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Match Report - Fulham 0 Arsenal 3

last updated Saturday 11th September 2004, 7:56 PM

Not even the storm of controversy which engulfed referee Mark Halsey managed to deflect Arsenal out of their stride at Fulham as they extended their lead at the top of the Premiership.

referee Mark Halsey
Referee Mark Halsey officiated at Fulham
with another laughable performance

The bare statistics will show that Arsene Wenger's side swept past Fulham with three goals in the space of just 10 second-half minutes, taking their unbeaten league run to 45 games.

Fredrik Ljungberg led the way in scoring the first and competed with defender Zat Knight to get the final touch to the second, which looked to be an own-goal.

Substitute Jose Reyes then joined in with his fifth Premiership strike of the campaign, leaving Chris Coleman to scratch his head in sheer disbelief.

For those statistics told nothing of the high drama which unfolded before the break and could have changed the course of the entire game.

Firstly, referee Mark Halsey appeared to reverse his own decision to award Fulham a penalty after seeking a linesman's advice on an apparent foul by Ashley Cole on Andy Cole.

Then, having waved away Arsenal's own strong penalty appeals, he disallowed a header by Collins John for a perceived push.

Arsenal's net nevertheless survived intact and their second-half surge took their incredible goalscoring tally for the league campaign to 19 goals in just five games.

The Gunners had earlier taken time to regain their understanding after a 10-day international break as Fulham, led by the Little and Large central midfield act of Mark Pembridge and Papa Bouba Diop, remained undaunted.

Indeed, the returning Patrick Vieira, who had been sent off for France in midweek for two bookable offences, was shown the yellow card again on 21 minutes for a foul on Diop as he broke forward.

Luis Boa Morte - who turns into a "Formula One" model against his former club, according to Arsene Wenger - was again turbo-charged as Fulham pressed, with one flashing shot saved by Jens Lehmann.

Not that the Gunners' own counter-attacking threat could be ignored though. Far from it, in fact, with Ljungberg denied by Edwin van der Sar's sharp reflexes.

That was nothing, however, compared to the controversy which then erupted around referee Halsey on 32 minutes when striker Cole burst through the centre.

Ashley Cole looked to have brought his namesake down and Halsey appeared to point to the spot, only to consult with his linesman and seemingly over-rule his original decision.

The Fulham fans were, inevitably, livid, although Arsenal promptly had their own penalty appeal turned down, with Moritz Volz bringing down Thierry Henry just inside the area but escaping any punishment.

Fulham's sense of grievance nevertheless increased when they thought they had scored on the stroke of half-time, when John headed a cross home but was penalised for pushing Kolo Toure as he jumped.

Needless to say, Halsey left the pitch at the interval to a crescendo of jeers and Fulham were temporarily inspired by their frustration as John and Pembridge both came close after the restart.

Arsenal, however, do not fold that easily. Having recovered from 3-1 down against Middlesbrough to win 5-3 just a couple of weeks ago, they producing another stirring fightback.

After full-back Cole had flashed a low cross across the face of goal, Wenger capitalised on his side's resurgence, introducing Reyes on 61 minutes to replace Pires.

Match Stats Fulham Arsenal
Goals 0 3
Poss. 40% 60%
Goal attempts 9 12
On Target 7 7
Offsides 2 5
Corners 9 4
Fouls 16 10
Yellows 2 2
Reds 0 0
source: soccernet

And while Henry flashed just wide from a tight angle, Arsenal were ahead just two minutes later as Henry cleverly switched play out to Ljungberg, who was lurking on the edge of the penalty area.

The Swede initially looked offside but replays showed that he was just being played onside - a decision correctly taken by the same linesman responsible for the over-ruled penalty.

After Ljungberg had dispatched his shot calmly into the far corner, referee Halsey allowed this goal to stand.

A further three minutes later, Arsenal were further ahead.

Dennis Bergkamp and Henry linked to set Ljungberg haring through the centre and, having shaken off Knight's initial challenge, the defender's tackle then seemed to deflect the ball into his own net.

To compound Fulham's misery, Reyes was then sent clean through and there was never any doubt that his coolly-taken finish would end up inside the far post.

With the result now beyond any doubt, Fulham were simply left to seek a consolation goal, with striker Cole's shot well saved by Lehmann.

However, the fates, let alone the impact of a buoyant Arsenal side, had conspired against them.

Fulham Van der Sar, Volz, Bocanegra, Legwinski (Radzinski 76), Knight, Pembridge, Cole, Boa Morte (McBride 83), John, Pearce, Diop.

Subs Not Used: Crossley, McKinlay, Goma.

Booked: Van der Sar(64,d), Legwinski(68,f).

Arsenal Lehmann, Cole, Vieira (Fabregas 75), Pires (Reyes 61), Ljungberg (Pennant 73), Bergkamp, Lauren, Henry, Cygan, Toure, Silva.

Subs Not Used: Almunia, Clichy.

Booked: Vieira, Fabregas.

Goals: Ljungberg 62, Knight 65 og, Reyes 71.

Att: 21,681

Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Source Sporting Life
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