The giant Dutch goalkeeper - at 6ft 5in the tallest in the Premiership - proved too big an obstacle for the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp andFreddie Ljungberg as he denied them all with a string of important saves. Arsene Wenger's team put five goals past mighty Inter Milan in the Champions League in midweek and should have at least equalled that tally against ChrisColeman's men, but they could find no way past Van der Sar.
The Arsenal onslaught began in the sixth minute when Bergkamp - leading the team from the start for the second time - fed Henry who won a corner on theleft. Henry sent in the cross, Pascal Cygan flicked it on at the near post and the ball came off the boot of Kolo Toure but flew just over the bar.
Space was tight as Fulham packed five in midfield and after 12 minutes lone striker Louis Saha lost possession to Ljungberg, who tried to place a shot from25 yards and Van der Sar made a simple save, diving low to his left. Bergkamp's brilliance almost brought the first goal in the 16th minute as he picked out Ljungberg's run with a 40-yard pass into the Fulham box.
The Swedetried to lift the ball over the goalkeeper, but Van der Sar managed to deflectit to safety with an outstretched arm. Ashley Cole should have gone for goal from 12 yards after 23 minutes but instead he tried to square the ball to Henry and Fulham scrambled it clear. Pires wasted a great chance four minutes later after Sol Campbell's long ball found Henry and he teed-up his fellow Frenchman to shoot wide from only eightyards. Pires made amends with some magical skill in the 30th minute as he ghosted past two defenders to return the compliment for Henry. The striker, nominated as World Player of the Year this week, picked his spot with a good side-foot, but Van der Sar was equal to it as he dived to his rightto beat away the ball. Arsenal maintained the pressure and after 32 minutes Van der Sar was called upon again to save his team, this time diving to his left to keep out Bergkamp's20-yard effort.
It was a bit of a one-man show as a minute later Van der Sar produced a similar stop to deny Henry. Van der Sar's first blip came two minutes before the break as he spilled Ljungberg's 20-yard drive, but he was spared any embarrassment as the ball spunthe wrong side of the post from Arsenal's point of view. Arsenal picked up where they left off from the restart as Pires fed Henry and his low cross from the left was just too far for Gilberto to reach as he racedin. Then, 90 seconds into the second half, Bergkamp had a shooting chance from inside the box and Van der Sar made another vital save. Arsenal went close yet again after 61 minutes when Cole's long ball out of defence picked out Bergkamp on the right edge of the box. The skipper brought it under control then drilled a low shot which Van der Sar saved with his legs. The loose ball fell to Ljungberg, but his effort lacked the sting to beat the goalkeeper who saved again. Arsenal were caught napping after 66 minutes and were lucky to escape as Davis crossed from the right and Malbranque sent a free header wide of the near post. Fulham did not start the afternoon in fifth place for no reason and having won impressively at Old Trafford already this season they added a valuable pointfrom Highbury to their tally.