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April 20, 2013
• Craven Cottage, London
Referee: A. Marriner
• Attendance: 25700
P. Mertesacker 43'
FULL-TIME: Fulham 0-1 Arsenal
90' + 4'
Aaron Ramsey is through on goal! He breaks on Fulham and is one-on-one with the goalkeeper but drags his effort wide of the post!
90' + 4'
The corner is overhit and Arsenal survive the danger, surely not much longer to go here...
90' + 3'
90' + 3'
Corner for Fulham, probably the last chance of the match...
90' + 1'
Fulham are throwing the kitchen sink at Arense Wenger's men here! Thomas Vermaelen is about to thrown on to add some defensive solidity! Manic scenes in West London, can the Gunners hold on?!
Red Card Olivier Giroud
RED CARD! Olivier Giroud recieves his marching orders after going over the ball and catching Manolev. Very similar to Steve Sidwell's challenge from the first half and Andre Marriner dishes out the same punishment. Into injury time!
Tim Poole reports from Craven Cottage: "With five minutes left, only one team look like scoring - but only one team are getting the huge benfit of refereeing decision after refeering decision. Alexander Kaciniklic has been replaced by Mladen Petric and Martin Jol will no doubt be telling his Fulham side to go all out and grab an equaliser to hurt Arsenal's top four campaign. Still, if the Gunners hold on, their resilience must be applauded."
Ruiz whips a cross into the area from the left but Koscielny makes a strong header to clear, Kacaniklic then delivers from the right but the Frenchman is there to head the ball away again.
CHANCE! Cazorla finds himself in a pocket of space inside the box and is found by Wilshere, but Hangeland launches his body in front of the ball to make a crucial block. Magnificent defending from the Norway international.
Fulham's 10 men are whipping up a storm here at Craven Cottage. The Gunners are hanging on at the moment. Chelsea and Tottenham fans firmly in the hosts' corner for the final moments.
Arsenal are living on the edge here, risky, risky business! Sian Massey again comes to the rescue as her offside flag halts Berbatov who looked to be in behind the Gunners' defence after Emmanuelson's through ball. This decision is a lot more debateable, mind.
Yellow Card Aaron Ramsey
CONTROVERSY! Fulham have the ball in the back of the next but Sian Massey raises her flag to save Arsenal's skin! It's the correct decision; Berbatov turned in the rebound after Ruiz's free kick was saved but the Bulgarian was in an offside position.
Jack Wilshere's first real involvement in the game as he tries to dictate the match from midfield. Not quite acclimatised to the pace of the game yet, though.
Jack Wilshere and Lukas Podolski are ready to be introduction into the action as England manager Roy Hodgson watches on from the stands.
SAVED! Manolev is fed through on the right flank but he mishits his cross but it makes life awkward for Szczesny who has to back-pedal before tipping it over the bar.
Meanwhile, the official statistics say Arsenal are now enjoying 80% of the ball.
CHANCE! It's a sloppy ball from Cazorla when he had the chance to slip in an unmarked Theo Walcott. Uncharacteristically poor from the Spaniard, that.
No impetus in this Arsenal performance now, it seems they might be happy with a one-goal lead. Bacary Sagna gets to the byline and provides a cross but Giroud is the only man in the box and is easily crowded out by Hangeland and Hughes.
Arteta can count himself lucky after he brings down Kacaniklic, the Fulham winger showed great pace and was away from the Spaniard but referee Andre Marinner doesn't award the free kick to Jol's side.
Another lull in the game as Arsenal dominate possession but can't find a penetrative pass to cut the hosts' defence open.
CHANCE! A bit of pinball action in the penalty area and the ball almost falls to Manolev! Per Mertesacker is alert to the danger though and manages to hoof the ball clear. Nervy moment for the visitors.
Just a reminder that Fulham have been playing with 10 men since the 12th minute after Sidwell saw red for a dangerous tackle. Arsenal lead but the Cottagers are still in the contest.
Bryan Ruiz takes it and it's not even close. Not the Costa Rican's best game so far, he isn't in great form either, no goals in the last 15 games from the Fulham man.
Yellow Card Mikel Amatrian Arteta
Arteta is furious as Emmanuelson looks like he may have conned the referee into earning a free kick. The ball is placed on the right of the goal just outside the area.
Tomas Rosicky has been fantastic so far for the Gunners. He picks up the ball in his own half before spinning and driving into the Fulham half. The move breaks down but Arsenal looked dangerous there.
