Arsenal 1-1 Fulham: Thomas Vermaelen scores for both sides as Gunners lose ground on top four rivals
Belgian international's own goal almost caused defeat as Arsene Wenger's side miss out on claiming sixth successive victory in the Premier League as Cottagers earn
By Simon Sinclair
The Belgian international’s attempted tackle on John Arne Riise ended up in his own net as the former Liverpool full-back bore down on goal.
However, he made up for his mistake minutes later when he headed Theo Walcott’s cross past Mark Schwarzer to the relief of Arsene Wenger's charges.
The Frenchman made two changes from the team that beat Borussia Dortmund in midweek in the Champions League, with Andrey Arshavin replacing Gervinho and Johan Djourou in for Laurent Koscielny.
The Cottagers also made two alterations to their team from last week with Riise coming in for Aaron Hughes after missing the draw with Sunderland to attend the birth of his son.
Meanwhile £10 million summer signing Bryan Ruiz made just his second start for the club replacing Damien Duff who was ruled out with a calf injury.
Arsenal started brightly and thought they were ahead after just four minutes when Van Persie found Arshavin with a through ball in the box which the Russian poked past Schwarzer only to be flagged offside.
The visitors were giving Arsene Wenger’s side space to work the ball and were nearly made to pay for this when Van Persie found Aaron Ramsey who ran deep from the midfield but his looping effort was tipped wide by Schwarzer.
Martin Jol’s side began to tighten up in defence and were nearly rewarded when Bobby Zamora got the better of Thomas Vermaelen as he turned the Belgian but couldn’t get his shot on target as it flew wide of Wojciech Szczesny’s goal.
Arsenal were always a threat though and should have taken the lead when Theo Walcott, for the first time in the game, ran at Riise and outpaced him down the right, his cross found Ramsey in the middle but the Welshman blazed his effort over the bar.
Walcott again caused more problems for Riise down the right moments later as he turned him inside and out before firing a powerful shot at goal which was well saved again by Schwarzer who was certainly busy in the opening 30 minutes.
The Gunners were comfortable in possession but couldn’t find the killer touch to break the deadlock as again Van Persie and Ramsey scuffed decent openings carved out by Walcott.
It was the Cottagers who came closest to scoring before the break following good build-up play by Zamora and Clint Dempsey saw Moussa Dembele put clear down the left but his shot was saved well by Szczesny.
Riise lightning | Full-back's run led to Vermaelen's own goal howler
Arsenal began the second half with the majority of possession but like in the first half lacked the clinical edge to carve out a clear chance in front of goal.
This gave Fulham belief going forward and they gave the Gunners a torrid time from set-pieces as Brede Hangeland and Dempsey couldn’t quite direct their headers on target.
Wenger’s side were looking to skipper Van Persie for inspiration to get them ahead and the Dutchman almost obliged as dribbled round Hangeland before shooting at goal beating Schwarzer only for Chris Baird to clear the ball off the line.
Baird’s intervention proved to be crucial as Martin Jol’s side took the lead in the 65th minute when Vermaelen put the ball in to his own net after Riise made a brilliant run to the back-post.
The left-back met Danny Murphy’s cross and tried to take control it but was beaten to the ball by the Belgian who turned it goal-wards and the ball trickled into the right hand corner of Szczesney’s net.
The Gunners were jolted into action by going behind and if not for a great reaction save by Schwarzer they would have level as the Australian clawed Djourou’s header away from goal as it look destined for the net.
Arsenal finally got their goal when Vermaelen this scored at the right end when he headed Walcott’s pinpoint cross into ground away past Schwarzer following a great run by the defender much to the relief of the home fans in the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger’s were really upping the ante now as shots were flying in from all angles at the Fulham goal as the visitors were struggling to hang against the rampant home side.
The Gunners pushed but couldn’t find another way through the visitors defence and were denied a sixth straight victory in the Premier League while Fulham drew for the second week in a row.
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