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Fulham go close at Arsenal

last updated Sunday 05th December 2010, 9:25 PM
Arsenal(1) 2 Fulham (1) 1

Fulham striker Diomansy Kamara
Fulham striker
Diomansy Kamara
Diomansy Kamara
Two magical goals from Samir Nasri rescued Arsenal as they survived another wasteful performance at the Emirates Stadium to move top of the Premier League.

The France star's jaw-dropping composure was in stark contrast to that of his team-mates, who almost threw away another three points in front of their own fans.

Nasri put them ahead early on but a sickening clash of heads between Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci allowed Diomansy Kamara to equalise before Nasri netted a glorious winner.

With Manchester United's match postponed due to the big freeze and Chelsea held by Everton, the victory sent Arsenal a point clear at the summit.

But this was far from a champion performance, more from a side that had lost their last two home league games.

The Gunners announced before the match that their players and directors had agreed to donate their day's wages to Centrepoint.

Match Stats Arsenal Fulham
Goals 2 1
Possession 55% 45%
Goal attempts 16 14
On Target 7 4
Passing Success 76.7% 71.8%
Tackles 20 22
Tackles Success 80.0% 77.3%
Corners 3 7
Off-sides 2 7
Saves 3 5
Fouls 7 7
Yellows 0 0
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet/SkySports
They had been less than charitable down the years to Fulham, who had never won at Arsenal in more than a century of trying.

That wait looked set to continue when Nasri's spectacular opener put the home side ahead in the 14th minute.

Andrey Arshavin pounced on Aaron Hughes' error before feeding the France star, who sold two sublime dummies before lashing the ball into the top corner.

Nasri was already guilty of a glaring miss after more superb work by the rampant Arshavin, who was running the show two days after helping his native Russia win the right to host the 2018 World Cup.

The first chance of the game had fallen to the striker, his close-range volley blocked by Mark Schwarzer, who had looked certain to join Arsenal in January before signing a new contract with Fulham on Thursday.

Arshavin and Nasri continued to pull the strings - the latter tormenting recalled Fulham youngster Matthew Briggs, who was withdrawn for Chris Baird.

But Marouane Chamakh and Alex Song were both guilty of more profligate play that would come back to haunt the Gunners, whose offside trap was looking particularly suspect.

On the half-hour mark, Squillaci and Koscielny collided going for the same ball and Clint Dempsey took full advantage of the carnage to slide in Kamara, who sidefooted home.

Koscielny was in a bad way and was carried off on a stretcher to be replaced by Johan Djourou.

Both sides should have scored on the stroke of half-time, Chamakh powering a header straight at Schwarzer from Bacary Sagna's brilliant run and cross, and Kamara hitting the legs of Lukasz Fabianski after being played in behind by Dickson Etuhu.

Tomas Rosicky hooked a 52nd-minute volley wide as Arsenal tried to build some momentum after the restart.

Arshavin's dancing feet and near-post drive brought another good stop by Schwarzer but Fulham were refusing to be overawed and saw plenty of the ball themselves.

Etuhu sent a free header wide from Simon Davies' corner before Arsenal withdrew Rosicky for Robin van Persie.

The home fans' frustration grew when Song wasted all his good work outmuscling John Pantsil by blazing over the top.

Fulham were denied a shock lead in the 70th-minute when a corner was deflected to Zoltan Gera, whose header was cleared off the line.

Gera then sent a spectacular overhead kick wide before Kamara was sacrificed for Andy Johnson and Wilshere was withdrawn for Theo Walcott.

Arsenal's change paid off in spectacular fashion with 15 minutes remaining, a brilliant flowing move seeing Van Persie square for Nasri.

The Frenchman still had men to beat but did so with some unbelievable footwork, rounding Schwarzer and pirouetting to net from a tight angle.

The visitors proved they were far from beaten when Etuhu dragged narrowly wide minutes later but Chamakh shoulkd have killed them off when he sent a shot over on the turn.

Nasri looked to be struggling, signalling he wanted to come off, but Arsenal had used all their substitutions and he played on.

Fulham poured forward and the home defence was definitely creaking, with Gera's well-struck volley forcing a fine Fabianski save.

Eddie Johnson came on for Danny Murphy for the closing moments but Arsenal held on.

Arsene Wenger today declared there was even more to come from Samir Nasri after the midfielder's two magical goals sent Arsenal top of the Premier League.

"It was a combination of touch, intelligence, special talent and calmness as well,'' he said. "He needed to be patient to finish on both occasions and he did that very well. I'm happy because he had a game that was, at the start, only based on coming to the ball. But now he has more variation in his game: turns, runs in behind without the ball, and as well coming to the ball and taking it to his feet. So his game is improving and he is, of course, more efficient.''

Nasri has certainly been Arsenal's player of the season and few in the entire Premier League have performed as impressively.

"It's always difficult to compare,'' Wenger added. "But what is important when you are a manager is you want to get the best out of a player and I always was a strong believer in him. Many people questioned me when I took him here but he is showing that he is an exceptional talent and I think there is more to come from him.''

Admitting his defence looked "vulnerable'', Wenger insisted Arsenal were good enough to win the title.

"We are good enough to go on, that is for sure,'' said Wenger, who revealed Laurent Koscielny had suffered concussion in the sickening clash of heads with team-mate Sebastien Squillaci which led to the Fulham goal. "As you see, every single team struggles to be consistent. At the moment, we are where we are despite having lost three games. Today, you could see again every game is a cup final. And if you're not completely up for it, you don't take the three points.

"We have the spirit, we have the quality but we face tough opponents. And it will be down, as I have said already many times here, to consistency. We are far from winning the championship yet. The only thing I can say: we have the desire and the spirit to fight for it. Will it be good enough? We'll have the answer in May.''

Fulham boss Mark Hughes claimed Nasri was the only difference between the sides.

"Obviously, the boy Nasri has been playing at the top of his form in recent weeks,'' said Hughes, who revealed young full-back Matthew Briggs was substituted after taking a knock and being given a torrid time by the Frenchman. "I think we probably edged it in terms of chances we created and pressure and momentum that we built during the game.

"But, as most top teams have, they have individuals who can win the game for their team when, possibly, the team isn't functioning as well. Nasri is an excellent footballer, great feet, and once he gets in those positions in the area it's very difficult to stop him.

"From our point of view, we're happy with the performance. I thought we showed real belief in what we were trying to do today, took the game to Arsenal and caused them problems. At the end of the game, the crowd were asking for the final whistle.''

Arsenal Fabianski, Sagna, Koscielny (Djourou 33), Squillaci,Clichy, Song, Wilshere (Walcott 74), Nasri,Rosicky (van Persie 63), Arshavin, Chamakh.
Subs Not Used: Szczesny, Denilson, Gibbs, Bendtner.

Goals: Nasri 14, 75.

Fulham Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes,Briggs (Baird 28), Davies, Murphy (Eddie Johnson 88), Etuhu,Dempsey, Gera, Kamara (Andrew Johnson 73).
Subs Not Used: Stockdale, Kelly, Duff, Greening.

Goals: Kamara 30 (right-footed into bottom-right of goal from centre of penalty area, 12 yards out. Assist, pass, by Clinton Dempsey from left channel.)

Att: 60,049

Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).

Source soccernet
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