Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fulham vs. Arsenal: Match Review

Arsenal returned to their winning ways today after an impressive 3-0 victory over London rivals Fulham. The victory completed the double over their London rivals, and kept up pressure on league leaders Manchester United, who sit above Arsenal on goal differential after defeating Reading 2-0 at the Madejski.

Two first half goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and a late goal from Tomas Rosicky ensured that Arsenal would celebrate a victory on the short ride back from Craven Cottage. The Gunners dominated possession and shots with a far better performance than last week's home draw with Birmingham.

Fulham: Antti Niemi; Carlos Bocanegra, Aaron Hughes, Moritz Volz, Dejan Stefanovic; Seol Ki-Hyeon, Simon Davies, Steven Davis, Danny Murphy, Alexi Smertin; Clint Dempsey

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Philippe Senderos, Gael Clichy; Tomas Rosicky, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Hleb; Eduardo, Emmanuel Adebayor

Fulham started the brighter of the two sides, with Korean international Seol Ki-Hyeon getting inside of Gael Clichy within five minutes. The move ended in a shot from Danny Murphy, who was unable to steer the ball on target.

The home fans were delighted by their team's effort, and it took quite a while for Arsenal to take a hold on the game.

As Arsenal began to find their form, Cesc Fabregas dragged two shots off target to warn Fulham of the Gunners' intent. It wasn't long before Arsenal grabbed the lead when Emmanuel Adebayor rose to meet Gael Clichy's cross in the penalty box. The Togolese striker's 19th-minute header caught Antti Niemi wrong-footed and the Finland keeper could only watch as Arsenal went a goal ahead.

Danny Murphy took a hopeful shot off target only a minute later, but it was Adebayor who would score once again to bring his season Premier League tally to 15, only two behind Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo's record. Mathieu Flamini had won the ball just outside of the Fulham box, and Alex Hleb did some good work to put in a well-weighted cross which was once again met by the tall African striker. The 38th minute strike all but ended the game, but Arsenal continued to press in an attempt to rescue some credibility after last weekend's disappointing result.

Fulham's best chance of the match came just four minutes later, as Murphy sidefooted over the bar after arriving in time to meet Steven Davis' low cross.

Arsenal started the second half in style when Eduardo, a player sometimes criticized for being unable to create his own chances, created a brilliant chance for Tomas Rosicky after weaving through three Fulham players to reach the penalty box. The Czech Republic international was unlucky to see his shot come back off of the near post.

Their was a moment of worry for the Gunners when Philippe Senderos, one of only two fit central defenders with William Gallas, required medical attention after getting a bloody nose from the misplaced elbow of Clint Dempsey. To the relief of Arsenal fans, the Swiss international was able to carry on, and put in another solid display in the center of defense.

Dempsey then hit the back of the net for Fulham, but his goal was disallowed as he was one of three Fulham players caught offside as Bacary Sagna managed to run forwards just in time to catch the Fulham players in the offside trap.

Niemi was the next player to require treatment, but the Fulham keeper managed to carry on after being caught in the face by the trailing boot of Emmanuel Adebayor.

Arsenal nearly grabbed a third in the 78th after a brilliant interplay between Hleb, Rosicky, and Fabregas, but the Spaniard uncharacteristically shot wide.

The Gunners would not be held back though, and Tomas Rosicky grabbed his 6th of the season in the 81st minute to take the game beyond any doubt. Eduardo broke down the left wing and got to the goal line just in time to pull the ball back near the six-yard-box. Rosicky made no mistake this time, sliding in just quickly enough to get a toe onto the ball for Arsenal's third goal of the match.

The win should instill the Arsenal squad with confidence ahead of next week's Carling Cup semifinal clash with Tottenham. The victory was well-deserved, and proved that Arsenal are still capable of overtaking Manchester United.