Arsenal 0 Fulham 0: Nil-nil to the Arsenal

Last updated : 30 November 2003 By Brian Dawes

Pires gets the better of Moritz Volz
The only time that Fulham looked remotely likely to score was in the closing stages when our midfield was dead on its feet. In all we had 22 shots, 14 of which were on target whereas Fulham had 6 chances, mostly in the last quarter when we threw in the kitchen sink and were too tired to track back. Just one of their shots was on target.

How weird it was to see a player with his name in both squads in the matchday programme. Moritz Volz was number 2 for Fulham and number 29 for Arsenal. Our first half game plan seemed to be to torture Volz as we played a very left sided game with Cole, Henry, Pires, Edu and sometimes even Dennis going down that flank for most of the half.

A corner from Henry was flicked on by Cygan, but Toure hit it over. Bonnissel was booked by Graham Barber for chopping Henry on a run. Fulham relied on the long ball down the middle to Saha but the service he received was minimal, as was Fulham possession. Arsenal pressure won a break in which Dennis almost found Thierry. There was a good Ljungberg solo run, but his shot was saved. Pass of the match came from Dennis wide right in his own half, it was bent in behind their back four but Freddie could only win a corner, an awesome pass.

Pires and Cole combined with some blistering stuff. Kolo beat two players and crossed well but Henry was flagged offside a long time before Pires netted.

A Bergkamp break found Freddie but Fulham got numbers back as he tried for the top corner with a left-footed effort that was off target. Arsenal worked it around the edge of the box well and almost got Cole in. Henry broke, turned Volz inside out but shot wide. Pires clipped one inside to Edu who took it on the run but shot well over. Saha was late with a tackle on Pires.

Very good long ball by Campbell to Henry who set up Pires who fired wide. Most of Campbell’s long balls were off target however. A Pires solo and pass to Henry who’s shot was brilliantly saved, it looked like this one might have sneaked in off the post. Long ball from Cygan to Henry could have been dangerous. A Henry drive was saved low by Van der Sar, their keeper got down well to everything today. A Pires run set up Henry for a stab that resulted in an easy save. It was all Arsenal and our approach play was usually pretty good but rarely decisive.

Van der Saar - Fulham's saviour
Davis fired wide from a free kick, which should never have been given. Henry’s control from long balls was quite sensational, he made it look easy but it was only when he eventually miss-controlled one that you realised how good all his previous touches had been.

Gilberto fired over from very long range. Then a really fierce shot from Freddie that was hit from outside the box, it really stung the keeper’s fingers and went for a corner. An almost header by Cygan, I think, resulted from Edu’s corner. Captain Bergkamp went down in their box just before halftime but it didn’t look a penalty to me.

No changes as Fulham kicked off the second half defending the North Bank. And defend they did, effectively and in large numbers. Two chances for Arsenal in the opening two minutes. A whipped in Henry cross saw Gilberto just inches away from converting. Henry then set up Dennis whose low drilled shot was saved. Pires had a cross that Knight might have put past his keeper but luck didn’t run our way today. Kolo was bossing Bonnissel and had given Malbranque a tough time; this guy is a star and is even beginning to look the part at full back.

Malbranque had a shot well wide, their second of the match I believe. Dennis to Thierry to Robert but Van der Sar was out fast to cut it off. A great ball from Gilberto to Henry, but not all his passes had been quite so exquisite. Kolo got away with another foul throw, as he had up at Brum. Volz put Saha away for what was almost a chance. Kolo won a corner and Fulham had a rare break but Davis wasted a pass and their rare counter attack ended. Legwinski was late on Pires and got booked for his trouble. There was a good ball from Cygan to Bergkamp but he couldn’t control his header to match Freddie’s run. Dennis had a decent shot saved after finding space but Freddie could only manage a weak shot with his follow up. Legwinski had a wild shot as Arsenal failed to track back.

Cole and Legwinsky compete for the ball
Fulham were at last starting to get the occasional break but mainly because we looked tired in midfield. One break saw Volz turn up for a shot down the left whilst it was left to Dennis to close him down. Kanu came on for Gilberto; Pires went central, Dennis wide right and Kanu up front with Henry. Kanu held the ball up well and made some runs but finding space at the back against Fulham was difficult as they always out numbered us. A big handball appeal from the North Bank as the ball pin-balled around in their box. An Ashley Cole cross reached Dennis who volleyed just wide from a very good chance. A Henry solo saw him fire just wide with three red shirts breaking into their box. We were all over them but just couldn’t convert. Kanu then set up Henry from range but the keeper got down to save low yet again. A Bergkamp cross won another corner as Cole challenged at the far post. Volz went down with Cole in our box and Fulham had finally started to break out against our knackered looking midfield. Hayles replaced Saha.

Henry had a shot blocked. Cole put Freddie in who shot over. Aliadiere replaced Ljungberg before Kanu had a shot saved. We looked tired but still piled forward as Kanu saw a good cross cut out by man of the match Van Der Sar. Fulham broke with three men against three. A misery two minutes added time considering the time wasting was long enough for an overworked Edu to get booked. Games like this are often the inevitable result after a tough European match on a heavy pitch. Fulham took a battering but defended well. I’m not going to complain about our finishing because it’s so rare to see us failing to score in League football.