Sunday 3 November 2002, 3:00pm at Loftus Road, London
Barclays Premier League
Fulham FC
Fulham
0
Arsenal
Arsenal
1
o.g. Marlet 31'
Steve Marlet's unfortunate own-goal in the first-half proved to be the decider against Arsenal.

49' Yellow Card

Martin Djetou Card was given for a foul

54' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Junichi Inamoto
Off:Steed Malbranque

54' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Barry Hayles
Off:Martin Djetou

31' Own-goal

Steve Marlet

35' Yellow Card

Pascal Cygan Card was given for a foul

67' Yellow Card

Edu Card was given for a foul

65' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Oleg Luzhny
Off:Lauren

72' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Kanu
Off:Dennis Bergkamp

83' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Kolo Touré
Off:Sylvain Wiltord

0
15
30
45
60
75
90
Arsene Wenger had insisted that all his side needed to dig themselves out of their depressing run of defeats was a little luck. He was right, except that the fortune came in spades on a bright autumn afternoon in west London.  

The most bizarre of own goals from Steve Marlet and a series of generous decisions by referee Jeff Winter which deprived Fulham of what appeared at least one certain penalty helped Arsenal to avoid their worst sequence of results for 25 years and stay in touch with Liverpool at the head of the Premiership.  It was hardly surprising that it wasn't vintage Arsenal.   

Their confidence had been significantly dented by four consecutive defeats in what was a distinctly Black October for the red half of London which made a mockery of Wenger's boast that his side could go through the entire season undefeated.  

Another loss here would have equalled the club's worst run for 25 years.  And for large parts of what was a tense and thrilling London derby Arsenal's victory looked anything but assured.  

Fulham these days, especially in the intimate surroundings of Loftus Road, are anything but a soft touch and their own confidence could not have been more buoyant following their 3-0 midweek away triumph in the UEFA Cup against Zagreb.  

But try as they might they could not quite find the cutting edge to capitalise on Arsenal's fragility which emanates mainly from uncharacteristic problems in defence where Sol Campbell and Pascal Cygan have not formed the rock-like foundation of past Arsenal partnerships.  

Arsenal, however, even amid their run of defeats, had been making chances and playing the flowing football which has become their hallmark under Wenger.  

They simply hadn't been hitting the back of the net with the same regularity of last season and even with Dennis Bergkamp starting his first match since his recent Achilles tendon problems the same flaws appeared to remain.  

As it was Fulham should have taken the lead in the first minute, Steed Malbranque floating over a pinpoint cross which eluded the Arsenal defence and fell invitingly onto the head of full-back Steve Finnan at the edge of thesix-yard box.  

It seemed the easiest of tasks for Finnan to direct his header past goalkeeper David Seaman but instead he proceeded to send it a couple of feet over the crossbar.  

Fulham perhaps should have realised it was not going to be their day from that moment.  

If not, then they certainly had reason to feel aggrieved in the ninth minute when they should have been awarded a penalty.  

Tidy work by former Arsenal striker Luis Boa Morte took him deep into the Arsenal area and, with a little chip over one defender and a headed nudge past another he seemed to have worked a shooting opportunity.  Just as he set himself, however, England central defender Campbell arrived like an England rugby flanker to barge him out of the way with a tackle which would have graced Twickenham.  

Inexplicably, referee Winter waved play on.  If that was fortunate then when Arsenal took the lead in the 31st minute it was in the most bizarre fashion.  

Thierry Henry failed to get any height on a corner from the left and it should have been cleared with ease by the Fulham defence.   

It was perhaps Henry's worst delivery from a set-piece this season, except that as it swept at ankle height into the Fulham six-yard box Marlet took a mighty swing at the ball and only succeeded in deflecting it cruelly past the stranded van der Sar.  

Golfers who have ever experienced an embarrassing shank on the first tee at the weekly medal will know exactly how Marlet must have been feeling.   

From such outrageous strokes of fortune are football matches won and lost and perhaps this was the one Arsenal needed to end their disastrous run.  

To be fair they had other chances, van der Sar being called upon to save with his legs from first Henry and then Ljungberg and Seaman barely had a save to make throughout the 90 minutes despite mounting Fulham pressure.  

Fulham, however, had legitimate appeals for another penalty in the 50th minute when Campbell again seemed to catch the foot of the elusive Boa Morte on the edge of the area.   

Referee Winter again waved away appeals.  

Despite a relentless Fulham onslaught which saw Japan's Junichi Inamoto thrusting forward and Sylvain Legwinski go close with a header there was a certain inevitability to Arsenal's victory.  

It left Wenger wearing a smile for the first time in almost a month though referee Winter was surrounded by protesting Fulham players at the end of the match and received a vitriolic reception from fans as he walked down the tunnel.  

Fulham rightly felt hard done by.   

But while it was not exactly normal service yet for the Gunners, too uncertain and lacking in rhythm, they are at least back to winning ways.  

For that Wenger was truly thankful.

Match Information

Competition: Barclays Premier League

Date: Sunday 3 November 2002
Kick-off: 3:00pm

Venue: Loftus Road, London
Attendance: 18,800

Referee: Jeff Winter

Fulham

Line-up: Van der Sar; Finnan, Goma, Melville, Brevett; Malbranque (Inamoto 54'), Legwinski, Djetou (Hayles 54'), Ouaddou; Boa Morte; Marlet

Unused substitutes: Taylor, Knight, Clark

Arsenal

Line-up: Seaman; Lauren (Luzhny 65'), Cygan, Campbell, Cole; Ljungberg, Gilberto Silva, Edu, Wiltord (Touré 83'); Henry, Bergkamp (Kanu 72')

Unused substitutes: Shaaban, Pires

As It Stood Table

Pos Club Pl Pts
1 Liverpool 12 30
2 Arsenal 12 26
3 Manchester United 12 22
4 Chelsea 12 20
5 Tottenham Hotspur 12 20
6 Everton 12 20
7 Blackburn Rovers 12 19
8 Middlesbrough 11 18
9 Newcastle United 10 16
10 Southampton 12 16
11 Fulham 12 15
12 Birmingham City 12 15
13 Leeds United 12 14
14 Manchester City 12 14
15 Aston Villa 12 12
16 Charlton Athletic 12 11
17 West Ham United 12 11
18 Sunderland 12 10
19 West Bromwich Albion 12 10
20 Bolton Wanderers 11 8
Fulham (4-4-1-1)
  • 1Edwin Van der Sar
  • 2Steve Finnan
  • 24Alain Goma
  • 4Andy Melville
  • 3Rufus Brevett
  • 14Steed Malbranque
  • 18Sylvain Legwinski
  • 17Martin Djetou
  • 25Abdeslam Ouaddou
  • 11Luis Boa Morte
  • 7Steve Marlet
Substitutes
  • 12Maik Taylor
  • 16Zat Knight
  • 6Junichi Inamoto
  • 8Lee Clark
  • 15Barry Hayles
Arsenal (4-4-2)
  • David Seaman
  • 4Lauren
  • 18Pascal Cygan
  • 5Sol Campbell
  • 3Ashley Cole
  • 8Fredrik Ljungberg
  • Gilberto Silva
  • Edu
  • Sylvain Wiltord
  • 14Thierry Henry
  • 10Dennis Bergkamp
Substitutes
  • Rami Shaaban
  • Oleg Luzhny
  • 5Kolo Touré
  • 7Robert Pires
  • 27Kanu