Nacho Monreal finds himself in acres of space on the left flank and is picked out cleverly by Cazorla, the left-bacl's cross, though, is poor and easily cleared by Fulham's defence.
Brede Hangeland gets an early talking to after he puts a knee into the back of Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman looks like he is in a world of pain but tries to continue.
Fulham take the kick-off and we are underway for the second period!
While we are waiting for the second half to get underway, send you predictions in to me at @HushKerai, anyone correct ones will get a mention on the full-time whistle!
Tim Poole reflect on the first half at Craven Cottage: "So we're stopping for Oranges here at Craven Cottage as an entertaining first 45 comes to an end. Simply put: the Fulham fans are angry. And rightly so. Steve Sidwell was sent off early on and that set the tone for the rest of the half. But this Cottagers XI looks as though it could match Arsene Wenger's limp side - and whether it was a poor decision or Sidwell was just being stupid - they have deprived of a fair chance of proving that. Per Mertesacker popped up with the all-important goal for the Gunners at the end of the half and that was the final straw for the home fans. This is not over yet, though."
HALF-TIME: Fulham 0-1 Arsenal
45' + 1'
Two minutes to be added on at the end of the half.
Tim Poole reports on Fulham's reaction to that goal: "The woman behind me must be heartbroken. Just as she shouts 'come on Schwarzy!', Arsenal score with the Australian stopper comletely taken out of the equation. Theo Walcott's inswinging free kick was headed to the far post where two Gunners shirts at least were unmarked. Of the on-rushing gang, it was Per Mertesacker who reacted first and 1-0 it becomes. The home fans have responded by singing '1-0 to the referee'."
Assist Laurent Koscielny
Goal Per Mertesacker
GOAL! Per Mertesacker heads Arsenal into the lead! It's a soft, soft goal for Fulham to concede. Theo Walcott's free kick is headed back across the face of the goal by Koscielny, where the unmarked German waltzes in to head into an empty net.
Tim Poole reports from Craven Cottage: "Fulham are sticking it to the man here as Szczesny is forced into another near-post save. A corner follows, from which they come close again. Arsenal really are being made to look like a team bereft of optons here. They shouldn't be - but a lot of that is down to a great effort thus far from Martin Jol's men. They have visibly improved since Wednesday night."
Emmanuelson has also had a bright afternoon so far. He brings a fine save out of Szczesny with a low drive to the the Arsenal goalkeeper's right.
Ruiz again takes a sloppy touch allowing Arsenal to steal the ball but Theo Walcott's pass looking for Giroud in the box is careless and Martin Jol's side quickly win it back.
Meanwhile, the man on the opposing flank, Kacaniklic, is really impressing. He glides past Bacary Sagna with ease but Fulham's move breaks down after a slightly sloppy touch from Bryan Ruiz.
Manolev tries to take on Nacho Monreal down the right-hand side but the Spaniard stands strong to earn the Gunners a goal kick. Tasty little battle developing between the two here, one to keep an eye on.
OFF THE POST! Olivier Giroud almost finds the far corner of the net but sees his left-footed shot bounce of the upright. He did well to manufacture the space for a shot and had Schwarzer well beaten too. Closest either side has come to grabbing the lead.
Ruiz looks for Berbatov with a ball over the Arsenal defence but the Fulham forward is flagged offside. Tough call that, Berbatov not at all pleased with the decision.
Good defending from Keiran Richardson to halt Theo Walcott at full flow. Fulham have coped fairly well since being reduced to 10. If anything, the Cottagers have that the better of the chances since the red card.
CHANCE! Rosicky and Cazorla combine well in midfield but once they play it through to Giroud, he can't get a clean shot away under pressure. Schwarzer's clearance is poor but Ramsey can't find a team-mate quickly enough to take advantage.
Tim Poole, at Craven Cottage, eats his words from ealier: "Aaron Ramsey seems to be wanting to disprove me directly. After a brilliant start by the Welsh midfielder, Ramsey sent two wayward attempts at a pass and cross off for a goal kick. At the other end, Alexander Kacaniklic made a better fist of his ball in but an Arsenal defender made sure the danger was eventually cleared."
The Welshman is wasteful again after his first touch takes him into a wide position. He tries to find Giroud in the box with a little floated cross but he miscues and only sends it out for another goal kick.
Arsenal build play up slowly in the Fulham half but Aaron Ramsey hands back possession with an ambitious little clip which none of his team-mates read.
