Bobby belter stuns 10-man Gunners

Zamora’s goal deep into stoppage time helped the Cottagers start

2012 in the best possible manner on a bitterly cold night in west

London. Arsenal had looked set to secure a fifth victory in six

away matches thanks to unlikely hero Laurent Koscielny’s first half

header. Defeat, though, would have been cruel on a Fulham after a

spirited performance and the game’s dimensions changed 12 minutes

from time when Johan Djourou was sent off for a second bookable

offence. Martin Jol’s side unleashed a barrage of attacks as they

searched for an equaliser, which came when Steve Sidwell nodded

home from close range in the 85th minute. The drama did not stop

there, though, as Fulham’s continued to exert pressure that

resulted in Zamora firing home in stoppage time. Heading into the

match Arsene Wenger resisted the temptation to rest in-form Robin

van Persie, although his hand was forced in terms of a defensive

alteration. Francis Coquelin was drafted in as makeshift left-back

due to the Gunners’ growing injury problems, with Thomas Vermaelen

the latest to pick up a knock on New Year’s Eve. Gervinho was the

north Londoners’ only other change, while counterpart Jol brought

in Zamora and Sidwell. The former returned after a spell out with

an Achilles injury and led an attack-minded Cottagers line-up,

although the home side spent most of the opening exchanges on the

back foot. Gervinho twice blazed over for the north Londoners and

Aaron Ramsey got away a shot on goal under pressure. Arsenal could

not match their bright start with midfield guile, though, and

Wojciech Szczesny was forced into action to stop Zamora taking

advantage in the 10th minute. The home side’s spirited opening was

almost undone three minutes later when former Gunners defender

Philippe Senderos upended Gervinho in the box. The Ivory Coast

international seemed to have his legs swiped away but referee Lee

Probert waved away the penalty appeals. The visiting support felt

aggrieved by the decision but were soon able to celebrate breaking

the deadlock. Ramsey found space to put in a cross from the left

that, having taken a kind deflection off Stephen Kelly, was headed

home by Koscielny from six yards. Arsenal thought they had doubled

their advantage almost immediately but were thwarted by some

world-class goalkeeping by David Stockdale. The England squad

member stopped a close-range Ramsey drive, a miscued Sidwell

clearance and then a Gervinho effort during a penalty box melee.

Stockdale was called into action once more when van Persie flicked

a shot on target, which came after Bryan Ruiz shot just wide at the

other end. The Costa Rica international was proving dangerous

against Arsenal’s makeshift left flank and thought he had won

Fulham a penalty after being fouled by Alex Song. Jol’s side looked

geed up as half-time approached and Zamora headed wide after some

combative play on the left, before Stockdale was called into action

to stop Ramsey. The Cottagers looked rejuvenated after the break

and Ruiz fired a snatched half-volley wide inside two minutes of

the restart, before Sidwell and Moussa Dembele came close. The

former then hit an audacious 30-yard drive as Fulham looked for an

equaliser, which almost came when Senderos headed a Danny Murphy

free-kick inches over. Jol’s side were looking dangerous in the air

and came closer still through Clint Dempsey, who met a floated Ruiz

ball with a darted header that just evaded the far post. The latter

was guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance in the 75th minute,

firing straight at Szczesny from 12 yards when unmarked. Fulham’s

hopes of finding a leveller were boosted three minutes later when

Djourou was sent off for a second bookable offence. Jol’s side

pushed forward in numbers and found a way past Arsenal’s backline

with five minutes remaining. Ruiz’s corner was headed back across

goal by Senderos after Szczesny parried and Sidwell headed home

from close range. Fulham continued to press forward and eked out a

winner deep into stoppage time, with Zamora volleying home from

close range.