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Fulham see off Arsenal

last updated Wednesday 04th January 2012, 9:35 PM
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Charlie Wyett at SunSport

Fulham (0) 2 Arsenal (1) 1

IT took less than 10 minutes for Arsene Wenger's new year to become anything but happy.

The Frenchman has had a smile back on his face recently as Arsenal shook off their shambolic start to the season with a string of good results.

Even before the second half kicked off at Craven Cottage last night, Wenger skipped towards the dugout like a young lamb with a massive grin on his face as his side led 1-0.

Yet, after the final whistle, he had a face like thunder as he stormed past his players towards the famous old cottage in the corner of the West London ground.

Not for the first time Wenger was keen to blame other people for his side's defeat - mainly the officials and the opposition.

But he needed to look closer to home.

Laurent Koscielny had put the visitors ahead early on.

But Wenger's team were guilty of allowing their hosts a way back into the game with some poor goalkeeping and defending.

They were hardly helped by a controversial red card for Johan Djourou.

Wenger claimed Fulham's players had been trying to get the Swiss international sent off following his first booking for a foul on Moussa Dembele.

Djourou was eventually sent off for tugging back Bobby Zamora as the Fulham striker chased a ball on the edge of the Gunners box.

Fulham cashed in as former Arsenal trainee Steve Sidwell grabbed an 85th-minute equaliser.

And Martin Jol's side - who conceded a 94th-minute equaliser at Norwich 48 hours earlier - were rewarded for their second-half dominance with an injury-time winner from Zamora.

The striker has clearly fallen out with boss Martin Jol, but still delivered despite suffering Achilles and ankle injuries.

It must have made interesting watching for Thierry Henry, who completes his loan move next week.

He will hardly need telling how Arsenal struggle when Robin van Persie fails to score.

The Dutchman completed a spectacular 2011 with his 35th goal of the calendar year against QPR on Saturday.

Yet just look at the Gunners' record when Van Persie does NOT find the target.

This season, he has drawn a blank 12 times and only twice - against Olympiakos and Swansea - did Arsenal win.

So there remains an intense pressure on Van Persie - and maybe now Henry - to score.

Having tightened up at the back considerably, there was no excusing Arsenal for their second-half defending with the calamitous Sebastien Squillaci - who Wenger sent on as sub after Djourou's 78th-minute dismissal - having a hand in Fulham's winner.

It was Squillaci's header that fell straight to Zamora to volley into the bottom corner of the net.

For that, Wenger could blame no one but his own team.

But the Emirates boss was more angry at not getting a first-half penalty when Philippe Senderos tackled Gervinho.

There was contact, but the Ivory Coast striker did not help himself by going down far too theatrically.

Yet there were not too many moans from Arsenal at the break as they had created plenty of chances in a decent contest and gone ahead through Koscielny's decent 21st-minute header.

Mikel Arteta's shot was blocked but the ball fell to Aaron Ramsey and the Welshman's cross looped off Stephen Kelly's boot perfectly for defender Koscielny to head powerfully past David Stockdale.

Keeper Stockdale, who looks likely to make Fabio Capello's England squad for Euro 2012, has enjoyed an eventful season.

The 26-year-old was farmed out on loan to Ipswich and suffered a 5-2 defeat at home to Southampton and a 7-1 battering at Peterborough.

And in his previous home game for Fulham, Stockdale had another five banged past him by Manchester United.

But the keeper came to his side's rescue this time with a spectacular double stop little more than a minute after Koscielny's goal.

Stockdale did superbly to deny Ramsey - then did even better to make a second save and push Alex Song's effort past a post.

Fulham were the better team in the final 10 minutes of the first half - although it was still a surprise how they controlled the game in the second period.

Brede Hangeland and Clint Dempsey both wasted good chances and you started to wonder if it was not the home side's night.

But, with the excellent Bryan Ruiz causing all sorts of problems, Fulham finally capitalised on their extra man after Djourou's two yellow cards in the space of 14 minutes.

Keeper Wojciech Szczesny failed to deal properly with a corner from Ruiz.

Former Gunner Senderos was left free to head the ball back towards goal and Sidwell was first to nod into the net.

At the very least, you would have thought Arsenal would still hold out for a point.

But, two minutes into injury time, Squillaci ludicrously headed Kelly's cross across the face of his own goal and Zamora kept his volley low to leave Szczesny no chance.

All has not been well in the Fulham camp under Jol recently and their away record remains famously poor with just one win on the road.

But at least they should steer clear of any relegation problems this season.

Meanwhile, one defeat for Arsenal is hardly a disaster.

But this was conclusive proof the most they can hope for this season will be fourth place in the Premier League.


FULHAM: Stockdale 8, Kelly 7, Hangeland 7, Senderos 6, JA Riise 7, Dembele 7, Murphy 7 (Frei 6), Sidwell 7, Ruiz 8, Zamora 7, Dempsey 7.
Subs not used: Etheridge, Baird, Sa, Gecov, Duff, Hughes.

ARSENAL: Szczesny 5, Djourou 5, Mertesacker 5, Koscielny 6, Coquelin 6, Song 6, Arteta 5, Walcott 6 (Rosicky 5), Ramsey 7 (Squillaci 4), Gervinho 6 (Benayoun 5), Van Persie 6.
Subs not used: Almunia, Arshavin, Chamakh, Miquel.

Sent off: Djourou.

Booked: Djourou.

REF: L Probert 5

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