Kacaniklic shows why Martin Jol was keen to bring him back from his loan spell at Burnley. He drives forward down the left flank and earns the hosts a corner from nothing. The resulting set-piece is squandered though.
BIG CHANCE! Emmanuelson shows great pace to burst into the Arsenal half before slipping in Berbatov. The Bulgarian was running at pace and could only whack his shot directly at Szczesny, who did well to palm it away from the danger area.
Tim Poole reports from Craven Cottage: "At the risk of being absolutely berated, I am starting to mistake Aaron Ramsey for Jack Wilshere here. In the absence of the England midfielder, Welshman Ramsey is distributing the ball very neatly. So too are his partners in crime Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta. Still, against a 10-man Fulham side, Arsenal are yet to find a meaningful breakthrough."
Giroud looks to bend one into the bottom right corner but the ball takes a deflection off Hangeland on it's way out. The Frenchman appeals for a penalty but Andre Marriner is having none of it.
A rare forray forward from the Cottagers. Bryan Ruiz does his best to drive the hosts forward and wins a free kick inside the Arsenal half, but it's easily cleared by the Gunners defence.
Now Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey take a tumble as Fulham continue to approach things with plenty of physicality. Theo Walcott can only send his free kick into the arms of Schwarzer though. Fulham all over the place at the moment.
Red Card Steve Sidwell
Andre Marriner went straight to his pocket for the red card after Sidwell went over the ball and caught Mikel Arteta at the top of his ankle. He has only just come back from a 3-game suspension. Martin Jol is perplexed but Sidwell really should know better.
RED CARD! Steve Sidwell is off!
CHANCE! Theo Walcott whips in a free kick towards the back post where Laurent Koscielny is on hand to head at goal, but the Frenchman can only divert the ball out for a goal kick off his shoulder.
Blimey! When I said Arsenal have dominated the ball, I didn't realise just how much. Statistics show the Gunners have had a massive 91% of possession in the last 5 minutes!
Arsenal are dominating the ball at the moment. Wenger's men are zipping the ball about on an immaculate surface here at the Cottage. No real penetration from the hosts as of yet, though.
Walcott wins a free kick on the right-hand side which is taken by Santi Cazorla but Hangeland rises highest and clears the danger with a thumping header.
Looks like Tomas Rosicky is playing in behind Olivier Giroud once again, with Santi Cazorla shifting to a slightly wider position on the left. Theo Walcott has made a bright start on the right flank.
CHANCE! Early opportunity for Fulham to grab an early lead! Manolev makes a great run forward before finding Emmanuelson, he attempts a low cross into the box but Per Mertesacker manages to cut it out. Dimitar Berbatov not impressed with his team-mates there.
Arsenal take the kick-off and we are underway!
Tim Poole reports: "What a fantastic atmosphere here at Craven Cottage even before kick-off. How the hands of Fulham fans are not aching by now I do not know - they've been clapping incessantly for about five minutes. The players are due out any second, when the noise will only amplify."
Moments away from kick-off at a gloriously sunny Craven Cottage...
Goal.com's man at Craven Cottage today is Tim Poole: "Kudos to Mark Schwarzer, who is still going strong well past the age you would expect to suffer your first mid-life crisis. Today is his 500th Premier League apperance! That is an oustanding record from the Australian stopper and methinks that puts him ahead of Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka as Ozzie Land's best Premier League export. He might have to be at his best today, though!"
Fulham manager Martin Jol makes three changes to the team that drew 1-1 away to Aston Villa, with Steve Sidwell, Alex Kacaniklic, Kieran Richardson and Stanislav Manolev coming in for Giorgos Karagounis, Damien Duff and Sascha Riether.
Arsenal welcome Tomas Rosicky back into the starting lineup for their game away to Fulham, with Jack Wilshere on the bench. There are no other chances for the Gunners following their 0-0 draw at home to Everton on Tuesday, with Wojciech Szczesny retaining his place in goal after Lukasz Fabianski suffered a cracked rib.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky; Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud. Subs: Mannone, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho, Podolski.
Fulham: Schwarzer; Manolev, Senderos, Hangeland, Richardson; Enoh, Sidwell; Ruiz, Emanuelson, Kacaniklic; Berbatov. Subs: Etheridge, Riise, Hughes, Karagounis, Frei, Rodallega, Petric.
Good afternoon ladies and gents! Welcome to Goal.com's play-by-play coverage of Fulham v Arsenal from a Craven Cottage LIVE!
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