Arsenal 2 Fulham 1: Another 'Late late show' at Highbury

Last updated : 02 February 2003 By Brian Dawes

Thierry Henry fends off Andy Melville

Not only that but they are yet to claim a Premiership point off Arsenal after three matches home and away. Not only that but the ex-Cottagers, who have the poorest disciplinary record in the Premiership (5 reds, 37 yellows), had not won a League game away from Loftus Road for over four months. Which if you know anything at all about the ups and downs of football form and fortunes probably only pointed towards a shock away win.

Wiltord replaced Parlour to give us an even more positive attack, Martin was back from suspension and the in form Dennis passed a late fitness test on a bruised foot. Taylor, Cygan, Van Bronckhorst, Toure and Francis Jeffers were on the bench.

We almost scored in the first minute when Wiltord right found Henry but what seemed a lucky save resulted in a corner. Pat played a low ball into the feet of Pires in a central position who was tripped as he turned. The free kick from Henry only found their wall though. Legwinski limping. Wolstenholme the referee booked Lauren for holding onto Boa Morte's shorts as Fulham attacked down our left. A fair booking you might argue but not in relation to what he let Fulham get away with both before and after this, he'd already missed Wiltord being hit in the back. Melville came on for the injured Legwinski, it looked like a hamstring. We looked on top early doors but Fulham were playing football and countering well.

We looked ok with Fulham having little more than the odd hit and hope while Cole was getting forward, Pires was tracking back well and even Keown was making the odd quality pass, but it wasn't quite as fluid as we might have wished. A great ball down the middle to Sava had us all ends up but Cole saved the day with a blinding tackle in our box. Brilliant flick by Henry came to nothing. With 16 minutes gone Dennis found Henry on the left and he in turn hit a great left foot pass to the far post where Rob climbed high, headed down well and it was 1-0 Arsenal and I, like many others, looked forward to our next four or five.

We played some great stuff such as when Vieira and Henry combined well but Fulham were in hard and often and too many fouls were missed by Wolstenholme, most notably a crucial one on Pat. Henry turned and shot from range. The ref had missed another foul before Sava kicked Keown on the ground. He tried to apologise but Martin was seriously pissed with him and didn't want to know. Maybe it was just me who thought the ref was less than even-handed, then again maybe it was a Harrod's hamper that had caused it.

So there we were in cruise mode when a Malbranque shot out of the blue from a half clearance was in the back of our net. It was a well-taken volley driven low into the corner past a diving Dave who had no chance. 1-1 and from here on in we struggled.

A good move ended when Lauren missed his kick. Pires was held down by Melville, no yellow. A great burst from Henry but he couldn't quite round Taylor in goal, who saved well. Two blatant fouls from Fulham and not so much as a word from blind Pew, sorry Wolstenholme. We were winning our regular quota of corners but they were all swung in high and all caught well by Taylor, there weren't nearly enough near post or far post corners today to break it up. Cole had a long-range effort land on the roof of the net but I'm not sure if it was meant as a cross or a shot.

Sava had a hit and hope from miles out. Martin played Fulham onside and Gilberto had to head clear for a corner which saw Melville head wide at the near post. Some fabulous play on our left led to Dennis having a shot deflected for a corner at the other end, but blind Pew wasn't having any. Goal kick given. A Davis header that was easy for Dave to save was about the last action of the half. There was at least one Gooner in the crowd, on his first trip to Highbury in some five years, who must have been wondering if his eager anticipation of an all too rare opportunity to visit was going to fall flat. A disappointing outcome to a first half of football that hadn't seen us hit top gear.

Super Rob grabs the winner right at the death
Fulham kick off towards the Clock End and before you know it Malbranque is rolling around the floor after being fouled by Pat. Finnan chopped Henry and no yellow. The keeper was doing well with high balls so I'm not too sure why we kept dollying them up for him. Lauren was chopped. Great chance as Wiltord fired one in along the line but Henry couldn't quite get to it, a good chance missed. Great play by Vieira who looked the part as usual, but Marlet hit one just past the far post and we have a game on our hands. Pires tripped but play was waved on so no yellow. Fulham broke right and Martin hacked away for a corner.

