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Santi Cazorla netted a second-half brace as Arsenal stayed top of the Barclays Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Fulham on Saturday.
After a goalless opening period in which Arsenal did not create many chances, the Spaniard broke the deadlock shortly before the hour mark, combining well with Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere.
And his tally was doubled five minutes later when he buried a left-footed 20-yard effort into the bottom right-hand corner of the away sides net.
The result maintains Fulham's run of having never won at Arsenal, who remain one point clear of Manchester City at the summit of the Barclays Premier League.
Arsene Wenger stuck with the starting XI that won 2-1 at Aston Villa on Monday, while Rene Meulensteen made three changes to his team which beat Norwich City 3-0 in the FA Cup on Tuesday, handing a Barclays Premier League debut to defender Dan Burn.
Mesut Ozil almost had the Gunners in front in the fourth minute as they made a bright start, but his effort was blocked in the six-yard box by Brede Hangeland following a neat exchange of passes with Wilshere in the penalty area.
The home side continued to dominate possession, but were struggling to carve out any meaningful goalscoring opportunities as the Cottagers' back line held firm.
And they were almost punished for that lack of potency in the 26th minute when former Arsenal trainee Steve Sidwell, who scored in his last three appearances for Fulham prior to the trip to the Emirates, forced Wojciech Szczesny into a crucial save from his powerful 20-yard half-volley.
Maarten Stekelenburg had to be equally alert at the other end seven minutes before the break when a free-kick ricocheted into the path of Bacary Sagna, who saw a low drive well stopped.
Fulham came out fighting at the start of the second period, as Burn had a header blocked by Laurent Koscielny after Wenger's side failed to clear their lines from a corner.
But the hosts weathered that early storm and Serge Gnabry drew another save from Stekelenburg with a curled effort from the edge of the penalty area, before Arsenal squandered numerous opportunities in a goalmouth scramble.
The South West London side's resolve was finally broken in the 57th minute when Cazorla picked up the ball on the left wing and offloaded it to Giroud before ghosting into the penalty area and sliding a Wilshere pass into the bottom right-hand corner.
Cazorla doubled the advantage five minutes later, firing a low 20-yard strike just out of the reach of the outstretched left arm of Stekelenburg.
He then denied Arsenal a third 15 minutes from time when he pushed a Lukas Podolski thunderbolt - destined for the top-left corner - on to the post.
Darren Bent found himself clean through on an open goal in the closing stages, but the striker fired wide of the target as Koscielny slid in to make a last-ditch challenge, before the visitors failed to capitalise on Szczesny's spillage from Pajtim Kasami's stoppage-time free-kick.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "We were maybe not quick enough in the first half. In the second half our tempo was much better and we created chances. Overall, it was a stable performance with maybe a lack of pace in first half.
"The players were conscious we had to step up a gear. It was just a question of time and Santi Cazorla delivered two special goals. He was like the team – good in the first half and excellent in the second."
"The pressure is there but it is a positive one. I believe it is important to keep focused on way we want to play and our solidarity in the side which is exceptional and that will get us the points.
"Man City is a good team as well so that makes the race even more interesting. There are five or six teams who will fight for the championship. From our side we just need to be consistent."
Fulham head coach Rene Meulensteen: "We lost the three points but there were lots of positives to take from the performance from our point of view.
"We were pleased at half-time and I couldn’t have asked for anything more from the players. We knew it was going to be even harder in the second half because they were going to step it up. The quality of players they’ve got, if you switch off for a second and don’t track the runner, they can hurt you and that’s what they did for the first goal.
“The only disappointing thing today was not getting a goal. In the first half it would have changed the complexion of the game, but at 2-1 in the second, we could have put some pressure on them. A lot of our performances have been very good but we haven’t got out of it what we deserved."
|28 Jan 2014||v Southampton (A)|
|02 Feb 2014||v Crystal Palace (H)|
|08 Feb 2014||v Liverpool (A)|
|12 Feb 2014||v Man Utd (H)|
|22 Feb 2014||v Sunderland (H)|
|01 Mar 2014||v Stoke (A)|