Mikel Arteta missed the chance to deliver Arsenal an all-important three points as he saw his penalty saved with the last kick of a dramatic 3-3 draw with Fulham at the Emirates.
The Gunners looked to be on their way to halting a run of poor form as Giroud and Lukas Podolski gave the home side the advantage. But Arsenal would surrender a tw0-goal lead for the second game in succession before the break as Fulham responded with goals from Dimitar Berbatov and Sascha Kacaniklic before Berbatov put his side ahead from the penalty spot after the break. Giroud soon brought his side level but Arteta’s failure from the spot means the performance is likely to do little to alleviate the malaise currently surrounding the Emirates.
While Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger had called for his side to inspire the club’s supporters with a more urgent performance, the match began at a slow temp in keeping with the Gunners’ recent outings.
Yet with their first real attack, Arsenal grabbed the lead. Theo Walcott swung in a corner from the right and Giroud was allowed a free run to the near post to meet the ball and head powerfully past Mark Schwarzer for his first Premier League goal at the Emirates.
With their next effort on target, Arsenal made it 2-0 in the 23rd minute as the home side took full advantage of Fulham temporarily being down to 10 men after Kieran Richardson was forced off with a hamstring injury. As with the opening goal, Fulham’s defense was left wanting as Arteta broke into the box down the right and pulled the ball back to the edge of the six yard box where Podolski was left unchecked to prod the ball home with the outside of his left foot.
While Arsenal had scored with both their shots on target at that stage, incredibly Fulham responded, just six minutes later, with a goal back with their first effort on Vito Mannone’s goal. This time it was Arsenal’s turn to go missing from a corner as Bryan Ruiz’s delivery from the right was met by Berbatov’s firm header from five yards out.
Five minutes before the break, Martin Jol’s side had pulled level. Sascha Riether’s simple ball down the right allowed Berbatov to get in behind and the former Manchester United forward delivered a chipped pull back to substitute Kacaniklic whose downward header just beat the desperate dive of Mannone.
Things may have gotten even better for the Cottagers deep into first-half injury time as Ashkan Dejagah’s flick from a John Arne Riise cross just went wide of the post.
Midway through the second-half Fulham did take the lead. Arteta was guilty of dallying on the ball on the edge of his own box and Ruiz stepped in to rob the Spaniard, who trying to make amends bundled the Fulham forward to ground from behind. Berbatov stepped up and with the utmost confidence stroked the ball low into the corner past the unmoved Mannone.
But Arsenal would produce an almost immediate response in keeping with the rollercoaster nature of the match. Giroud looked to have missed the chance to bring his side level as he struck a post when one-on-one with Schwarzer, but from the rebound Walcott crossed back into the Frenchman who headed home for his second of the afternoon.
Deep into added on time, substitute Andrei Arshavin saw his cross blocked by the arm of Riether, but with the German defender barely two yards away when the ball was struck, the referee’s decision to award a penalty was hard on the visitors.
Fulham were certainly view that justice was done as Schwarzer produced a fine save diving low to his left to end an unpredictable encounter.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.