Sunday, August 24, 2008

NIGHTMARE, BIZZARE....

FULHAM 1 - 0 ARSENAL

Brede Hangeland's first-half goal helped Fulham to overcome a flat Arsenal side and secure a 1-0 Premier League win at Craven Cottage.

Roy Hodgson's side controlled the game for long periods, and scored the decisive goal on 21 minutes when defender Hangeland was allowed to finish from close range.

Fulham have added steel over the summer, and look a tougher prospect than last season after making their visitors look far from title contenders.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has often voiced his worries about the match immediately following an international break, but midweek exertions could not be blamed for this failure.

The Gunners looked clueless in midfield without the injured Cesc Fabregas, while Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie struggled to gel up front.

New signing Samir Nasri showed signs of life, as did Theo Walcott - playing on the right flank - but the central pair of Denilson and Emmanuel Eboue disappointed.

Arsenal's back-line cannot blame injury or inexperience for their defending of Hangeland's goal.

Jimmy Bullard swung in a corner from the left, seemingly too close to Manuel Almunia's goal.

But neither Almunia nor William Gallas moved to intercept the ball, and the giant Norwegian stuck out a long leg to prod the ball in from a couple of yards.

The goal came between Arsenal's best - perhaps their only - opportunities of the first half.

Van Persie volleyed just wide from a Nasri pull-back on 19 minutes then, two minutes after the goal, Adebayor leapt majestically and headed onto the post from Bacary Sagna's cross.

Having survived those scares, Fulham began to exert a measure of control over the game - so much so that the crowd greeted each pass with a gleeful 'olé' during one lengthy spell of possession.

Fulham might have extended their lead in the early stages of the second half. Bobby Zamora turned a high-speed Seol Ki-Hyeon cross goalwards from 10 yards but sent the ball over on 59 minutes.

Then Seol found Zamora, who declined to shoot and teed up Simon Davies instead, but the Welshman's shot flew high and wide.

Van Persie supplied a reminder of his quality with a powerful low shot that flashed just wide from the edge of the box, but his set-piece delivery was generally poor.

Four times the Dutchman wasted free-kicks in shooting range, while Adebayor found himself so devoid of ideas by the end he resorted to diving blatantly in search of a penalty.

Last season Fulham repeatedly threw away good positions late in games - costing them 13 points - while Arsenal sometimes seemed to score as many goals in the last 10 minutes as in the other 80 combined.

But, for all the understandable nerves from the home fans, Fulham's lead never looked in serious danger.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Kallio (Baird, 73), Davies, Bullard, Murph (Teymourian, 82), Gera, Zamora, Ki-Hyeon (Dempsey, 77).

Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure (Song, 77), Gallas, Clichy, Walcott (Bendtner, 65), Eboue, Denilson, Nasri, Adebayor, Van Persie.

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