Finnan's frustration

Monday 4 November 2002

But for some outrageous refereeing and some outrageous misfortune, Fulham could well have picked up three historic points against Arsenal on Sunday.

Carrying on where they left off against Dinamo Zagreb, the Whites looked tight, compact and dangerous, making the Gunners look very ordinary indeed for long periods of the game.

The players looked shell-shocked as they came out after the match, hardly believing that they were leaving Loftus Road empty handed.

Steve Finnan, who missed a very good chance to put Fulham ahead in the opening minute of the game, struggled to put into words the frustration he was feeling.

"You'll look at the result in the paper tomorrow and you'll see we've been beaten," he said, "But that doesn't really tell the story of the game. We were as desperate for the points as they were, and it's hard to accept that we've come out of the game with nothing. I suppose if you try and look at it positively and compare it to the games where we were well-beaten last season, then I think we've moved on, and performance-wise we did ourselves justice.

"Everyone's played well, we've had our chances but we've given away a sloppy goal and I don't think the Ref's helped us; someone said there were clear penalties against Boa Morte. But all round I would say it was a decent performance.

"After the European game on Thursday that's two good displays we've put on; we're not happy about coming away without the points, but the way we played will give us confidence going into the next game."

It was the cruellest of goals that gave Arsenal the points, Steve Marlet knowing very little about the screamer that that he sent into the back of the net. Finnan, who was standing at the near-post had as good a view of the incident as anyone, but admitted that there was nothing that anyone could do about it.

"It was a poor corner by Henry in the first place," he said, "A miskick. And then obviously it's come off Steve, and unfortunately it's gone past Edwin and myself before we've seen it; we were gutted to go behind like that.

"They had a few chances and Edwin made some good saves in all fairness, but to go in at the break a goal behind did deflate us a bit, although we came out in the second half and I thought we put them under a lot of pressure."

Television replays confirmed that the two incidents involving Luis Boa Morte and Sol Campbell were clear-cut penalties, with a red-card for Campbell an absolute certainty for the first. Referee Winter had an extraordinarily good view of both fouls, and how he decided that play should be waved on is something that only he and his conscience will know.

There were other incidents that further bewildered the Fulham faithful: Oleg Luzhny handled the ball in the area in a carbon-copy of the incident in which Alain Goma was penalised against Southampton last week; Pascal Cygan should have walked for his cynical last-man foul just outside the area in the first half; and Edu, who pretty much fouled his way through the game, after receiving a booking in the first half, should have been sent off for a scything challenge in the second. Where was Mr Gonzalez when we needed him!

These sorts of moans and groans are the privilege of the fans of course. As Finnan quite rightly says, the players have to accept it when things go against them; all they can do is to work hard to put things right themselves.

"There were a couple of occasions when it looked like we should have had a penalty," he said, "But at the end of the day you just have to get on with it.

"If you look at the performance compared to last year, then I suppose you can say that we've progressed, but you can carry on saying that for ever, and until we get the points you can't really say that. Sometimes it's not about the performance - it's about winning, no matter how you do it.

"Arsenal have come here after losing four on the bounce, and they haven't played well and they've won. Really all you can say is that we haven't been well and truly beaten, but we need to do what Arsenal did to us.

"The Villa game on Saturday is a huge one for us now - they're going to need the points as well because they're not doing brilliantly. But we've got to stop the rot now; we don't want to get into the same sort of position that we did last year. This bad run has come a lot earlier than the one we had last season, so we need to make sure we don't slip down the league and find ourselves in a battle after Christmas.

"It's down to hard work now, and attitude. But if we carry on as we did today, then we can turn things round, there's no doubt about it."

To finish, I notice today that Sol Campbell was announced as the 7th richest man in football, having earned £5.5m last year. I'm not sure where that puts Alain Goma, who was a rock once again on Sunday, or Boa Morte who ran Campbell ragged, but with Campbell's luck he sure doesn't need all that money!