Fulham were defeated 2-1 by Arsenal at the Emirates on Saturday. Samir Nasri’s brace proved the difference between the two sides in a closely fought encounter.
After a quiet start to Saturday’s contest at the Emirates, Arsenal took an early lead through Samir Nasri, who opened the scoring with a majestic finish after 14 minutes. The Frenchman’s strike certainly caught the eye - beating two defenders in the area before lashing the ball past Mark Schwarzer. However it was Andrey Arshavin who was proving a thorn in Fulham’s side during the early stages.
The Russian international, finding space behind Fulham’s midfield early on with a succession of driving runs off the left flank, almost broke the deadlock after just three minutes with a fierce drive from close range. Thankfully for Fulham, Mark Schwarzer was in fine form on Saturday, pulling off a superb instinctive save at close range. Minutes later Arshavin teed up Chamakh in the area before eventually setting up Nasri to break the deadlock.
Fulham’s opportunities were few and far between as Arsenal attacked in waves, but two strikes by Gera and Davies caused Fabianski concern and gave Hughes’ side hope. Arsenal appeared to be taking a firm grip on proceedings but just after the half hour mark Diomansy Kamara sent Fulham’s travelling supporters wild with a fine finish to bring the game level.
The balance swung in Fulham’s favour following the first substitution of the game after 30 minutes. Mark Hughes replaced Matthew Briggs for Chris Baird. It was an unfortunate end to the afternoon for the England U21 international, who appeared to be carrying an injury as he left the filed of play.
Seconds after Baird’s introduction, Diomansy Kamara pulled Fulham level following an outstanding move by Clint Dempsey. First the American took control with a fine touch on the edge of Arsenal's area, before turning his marker and delivering an inch perfect through ball to Kamara. The striker was coolness personified in front of goal, beating Fabianski in a one-on-one with a precise right footed strike into the corner of the net.
Laurant Koscielny, hurt in the build up to Fulham’s equaliser, was replaced by Djourou. Kamara’s strike certainly affected the Gunners, with Fulham containing the home side up until the break whilst pressing forward on numerous occasions.
Right before half time both teams created opportunities to take the lead, with Fulham’s arguably the better chance. First Sagna burst down the right and delivered a fine cross to Chamakh in the area. Thankfully, his powerful headed effort flew straight into Schwarzer’s arms. Seconds later, Kamara was in another on-on-one with Fabianski, but on this occasion the keeper came out on top.
At times during the opening stages of Saturday’s contest, it seemed Arsenal would deliver a knock out blow in the first half, but to their credit, Fulham went into half-time by far the happier team after fighting their way back into the match.
Fulham started the second half in confident mood, camped in Arsenal’s half for the first ten minutes of play. But the home’s side ability to deliver something spectacular was evident after 55 minutes when a scintillating 25-yard volley from Rosicky flew just wide of Schwarzer’s far post.
As the hour mark approached Arsenal moved up a gear and attacked in waves. It was a sustained period of pressure on Fulham, with Arshavin going closest with a superb solo run in the area. Once again Schwarzer denied the Russian. However, Fulham kept their shape and looked to counter at every opportunity, using Kamara’s pace on the shoulder of the last defender to find some space down the channels.
Fulham’s best chance of the second half fell to Dickson Etuhu, who was left unmarked in the area to meet a Simon Davies corner. The Nigerian’s effort flew wide of goal, but once again, it was further evidence that Arsenal’s defence was penetrable, particularly from a set piece move.
Arsene Wenger made an attacking change with 27 minutes remaining, introducing Van Persie for Rosicky. The home side and their supporters were growing frustrated as the final stages of the contest approached, whilst Fulham’s influence appeared to be growing stronger.
Fulham’s reward for a fine second half showing was almost delivered by Zoltan Gera with 20 minutes left on the clock. Once again, Arsenal’s vulnerability from a corner was again in evidence, with Gera’s strike from Davies’ set-piece cleared off the line. Seconds later Gera attempted the spectacular, with an overhead kick from 18 yards which Fabianski was forced to save.
Fulham were dealt a heavy blow with 15 minutes remaining when Sami Nasri restored Arsenal’s lead with another fine solo effort. Nasri dribbled past two defenders in the area before rounding Schwarzer to finish from a tight angle.
Hughes’ side came right back at the Gunners, coming close on two occasions in the space of a minute, with Dickson Etuhu firing inches wide of the post from a Davies corner. It was agonising for Fulham’s watching fans, with the Whites deserving to be back on level terms. However, the rub of the green was certainly not falling in Fulham’s favour on Saturday.
As the final minutes of the match passed Fulham fought desperately for a way back into the tie and Arsenal had Fabianski to thank for the three points after the keeper saved to deny Zoltan Gera, whose 25 yard effort was heading for the corner of the net. With a minute remaining Hughes replaced Danny Murphy with striker Eddie Johnson but the Whites ran out of time.
Hughes and his Team will feel justifiably disappointed with Saturday’s result after arguably standing to-to-toe with the Gunners at the Emirates. In the end, Sami Nasri’s skill and invention proved the difference on the day, with a brace that handed Arsenal all three Barclays Premier League points.