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Arsenal let slip 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 added time.
Just as they had been in their midweek UEFA Champions League 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 Bryan Ruiz. Although Giroud quickly levelled at 3-3, the Gunners could not find a winner in normal time – but were then awarded a penalty in stoppage-time for handball, only for Fulham goalkeeper Schwarzer to produce a brilliant stop from Arteta’s low effort.
Fulham 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 and Arsenal took the lead after 11 minutes, when the England winger flighted 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 midway through the first half. 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, as they ceded ground in midfield battle. It was no real surprise when Fulham levelled five minutes before the break.
Berbatov strolled down the right channel and effortlessly floated a clever ball back over to Kacaniklic, who dispatched a header into the bottom corner past the diving Vito Mannone.
Fulham almost went ahead before the interval when John Arne Riise’s low centre from the left went straight across through the six-yard box, and the visitors started the second half with intent.
Walcott, though, continued to provide Arsenal’s threat down the right and carried the ball from the halfway line before cutting inside to fire a curling shot just over the top-left angle.
Fulham took the lead midway through the second period when Ruiz robbed Arteta on the right side of the penalty area and was pulled back by the Spaniard and Berbatov confidently sent Mannone the wrong way from the spot to turn an eventful match on its head.
The drama was not over yet, though, as Arsenal quickly levelled. Giroud’s shot came back off a post and Walcott sent the rebound back into the six-yard box, where the France striker guided a cushioned header over Schwarzer to make it 3-3.
As Arsenal pressed forward, Fulham looked dangerous on the break and it needed a brilliant last-gasp tackle from Laurent Koscielny to deny Berbatov a clear shot on goal. At the other end Schwarzer pushed a goal-bound effort from Giroud behind, 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 Andrey Arshavin’s cross hit Sascha Riether on the arm and Phil Dowd pointed to the spot.
Arteta struck his shot well enough towards the bottom right corner but Schwarzer produced a brilliant save at full stretch to earn the Cottagers a share of the spoils in the final action of an entertaining encounter.
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