All square at the Cottage
Arsenal continued their poor finish to the Premier League season following a 2-2 draw with Fulham.
By Jamie Casey
Last Updated: 22/05/11 6:36pm
Arsenal continued their poor finish to the Premier League season following a 2-2 draw with Fulham on the final day of the season.
The Gunners recorded just two wins in their final 12 league games and required a late Theo Walcott strike to avoid defeat at Craven Cottage on Sunday.
Steve Sidwell gave the hosts a lead on 26 minutes before Robin van Persie equalised three minutes later with his 18th goal in his last 17 games.
Poor defending from Arsenal allowed Bobby Zamora to nod Fulham back in front after the restart, before substitute Zoltan Gera received a red card for a lunge on Thomas Vermaelen.
The dismissal handed the Gunners the initiative to attack and they were rewarded a minute from time when England international Walcott found the bottom corner.
Fulham saw most of the ball during the opening exchanges at a windswept Craven Cottage.
Jack Wilshere picked out Samir Nasri with a chip into the Fulham box in the 10th minute but the Frenchman, just back from a hamstring injury, could only loop a tame header on target.
And the visitors almost snatched the lead when Bacary Sagna whipped over a deep cross to the far post, where fellow full-back Kieran Gibbs' downward header was clawed away by Mark Schwarzer.
Fulham took the lead in the 26th minute when Arsenal defender Johan Djourou played Zamora onside as the England striker scampered away down the right before cutting the ball back to Sidwell, who drilled home from six yards.
The lead, though, did not last long. Abou Diaby won the ball in midfield before playing a neat one-two with Marouane Chamakh to release Van Persie on the edge of the Fulham area.
The in-form Dutchman needed no second invitation, killing the pass with his first touch before dispatching a low strike into the bottom left corner to level on 29 minutes and take his tally to nine in consecutive away games.
Soon after, Vermaelen produced a brilliant goal-line tackle after Danny Murphy had barged into the six-yard box and stabbed the ball past Wojciech Szczesny.
At the start of the second half, Van Persie was booked for protesting after referee Martin Atkinson failed to award a foul when he was checked by Brede Hangeland.
Schwarzer denied Arsenal again with another fine save, this time turning Nasri's goalbound free-kick over the crossbar.
Fulham were back in the lead after 57 minutes when Jonathan Greening darted into the left side of the Arsenal box, before chipping the ball across goal where Zamora nodded in at the near post.
Szczesny was off his line quickly to deny Zamora the chance to poke home a third as Arsenal were on the back foot.
There was a let-off for Fulham, though, when Schwarzer spilled Van Persie's right-wing cross, but Chamakh could only stab the loose ball wide.
Arsenal made a triple substitution on 64 minutes, replacing Aaron Ramsey with Walcott, Diaby with Andrey Arshavin and Gibbs with Emmanuel Eboue.
With news filtering through of Manchester City taking a 2-0 lead at Bolton, Arsenal looked certain to finish fourth.
Arshavin, who is widely tipped to leave the club this summer, almost released Wilshere with a neat pass, but the ball just ran away from the England youngster.
With 20 minutes left, Zamora, appearing to be carrying an injury, was replaced by Gera, who is set to leave at the end of his contract this summer.
The Hungarian was soon walking off again however after his lunging two-foot challenge on Vermaelen was punished with a straight red card on 74 minutes.
With Fulham hoping to stay high in the Fair Play League table, and earn a chance at European football again in the summer, it could yet prove a costly dismissal.Arshavin flashed a low drive just wide, before Walcott levelled in the final minute when his shot went in off the far post.
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|3||Shots on Target||5|
|5||Shots off Target||7|