Premier League: Arsenal see off Fulham to claim derby spoils
Arsenal made light of conditions at a rain-soaked Craven Cottage to claim a 3-1 derby win over capital rivals Fulham.
Last Updated: 24/08/13 4:59pm
Arsenal made light of conditions at a rain-soaked Craven Cottage to claim a 3-1 derby victory over capital rivals Fulham.
Arsene Wenger may have spent much of the past week under a cloud, as he endeavours to bring the big-money additions into Emirates Stadium that the Gunners faithful are crying out for, but the Frenchman saw his side shine through a constant downpour in west London on Saturday to secure an impressive three points and right the wrongs of a forgettable opening day.
Olivier Giroud's deadlock breaker had a touch of fortune about it, but he is a man in form right now and a third goal in as many outings this season paved the way for Lukas Podolski to fire home a deadly double either side of half-time - making a late replay from Darren Bent scant consolation for the hosts.
It did not take long for Arsenal to find their feet on a slippery playing surface, with Podolski seeing an effort inside the opening five minutes deflected behind for a corner.
Theo Walcott then forced a smart stop from David Stockdale, with the Cottagers' back-up goalkeeper - in for the injured Maarten Stekelenburg - racing from his line to narrow the angle and produce a solid block.
There was little he could do on 14 minutes, though, as a hopeful shot from Aaron Ramsey ricocheted kindly into the path of Giroud and he showed a cool head to clip the ball over Stockdale and into the bottom corner.
Fulham almost levelled immediately, but Wojciech Szczesny produced an outstanding double-save to parry an effort from Adel Taarabt and deny Damien Duff on the rebound.
The visitors doubled their lead on 41 minutes, with Walcott causing problems again. His cross-shot was beaten into the path of Podolski 18 yards out and the German forward made no mistake as he caressed a powerful drive into the roof of the net.
Podolski could have had a second in the dying seconds of the half, but opted to square rather than shoot when freed in space and ended up rolling the ball tamely across the face of goal.
Fulham came out for the start of the second period knowing they had to find a route back into the game, and Taarabt tested Szczesny inside the opening two minutes with a skidding drive which needed touching around the post.
At the other end, Walcott was still proving elusive - scuffing one effort from 25 yards out wide of the target before failing to grow enough to make telling contact with a delivery floated onto his head at the back post.
With Martin Jol in need of goals, he turned to his bench just before the hour mark and handed Bent his Fulham bow - with the England striker hoping a season-long spell at Craven Cottage will allow him to reignite his Premier League career and stake a claim for a seat on the plane to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
Neat build-up from Fulham presented them with a sight of goal on 66 minutes, but Pajtim Kasami and Dimitar Berbatov got in each other's way as they tried to take control of a cross fed in their direction and moments later the Cottagers were three goals down.
Santi Cazorla was involved again for Arsenal, cutting back for Podolski to take one touch to steady himself and crash the ball through a maze of legs, across Stockdale and low into the corner of the net.
With 13 minutes remaining Bent offered a glimmer of hope for Fulham as he bundled home from close range after Szczesny failed to get a strong enough hand on a Berbatov shot from a tight angle, but the Gunners never looked like suffering a dramatic collapse.
Podolski was denied the opportunity to grab a hat-trick after making way for Yaya Sanogo, Arsenal's only signing of the summer so far, to make his debut, but the Gunners kept looking for goals and space opened up as Fulham threw caution to the wind.