Fabulous break by Pat and Rob, both looking class. Powerful winning tackle from Martin. More great play as it goes across the face of their goal once more but Dennis could only head it back to the keeper from beyond the far post. Moments later we're back at them and both the North and West stands were on their feet screaming at blind Pew as an obvious corner was not given. Pires went down in their box, big shout from the North Bank but it looked a dive to me sitting in the West lower. Davis into the back of Pat and we got a free kick. Thierry took it wide on the left but it came to nothing. A Cole cross was
headed clear for another corner, this one the keeper punched clear.

Sava backed into Cole and won a free kick, why do so many refs fall for this old ploy is beyond me. Next up came the worse decision by a lino since that debacle when Toure had a goal disallowed for a joke offside. Henry put a ball past a player, ran onto it and the flag went up. Henry was dumbstruck, this was a piss poor decision that even blind Pew should have over-ruled, instead Henry got himself booked for dissent and gave the deepest bow I've seen to Blind Pew. This was shamateurish officialdom, I can't tell you if the tosser with the yellow flag was R Bone or S Gagen because the match day programme doesn't tell you which assistant referee had which flag. Anyway neither Bone nor Gagen were anything like the names I was calling him, well that's to say me and a few thousand others.

Jeffers on for Wiltord with 21 minutes to play. Not surprisingly Arsenal continued to press. A great Jeffers left footed shot was tipped over by Taylor. An elbow in the back by Bo Morte on Lauren but yet again, no yellow. A fine move saw Jeffers lay it back for Gilberto but his shot hit the bottom of the post and bounced away, not our day! Handball and no sign of a booking for anything in a white shirt. Fulham abandon football and play the Scouse hoof out.

Robert Pires and Kolo Toure celebrate the winner
Saha backing in, not given. Twelve minutes to play and it wasn't looking good. Boa Morte tripped Lauren again, no yellow card of course. Gio on for Gilberto. Two fouls on Vieira as he worked his way through but no free kick because he stayed on his feet, off balance due to the two fouls he lost the ball. It must have been a huge hamper for blind Pew. Finnan kicked the ball away following a free kick to Arsenal, no yellow card. Cole did well as Toure replaced Lauren. Dennis penalised for pushing miraculously spotted by blind Pew from some thirty yards away. Pires to Gio to Jeffers to Pat but Pat completely missed his shot. This was doing my brain in but never say die, this was the Arsenal we were watching. We could surely beat Fulham, couldn't we?

Kolo took out Boa Morte and picked up a yellow card. Good decision by Toure in my book because it was a dangerous break that had to be stopped, but for Christ's sake Lauren's one foul got a yellow, Toure's first foul got a yellow. Boa Morte hacked away all day with impunity, so just what was in that hamper ref? Henry was running around with a ripped shirt, no easy thing to rip I'd say, and Pat got his pulled off his back by Melville, who earned Fulham's only yellow of the day. Toure was being pulled all over the place in their area but the lino who had the perfect view saw nothing, the same lino who watched Henry pass to himself for an offside. He had missed a couple of obvious offsides since then but maybe he was afraid of being lynched if he put his flag up again, he certainly should have been. Time-wasting was rife by the men in white shirts.

Gio saw Jeffers good movement and found him with a ball on the turn, Jeffers ran on, and with the outside of his right boot, rolled it past the keeper. Bob steamed in from the right and clinched the winner by knocking it home almost on the goal line. 2-1. Result! Not long to go in stoppage time and Jeffers to Pires to Seaman, that'll do me! Jeffers still had time to put Henry away in the dying seconds but his shot from a narrow angle only found the far touchline.

So we're still top of the Premiership, still top Premiership goal scorers, still with the most wins, still banging them in week in week out. And the Gunners are still trying to give all of us poor fans heart failure.