Post-Match Report

Premier League: Fulham 2-1 Arsenal - Report

11/12: Fulham 2-1 Arsenal - Laurent Koscielny

Fulham -

Craven Cottage
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By Chris Harris at Craven Cottage

Bobby Zamora grabbed a stoppage-time winner as Arsenal began 2012 with a London derby defeat.

Laurent Koscielny appeared to have earned all three points for the visitors when he scored his first goal of the season with a close-range header in the first half.

Arsenal were well in charge at that point but they were denied a penalty when Philippe Senderos tripped Gervinho and then lost Johan Djourou to a red card 13 minutes from time.

That tipped the scales in Fulham's favour and Steve Sidwell - a former Gunner no less - soared to nod in the equaliser six minutes from time. Then Zamora struck the killer blow with seconds remaining.

Arsenal deserved some reward for a commanding first-half display but the exertions of four games in 12 days appeared to take their toll after the break at Craven Cottage.

But on the face of it, seven points from four festive fixtures is not a terrible return - especially when you consider how some of Arsenal's top-four rivals have struggled in recent days.

The New Year will surely get better.

A second London derby in a little over 48 hours made the pre-match 'guess the team' exercise tougher than usual. Rotation was expected but, in the event, Wenger opted to make just two changes from the side that lined up against Queens Park Rangers.

One of those was enforced - Francis Coquelin stepping in for the injured Thomas Vermaelen in that troublesome left-back spot. One was not - Gervinho replacing Andrey Arshavin. Robin van Persie started his fourth game in 12 days. But any prospect of Thierry Henry making an appearance was snuffed out with his loan deal still awaiting completion.

It was just over five weeks since Fulham had left Emirates Stadium with a deserved point. You never quite know what you'll get with Martin Jol's team at Craven Cottage - they held Manchester City but shipped five to Manchester United - but few teams have stifled Arsenal as well as they did in November.

It was a different story here - at least in the first half.

Arsenal flew out of the traps and had carved out two half-chances inside three minutes with Gervinho firing over and Ramsey testing David Stockdale with a toe-poke. Gervinho had another sight of goal in the ninth minute, peeling away to the back post as Van Persie curled in a corner before meeting the ball with a wayward volley. And the Ivorian reminded us of the void he will leave when he departs for the Africa Cup of Nations with a dazzling run that was ended illegally by former Gunner Senderos. Not that the referee noticed.

It wasn't all one-way traffic. Brede Hangeland should have done better with a towering header from Danny Murphy's free kick and Fulham did their best to capitalise on Coquelin's callowness at left-back with Bryan Ruiz prominent. But it was hardly a major surprise that the first goal went Arsenal's way.

The identity of the scorer was more of a shock. Aaron Ramsey, having a barnstorming game in midfield, sent in a dinked cross that flicked off a defender and picked out Koscielny - of all people - six yards from goal. Unmarked, the Frenchman gleefully guided his header beyond Stockdale.

Two minutes later, it should have been two.

Once again Ramsey was involved, meeting a low cross from Theo Walcott with an equally low drive. Stockdale parried and then produced an even better save to deny Sidwell as his team-mate's attempt at a clearance so nearly ended with an own goal. Stockdale tipped the ball onto his post and the danger was eventually cleared.

Ruiz slammed a shot two yards wide on a rare Fulham foray but the visitors continued to make most of the running. Coquelin got past his man on the left and drove in a cross that Van Persie instinctively diverted goalwards. Stockdale was once again equal to it.

You had to admire Arsenal's tempo given their exertions two days earlier, while Fulham seemed to be feeling the effects of their own New Year's Eve encounter. But perhaps the hosts were just pacing themselves, because they came on strong in the second half.

There was no discernible change of tactics from Fulham but Arsenal's physical level dropped markedly and suddenly there was a storm to weather.

Ruiz, very much the dangerman, forced a save from Wojciech Szczesny with a volley in the opening seconds of the half and Coquelin came to Arsenal's rescue with a brave challenge to stop Sidwell getting his header on target.

These were worrying times for the visitors. Sidwell fired a shot inches over on the hour mark, Ruiz forced a point-blank save from Szczesny and Senderos powered a header just wide from another Murphy free kick.

That was awarded for a foul from Djourou and the Swiss defender was dismissed with 13 minutes left for another bookable offence - this time an apparent push on Zamora.

By now Wenger had freshened up his midfield with Tomas Rosicky and he shored up his defence with Sebastien Squillaci after Djourou's dismissal. The ten men would face a siege in the final ten minutes.

They would not hold out.

Six minutes remained when Ruiz's corner was parried away by Szczesny and headed back across goal by Senderos for Sidwell to apply the finishing touch.

And only seconds were left on the clock when Zamora volleyed into the bottom corner to send Arsenal home with nothing.

Referee: Lee Probert
Attendance: 25700

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