Gunners rally to make point

Vermaelen’s own goal gifted the visitors, who had not won at

Arsenal in 25 attempts, the lead on 65 minutes. The Belgian

redeemed himself when nodding in from close range with seven

minutes left, but the Gunners could not conjure up a winner. The

hosts had dedicated the game to the Save the Children charity, but

there was no sense of generosity as Arsene Wenger’s men went in

search of a sixth straight league win to continue their resurgence.

Andrey Arshavin – one of two changes from the midweek Champions

League win over Borussia Dortmund – latched onto a pass from Robin

van Persie to slot home, only to see the early celebrations cut

short by an offside flag. Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer then

palmed away a close-range effort from Aaron Ramsey after another

sweeping Arsenal attack. Fulham did pose some threat on the

counter, but Arsenal were soon back on the offensive as Theo

Walcott scampered away down the left before seeing his shot blocked

by a wall of white shirts on the edge of the Fulham box. On 20

minutes, Bobby Zamora turned Vermaelen just outside the area and

drove an angled shot over the crossbar. Walcott then skipped away

again, leaving John Arne Riise trailing in his wake before pulling

the ball back to the penalty spot where Ramsey crashed it high into

the Clock End. England winger Walcott was Arsenal’s main outlet,

this time shooting from the angle with Schwarzer saving at his near

post. Another determined run from Walcott forced a corner before

his chip to the far post was nodded back by van Persie and Arshavin

was stretching as he hooked the loose ball wide. Despite all their

possession, Arsenal were unable to break down a solid rearguard

from the visitors, and Gunners goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny had to

beat away a fierce drive from Mousa Dembele. Ramsey was close to

connecting with Walcott’s cross from the right as again Arsenal

threatened with half-time looming. Fulham midfielder Dickson Etuhu

was then shown a yellow card for clattering Mikel Arteta and Per

Mertesacker’s backward header from the free-kick flew just wide. At

the start of the second half Walcott continued to stretch the

Fulham defence, as his low cross caused momentary confusion between

former Gunner Philippe Senderos and Schwarzer before the loose ball

was eventually hacked clear. Arsenal captain van Persie had been in

brilliant goalscoring form, but after battling to create space in

the box and slot past Schwarzer he saw his effort hacked off the

line by Chris Baird. Fulham continued to defend resolutely and

snatched the lead on 65 minutes through an unfortunate own goal

from Vermaelen. Arteta thought he had been fouled, but play

continued and Danny Murphy chipped the ball into the box. Riise

collected the pass on his chest, but the ball then bounced on the

penalty spot before being scuffed back past Szczesny into the far

corner by the retreating Vermaelen. Zamora then quickly fired home

again, only to be flagged marginally offside. Arsenal had to step

things up and were denied an equaliser when Schwarzer – once a

target for the Gunners – clawed away a goalbound header from Johan

Djourou after a corner. The home side continued to press and were

finally level when Vermaelen redeemed himself with a close-range

downwards header on 83 minutes after Walcott’s cross from the

right. Both Gervinho and then Walcott should have produced better

finishes when weaving into the box instead of shooting tamely at

the keeper. Van Persie hit the sidenetting when through down the

right, and despite all of their late pressure, the Gunners had to

make do with just a point.