Fulham 1 Arsenal 0
Brede Hangeland`s first ever Fulham goal turned out to be crucial as Roy Hodgson`s side recorded a dramatic 1-0 win over title pretenders, Arsenal.
Fulham entered this fixture without Andrew Johnson who obviously wasn`t considered fit enough to be risked and also Paul Konchesky who must have picked up an injury as he didn`t even feature in the eighteen selected for the match. Kallio took the place vacated by Konchesky to make hi sFulham debut. Interestingly, there was also no place for Andreasen on the substitute`s bench, another possible injury victim?
For the visitors, Arsene Wenger decided not to risk Cesc Fabregas, still recovering from injury, ahead of their crucial Champions League qualifier next week. The back four had a familiar look about it as did the front two but the midfield looked a little week, could Fulham capitalise on that?
The first half saw Arsenal kick off with Fulham attacking the Putney End. The sell-out crowd urged their team on and Fulham went on to give a display that will giver them plenty of encouragement for the rest of the season. Whilst the early exchanges may have been lacking in goal mouth action, Fulham passed the ball around neatly and their hard work restricted any Arsenal swift attacks.
The first corner of the game went to Arsenal in the 9th minute but Schwarzer showed his class in easily claiming it. Three minutes later Adebayor, a thorn in our side last season when he scored twice, curled a shot wide although Schwarzer looked to have it covered. Murphy volleyed over as Fulham tried to get that opening goal whilst Van Persie missed a good chance from about eight yards out.
With twenty minutes gone Fulham took the lead. Zamora forced Toure to concede a corner and when Murphy rolled the ball to Bullard his great cross, into the area, was met perfectly by the outstretched right foot of Hangeland. The Norwegian who captained Norway for the first time in midweek capped a fine week by scoring his first goal for Fulham.
Minutes later Arsenal almost equalised when Adebayor saw his header hit the post with Schwarzer beaten. But Fulham were still looking the better side and Zamora forced a save out of Almunia low down before Gera failed to capitalise on a great break, orchestrated by Davies, by not connecting firmly with his shot.
Arsenal tried to get going but their finishing was poor with both Walcott and Van Persie failing to trouble Schwarzer with wayward shots. It had been a good first half for Fulham; hopefully the second would bring much of the same.
The second half started with the same twenty-two players who had started the match. The half started with Fulham showing the same endeavour that had seen them shade the first half. When possession was lost work rate became the main factor in winning the ball back. Chances were also proving to be rare as the game looked to be developing into a midfield battle.
Davies, who had a fine game, was providing much of the thrust as Fulham tried to surge forward to get that crucial second goal. After suffering a degree of criticism about not being able to play together, in central midfield, Bullard and Murphy certainly proved the doubters wrong in the first hour of the game.
Zamora almost managed to double the lead but his shot goes just over after some good work from Seol and Murphy. As the hour mark passed, Arsenal were not looking like a potential Premier League winning side, Wenger looked frustrated on the touchline as Hodgson urged his team to keep up the work rate. Wenger, agitated by his teams display, chose to introduce Bendtner in place of Walcott.
Arsenal suddenly spring into life as Van Persie fires a sizzling low shot, from all of twenty-five yards, just wide. Murphy then brought Eboue down some twenty-five yards out and received a yellow card. As for the free kick, let`s just say it brought a wild cheer of derision from the home support. With fifteen minutes to go, Hodgson introduced Baird in place of debutant Kallio before, with thirrteen minutes of the ninety left Dempsey replaced Seol.
With time running out, Arsenal seem content to test Fulham out with long balls down the middle that are easily dealt with. Murphy, who appeared to be tiring was replaced by Teymourian with ten minutes of the ninety left as the tension amongst the home support started to rise. Nasri did little to ease that tension as he found space and tried to curl a shot into the roof of the net. Could we hang on for those last few minutes?
Adebayor tested our nerves a little more with a shot, from some twenty yards out, that Schwarzer easily dealt with. Clichy then won a corner after a deflection but Schwarzer magnificently claimed Nasri`s corner kick. Minutes to go and my heart was thumping away. Another free kick, given needlessly away, results in a shot hitting the wall and Fulham launching a counter attack that left Dempsey in two minds and the chance to wrap the game up was gone.
With nerves shredded Adebayor fell in the area after a penalty, thankfully he got short shrift from the referee. Three minutes of injury time had to be played out and once again we were grateful Van Persie couldn`t direct his free kick any further than against the defensive wall. Two minutes later the cheering could be heard all the way down through to Hammersmith as Fulham had beaten the Arsenal.
Well done lads.