their home league fortunes.

Highbury was very much the French quarter of North London with 11 of the players, two managers and even both assistants with their roots from across the Channel.

Indeed, under Jean Tigana, Fulham have been trying to emulate Arsenal's French-inspired route to success. But beware pale imitations.

For while Fulham's side contains mainly emerging or unproven French talent, Arsene Wenger has the finished article in his hands. The creme de la creme, in fact.

Fulham striker Steve Marlet
Steve Marlet another goal in the Premiership

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At the heart of Arsenal's convincing display was their inspirational captain Patrick Vieira, who was reawakened after his recent slumbers to drive hisside forward with panache and power.

Vieira even struck his first goal of the season to put his side back ahead after Steve Marlet had equalised in a rare attackby the visitors following the impressive Lauren's early goal.

However, it was compatriots Sylvain Wiltord, Robert Pires and Thierry Henry, who applied the coup de grace with two goals, who simply tore the Fulham defence apart with their pace and trickery.

And having previously dropped 17 points out of a possible 36 at Highbury, including draws in each of their past two home league games, it was a significant result for the title contenders.
While Arsenal's French foreign legion dominated, the conditions were decidedly British, with a biting wind and even a brief pre-match snowfall giving way to sunshine.

Then again, while Arsenal must have set some kind of record with all butthree players wearing gloves, they were quickly warmed up as they seized the lead after just five minutes with a superb one-touch move.

Once Giovanni van Bronckhorst had touched the ball to Henry, he found Wiltord on the overlap and the striker cut the ball back invitingly forLauren, who swept the ball home.

Fulham struck back within five minutes completely against the run of play, with Marlet left unmarked at the far post to head home Rufus Brevett's deep cross.

But while Vieira dominated central midfield, it was the searing pace ofWiltord, Henry and Pires that Fulham's defence simply could not cope with.

After Wiltord had threatened again, Henry anticipated a backwards pass by Brevett and nipped in to flick the ball into the path of the onrushing Vieira, who rifled his shot home.

Lauren and van Bronckhorst also came close, but it was the French connection that linked up again as Vieira combined with Wiltord to pick out Henry, who shook off Andy Melville before finishing with aplomb.

It was still not half-time but after van Bronckhorst limped off, to be replaced by Lee Dixon, Arsenal continued to pile forward, with Wiltord somehow blazing the ball over the bar from close range.

And while he was also denied by van der Sar after Vieira's storming run, it was not too long after the break that the home side went even further ahead.

Match Stats Arsenal Fulham
Goal attempts 15 6
On Target 10 5
Hit woodwork 0 0
Fouls 19 14
Offsides 4 1
Corners 6 5
Yellows 0 1
Reds 0 0
source: www.sports.com
Pires was this time the creator, picking out Lauren with a deep cross andalthough his header struck the post, it rebounded onto the lurking figure of Henry and back into the net.

Henry appeared almost embarrassed by the manner of the goal, his 27th of the season, but it was fully deserved and Arsenal continued to dominate, with Pires appropriately replaced by yet another Frenchman, Gilles Grimandi.

Indeed, all that remained was for 18-year-old French striker Jeremie Aliadiere to make his Premiership debut and he duly came on for Henry in the closing stages.

By then, Arsenal were home and dry thanks to their French contingent. Fulham, meanwhile, for all their progress this season, could only watch and learn.

Indeed, the only sour note for Arsenal was news of Nicolas Anelka's equaliser for Liverpool at Anfield.

Then again, it was an afternoon when Highbury-inspired Frenchmen were exactly that. Inspired.

Arsenal: Seaman, Lauren, Campbell, Stepanovs, Luzhny, Pires (Grimandi 73), Vieira, Parlour, van Bronckhorst (Dixon 43), Wiltord, Henry (Aliadiere 81).

Subs Not Used: Edu, Wright.

Goals: Lauren 5, Vieira 15, Henry 38, 59.

Fulham: Van der Sar, Finnan, Goma, Melville, Knight (Boa Morte 56), Brevett (Harley 63), Legwinski, Malbranque, Collins, Hayles (Saha 61), Marlet.

Subs Not Used: Taylor, Ouaddou.

Booked: Goma(56, foul).

Goals: Marlet 10.

Att: 38,029 Ref: U Rennie (Sheffield).
Source PA Sport Chief Soccer Writer Mark Bradley
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