By Richard Clarke
For those Arsenal fans who were getting used to a scoreline of 2-1 to the opposition, normal service has been resumed.
"1-0 to the Arsenal" is a result so synonymous with our club that the fans made it into a song. This particular 1-0 came courtesy of an own goal by Fulham striker Steve Marlet. However, after four successive 2-1 defeats, the visiting fans had a desire for victory and little interest how it may originate.
In fact, the game was evenly-poised when we were gifted the winner in the 31st minute. Thierry Henry sent over a low corner from the left and Marlet, his strike partner for the French national team, was stationed at the near post and in attempting to clear he sliced the ball into his own net.
The three points close the gap between us and leaders Liverpool. Both teams have played 12 games but they have 30 points to our 26.
Before kick-off, Arsène Wenger recalled Dennis Bergkamp after his Achilles injury for his first start since the trip to PSV Eindhoven on September 25. Patrick Vieira sat out the final match of his two-game suspension so Edu slotted in alongside Gilberto to form an all-Brazilian central midfield partnership.
On Wednesday in Dortmund, we could have been behind after less than 90 seconds when Borussia's Lars Ricken burst through and hit the post. A similarly short period had elapsed today when Steed Mabranque sent a deep, drifting cross over Ashley Cole to the far post only for Steve Finnan to nod over from six yards out. A poor miss.
Our first glimpse of an opening came six minutes later when Sylvain Wiltord fed Ljungberg on the edge of the area. The Swede turned his defender with aplomb but his rising shot flew over the bar.
At this point, the home side were in control. They had a legitimate shout for a penalty after 10 minutes when former Gunner Luis Boa Morte flicked the ball over Pascal Cygan inside the area only for Sol Campbell to bundle him over. However, referee Jeff Winter waved play on.
The game was opening up. Just before the quarter-hour David Seaman collected Marlet's close-range header and bowled the ball immediately to the galloping Bergkamp. He weighted his pass perfect for Henry, who cut into the area, but his shot ricocheted off the knees of Edwin van der Sar.
Still Fulham had the upper hand, and Seaman touched over a whipped-in free-kick from Steed Legwinski. Then Campbell blocked Marlet's shot and the ball ran into the centre of our penalty area where Cole smothered Malbranque's attempted drive.
But yet again we broke with dangerous intent. One such foray in the 21st minute saw the increasingly influential Bergkamp feed Ljungberg on the right of the penalty area. Yet again Fulham were grateful for Van der Sar's gymnastics as our Swedish midfielder attempted to turn the ball home from an acute angle.
By now we had grabbed a foothold in the game. Wiltord waited for Henry arrive on the edge of the area before laying the ball back from the byline in inviting fashion. However, Henry could not control his shot and the ball whistled wide.
And then came Marlet's mistake. Sure, it was a poor corner and maybe we were fortunate to lead this game at this time. But, by the same token, we had not deserved to be going into this game on a run of four successive 2-1 defeats. The old footballing adage says that luck evens itself out and we were due a little.
Only Van der Sar prevented us doubling our lead seven minutes before break. The determined Wiltord flicked the ball over the Fulham defence for the onruishing Ljungberg, who sped to the six-yard box. However, Van der Sar once again blocked with his body.
Nine minutes into the second half, Fulham were showing no signs of a revival so coach Jean Tigana brought on Barry Hayles and, another former Gunner, Junichi Inamoto
One of the Japanese midfielder's first contributions was to swing in a dangerous free-kick from the left and Seaman parried the ball behind under pressure from Marlet.
Again Fulham had a territorial advantage but we were the more dangerous on the break. Only the heels of Rufus Brevett prevented Henry sending Wiltord clear into acres of space. The same defender intercepted Cole's cross when it was about to reach substitute Kanu six yards out.
But Sylvain Legwinski showed Fulham were still in the game. Fulham's French midfielder rose highest to meet Inamoto's corner. Seaman acrobatically tipped the ball over.
As time ticked away, Fulham threw crosses into the box. Cygan, Campbell and Oleg Luzhny were all tested while Legwinski thumped a shot into the midriff of Seaman.
But the grit was back, the determination was back and the resilience was back as we held on to our most famous scoreline. Even Henry's last-minute cross-shot could not change that.
Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source
26 May 2004
Wiltord starts another attackGilberto and Inamoto clashMarlet attempts to clear Henry's corner...but the ball ends up in the netHenry looks bemused as we go 1-0 upThe players celebrate our winnerGilberto strides past LegwinskiVan der Saar saves from LjungbergBUY THIS PICTUREBUY THIS PICTUREBUY THIS PICTUREBUY THIS PICTURE