News24

Arsenal snatch late draw

2011-05-22 20:58

London - Arsenal were forced to settle for fourth place in the Premier League even though Theo Walcott's last minute equaliser rescued a 2-2 draw against 10-man Fulham on Sunday.

Arsene Wenger's side were attempting to overhaul third placed Manchester City in the race to qualify automatically for the Champions League group stages.

City's 2-0 victory at Bolton meant Arsenal's efforts were always going to be academic, but the Gunners were unable to finish a frustrating season on a high note.

Arsenal's season has tailed off dramatically since the League Cup final defeat to Birmingham and they now face a potentially tough qualifier at the start of next season to reach the Champions League group stages.

They twice fell behind at Craven Cottage, first to Steve Sidwell's 26th minute opener and then Bobby Zamora's 57th minute header.

Robin van Persie struck the first equaliser before Fulham's Zoltan Gera was sent off for a two-footed tackle on Thomas Vermaelen.

Theo Walcott hit Arsenal's 89th minute leveller but Fulham finished in eighth spot and could qualify for the Europa League through the Fair Play table.

Wenger had conceded beforehand some of his players were running on empty after a draining campaign that ultimately left the club empty-handed for a sixth successive season.

The closing weeks of the season have been far kinder to Fulham manager Mark Hughes, who oversaw a transformation in his side's fortunes since the turn of the year.

The prospect of matching the club's best ever finish was clearly a powerful incentive for the home side who certainly didn’t approach the game with one eye already on the beach.

Chances were few during the opening 25 minutes however, with Arsenal left back Kieran Gibbs producing the only notable effort with a powerful downward header that forced a sharp reaction save from Mark Schwarzer.

Fulham had been less incisive in their attacking moves but broke the deadlock in the 26th minute when Zamora broke free on the right and pulled the ball back for Sidwell, who struck his second goal in three games from close range.

Arsenal responded immediately thanks to a move crafted by Abou Diaby who burst from midfield, exchanged passes with Marouane Chamakh before picking out Van Persie.

The Holland striker broke into the Fulham area and finished left footed to level.

The game opened up after the break with Fulham forwards Zamora and Andy Johnson unsettling the visitors defence.

It was the home side, though, who found their way ahead, taking the lead for a second time through Zamora.

Clint Dempsey found Jonathan Greening on the left hand flank and the midfielder rounded Arsenal right back Bacary Sagna before crossing towards the near post where Zamora headed home for his seventh goal of an injury-affected season.

Wenger responded by making a triple substitution in the 64th minute, introducing Walcott, Andrey Arshavin and Emmanuel Eboue.

They finally worked their way back level with a fine solo effort from Walcott in the 89th minute as the England winger cut in from the right flank and drilled home a fine low strike.

SAPA

Comments
  • A(N)ON - 2011-05-23 09:21

    From chasing the EPL title to ending up in 4th place - surely this must read as a disappointing season for the Gunners - teams with better performances this season have taken out the knifes when it comes to their management. Arsene manages to mask his poor performance by seeking solace in the fact that his team were the only ones that beat the 2 Champions League finalists this season.

      Kubes - 2011-05-23 11:19

      Good Comment. I am a DIE HARD supporter and must say the most disappointing season in my 25yrs supporting them. Wenger has to go, his masters in Economics and not his footballing mentality run this club. He cares about bttom line profit and not trophies. No doubt , the BEST MENTOR the game of football has ever seen(WEAH;OVERMARS;PETIT;HENRY;VEIRA), but he is not a good manager and time for change at the club. he has done well and made some of the best players of the game but I foresee a situation like Liverpool. 4th this season, next season, with the re-surgence of Liverpool, Arsenal may slip out of champs league qualification.

      Banned - 2011-05-23 13:09

      Kubes, you so right, Arsenal has become a training academy. The managers goal is only to qualify for champs and has no ambitions to take the premier league, thats exactly what the team gave him

      Albo - 2011-05-23 16:53

      @Kubes - so true!! Even your pal Gunner seems like he`s finally given up!!

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