Arteta misses last-gasp penalty as Arsenal let two-goal lead slip again
Arsenal 3-3 Fulham
ARSENAL blew a two-goal lead for the second time in a week as Fulham battled to a 3-3 draw at Emirates Stadium, where Mark Schwarzer saved a penalty in stoppage-time.
Just as they had been in their midweek Champions League's game at Schalke, the Gunners were in control after early goals from Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski.
Fulham, though, rallied after Dimitar Berbatov reduced the deficit and Alex Kacaniklic levelled before half-time.
The visitors then went ahead from the penalty spot when Berbatov slotted home after Mikel Arteta had fouled Brian Ruiz.
Although Giroud quickly levelled at 3-3, the Gunners could not find a winner - but were then awarded a penalty in stoppage-time for handball, only for Fulham keeper Schwarzer to produce a brilliant stop from Arteta's low effort.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger admitted the atmosphere had been “flat” at Emirates Stadium for the last two home games, and challenged his team to lift the fans with an all-action display this afternoon.
However, it was Fulham who showed early promise as Ruiz's 20-yard effort was deflected wide.
Theo Walcott, retained in the starting XI after his European goal, looked lively down the right channel.
Arsenal took the lead after 11 minutes.
Walcott delivered a corner into the six-yard box, where Giroud powered in his second headed goal of the week.
Fulham were then forced into a change when Kieran Richardson pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury and Kacaniklic came on.
Arsenal then doubled their lead after 23 minutes.
Arteta drove into the right side of the penalty area and pulled a low cross back through the six-yard box, where Podolski got ahead of his marker to stab the ball past Schwarzer.
Fulham, though, halved the deficit after 28 minutes when Berbatov nodded home with a free header from a corner.
Arsenal's confidence was dented and the hosts failed to recover, losing the midfield battle.
It was no real surprise to see Fulham level five minutes before the break.
Berbatov strolled down the right channel and effortlessly floated a lovely ball back over to Kacaniklic, who dispatched a header into the bottom corner past the diving Vito Mannone.
Fulham almost went ahead in stoppage time when John Arne Riise's low centre from the left went straight across through the six-yard box.
The visitors started the second with intent.
Walcott, though, continued to provide Arsenal's threat down the right, and his cross was just too high for Giroud.
The England forward then took the ball on himself from the halfway line and driving forwards before firing a curling shot just over the top-left angle.
Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey replaced Francis Coquelin.
Arsenal were pushing Fulham deeper, if without really stretching the visitors' defence.
Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell, who had been cautioned in the first half, upended Santi Cazorla 25 yards out, but was given a final warning by lenient referee Phil Dowd.
The official, however, got it right a few minutes later when Ruiz robbed Arteta on the right side of the penalty area and was pulled back by the Spaniard.
Berbatov confidently sent Mannone the wrong way from the spot to turn the match on its head after 67 minutes.
The drama was not over yet, though, as Arsenal quickly levelled.
Giroud's shot came back off the post and Walcott send the rebound into the six-yard box, where the France striker guided a cushioned header over Schwarzer to make it 3-3.
As Arsenal pressed forwards, Fulham were dangerous on the break and it needed a brilliant last-gasp tackle from Laurent Koscielny to deny Berbatov a clear shot on goal.
With 15 minutes left, Podolski was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had been out since the defeat at Norwich with a hip problem.
Schwarzer pushed behind a goal-bound effort from Giroud, before both sides made another change as Walcott, who looked to have picked up an injury which could rule him out of England duty next week, was replaced by Andrey Arshavin and Damien Duff came on for Ashkan Dejagah.
Arsenal pressed for the winner during the closing stages, but Giroud could only plant his free header wide.
However, there was more drama in stoppage time when Arshavin's cross hit Sascha Riether on the arm and Dowd pointed to the spot.
Arteta struck his shot well enough towards the bottom right corner, but Schwarzer - once an Arsenal transfer target - produced a brilliant save at full stretch to earn the Cottagers a share of the spoils in the final action of an entertaining encounter.
Independent.ie Comments Facility
INM has taken the decision to remove the commenting facility on its online platform Independent.ie to minimise the legal risk to our business that arises from Ireland's draconian libel awards system.
We continue to look forward to receiving comments through direct email contact or via social media, some of which may still be featured on the website Independent.ie