Arsenal’s topsy-turvy season took another bad turn when they let slip a two-goal lead and missed a late penalty to draw 3-3 at home with Fulham.
Second half goals from Dimitar Berbatov, for Fulham from the penalty spot, and Olivier Giroud, with a header for the hosts, added to four goals in the first period in an entertaining and even contest. Late drama saw Mark Schwarzer save a penalty taken by Mikel Arteta, after Sascha Riether was harshly adjudged to have handled the ball when it was fired at him from close range.
It would have been tough for Fulham to accept defeat had Arteta managed to score from the spot, given the amount of attacking opportunities the visitors had themselves and also given the nature of the penalty. Riether tried to move his hand out of the way as substitute Andrei Arshavin hit him with an attempted cross.
Schwarzer dived low to his left and tipped the penalty onto the post, leaving the desperate Arteta wishing the ground would swallow him up as two more points went missing for the Gunners.
Even before today’s draw, Arsenal had made their worst start in the Premier League under Arsene Wenger, and now they have taken just 16 points from their opening 11 games. They were looking for a positive result after last weekend’s defeat to Manchester United and the midweek Champions League draw with German side Schalke in which a two goal lead was also surrendered.
It was a similar story as Arsenal took an early lead with Giroud heading past Schwarzer with a bullet header from a corner to make it 1-0 in the 11th minute. It looked like it would be an easy afternoon for Wenger’s side as they doubled the lead through Lukas Podolski, who made it 2-0 with a simple finish from a clever Arteta pass.
Arsenal should have killed off their opponents with that 2-0 lead but Fulham would not lie down and accept a beating as they fought their way back into the game with two goals in just over ten minutes before half time.
The first was a Berbatov header as the Arsenal defence left the former Manchester United man free from a corner and he hit the target on 29 minutes. Then substitute Alex Kacaniklic equalised with a great header from a sweet Berbatov cross, having come off the bench to replace the injured Kieran Richardson.
The second half was as open as the first but Arsenal could not capitalise and the visitors left with a deserved point thanks to Schwarzer’s late heroics.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham) – The former Manchester United and Spurs man was key to everything Fulham did, scoring the first goal and creating the second before adding the third in a remarkable display.
Arsenal: Mannone 6, Sagna 6, Koscielny 6, Mertesacker 6, Vermaelen 6, Coquelin 6, Arteta 6, Cazorla 7, Walcott 7, Podolski 7, Giroud 8. SUBS: Ramsey 6, Oxlade-Chamberlain 6, Arshavin 6.
Fulham: Schwarzer 8, Riether 6, Hangeland 6, Hughes 6, Riise, Dejagah 7, Baird 6, Sidwell 7, Richardson 6, Ruiz 8, Berbatov 8. SUBS: Duff 6, Kacaniklic 7.