Fulham 2-2 Arsenal

Fulham   2 - 2   Arsenal

Robin van Persie

Van Persie salutes the fans after his record-breaking goal

Theo Walcott scored a late equaliser as Arsenal saved themselves from a last-day defeat at Fulham.

The substitute finished off a driving run with a low finish that went in off the post to deny 10-man Fulham.

Steve Sidwell had opened the scoring when he sidefooted home following Bobby Zamora's cross before Robin van Persie slotted an equaliser.

Zamora's header made it 2-1 to Fulham, who then had Zoltan Gera sent off, before Walcott squared the match again.

The outcome meant both sides were unable to realise their final ambitions of the season - Arsenal had been hoping to snatch third place in the Premier League and with it the final automatic Champions League place, while Fulham were aiming to equal their best top-flight finish of seventh.

However, results elsewhere - Manchester City won 2-0 at Bolton and Everton beat Chelsea 1-0 - meant neither could have achieved those aims, even if they had taken all three points.

It was a match full of chances and entertainment played in an open style that took a little while to get going, but in the end was a decent finale to the season.

Hughes 'never feared for job'

Despite the potential prize of that automatic Champions League place on offer, there was a lack of urgency from Arsenal early on.

And even when they did fashion a chance for Samir Nasri, the midfielder headed goalwards so half-heartedly it might have raised further questions about commitment, following manager Arsene Wenger's pre-match demand for his side to show they deserve to wear the shirt.

Rustiness may have been to blame for Nasri's tame effort, seeing as he was returning from injury, but elsewhere there was also lack of care about Arsenal's play.

They did, however, create another good opportunity when Bacary Sagna sent a deep cross from the right to the back post and Kieran Gibbs headed downwards to force Mark Schwarzer into a decent stop.

Until that point Fulham had struggled to shake off an end-of-season lethargy but once Andrew Johnson had a sight at goal, testing keeper Wojciech Szczesny with a low effort, they gained some momentum.

Zamora began to cause problems, particularly down the right, and it was his break that led to Fulham's opener, the striker squaring the ball for Sidwell to slide his shot through the legs of both Johan Djourou and Szczesny.

Fulham threatened again when Zamora latched on to a through ball and lashed a shot wide from a difficult angle.

But it was Arsenal who scored next. Abou Diaby played the ball into the feet of Van Persie, who controlled the ball on the edge of the area and then sidefooted home with his next touch to score for the ninth consecutive away game in the Premier League.

It meant the Dutchman also equalled the record of 18 goals scored in a season from 1 January onwards held by Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Wenger hints at summer of change

Fulham responded well and would have gone into the break in the lead but for some sharp defending from Thomas Vermaelen, who got back to stop Danny Murphy's goalbound poke.

The first chance of the the second half went Arsenal's way and it took a superb save by Schwarzer, clawing away Nasri's curling free-kick, to stop the visitors taking the lead.

After surviving that scare, Fulham redoubled their efforts and they were rewarded when an exquisite left-wing cross from Jonathan Greening was headed in by the lively Zamora - a just reward for the striker's impressive performance.

Zamora's attacking partner Johnson was also proving a problem for Arsenal's backline and the forward went close twice in quick succession.

In between those chances Arsenal were almost gifted an equaliser when Schwarzer fumbled Van Persie's cross and the rebound fell to Marouane Chamakh, but he could not direct his effort on target.

When Fulham's next opportunity came, Zamora was on hand to demonstrate a clinical touch, thumping home a header from Greening's cross.

The hosts seemed as though they would press home their advantage, with Simon Davies coming close with a toe-poked effort from the edge of the box.

But the tide changed when Gera was shown a straight red card for a two-footed lunge on Vermaelen.

Fulham went into this match in contention to earn a place in the Europa League through the Fair Play League. It remains to be seen whether Gera - such a central figure in the Cottagers' run to the 2010 final - will have cost them their involvement in next season's competition with his indiscretion.

Only once the final Fair Play table is published will it be clear who has qualified.

Arsenal - who had brought on Walcott, Andrey Arshavin and Emmanuel Eboue - sensed a chance to salvage something from the game.

And in the last minute of normal time, Walcott drove in from the right wing and shot low into the corner.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger

"It was an average game and in the end we felt the disappointment with fourth place because three weeks ago we were in the position to win the league.

"Of course we didn't lose our top-three place today, we lost it last week [with the 2-1 home defeat by Aston Villa] and that is why in the end we have to go through a qualifier."

He added: "We are frustrated, disappointed, but as well we have not to go overboard and think that our team is not good.

"We have to rectify some things in our squad and we will try to do it but it's not easy, even with money.

"Even if people say you have to spend money, we have to be realistic. We can't buy players for £50m. That is a fact. The amount of money is not always linked with the quality of player.

"First you have to find the right players and then turn up with the money - but if we find the right players we will spend the money."

Match Stats

Shots

10 12

On target

6 6

Corners

5 3

Fouls

12 5

Live Text Commentary

90:00 +3:16 Full time

Full Time The referee blows his whistle to end the game.

90:00 +1:43

Effort from the edge of the area by Andrey Arshavin goes wide of the right-hand post.

90:00 +0:30

Free kick awarded for a foul by Dickson Etuhu on Jack Wilshere. Free kick crossed by Andrey Arshavin, save by Mark Schwarzer.

88:50

Thomas Vermaelen provided the assist for the goal.

88:50 Goal scored

Goal! - Theo Walcott - Fulham 2 - 2 Arsenal A goal is scored by Theo Walcott from inside the box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Fulham 2-2 Arsenal.

85:41

The ball is swung over by Theo Walcott.

83:41

Header from close in by Thomas Vermaelen misses to the left of the target.

83:10

Corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie from the right by-line, Brede Hangeland makes a clearance.

82:45

The ball is delivered by Simon Davies, clearance by Emmanuel Eboue.

81:23

Andrew Johnson fouled by Thomas Vermaelen, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Steve Sidwell.

80:47

Shot by Andrey Arshavin from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the goal.

80:00

Robin van Persie takes a inswinging corner to the near post, clearance made by Dickson Etuhu.

79:18

The ball is crossed by Emmanuel Eboue, Mark Schwarzer makes a comfortable save.

79:00

Foul by Steve Sidwell on Robin van Persie, free kick awarded. Emmanuel Eboue takes the free kick.

77:03

The offside flag is raised against Robin van Persie. Mark Schwarzer restarts play with the free kick.

76:21 Booking

Booking Caution for Steve Sidwell.

76:17

Steve Sidwell challenges Marouane Chamakh unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick crossed by Andrey Arshavin, clearance by Dickson Etuhu.

74:02

Indirect free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.

74:02 Dismissal

Dismissal Zoltan Gera shown a red card.

73:51

Free kick awarded for a foul by Zoltan Gera on Thomas Vermaelen.

72:46

Corner taken by Simon Davies, Header by Brede Hangeland from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the target.

72:33

The ball is swung over by Andrew Johnson, Thomas Vermaelen gets a block in.

70:13 Substitution

Substitution Zoltan Gera is brought on as a substitute for Bobby Zamora.

70:06

The ball is sent over by Steve Sidwell.

68:12

Effort from the edge of the box by Simon Davies goes wide of the left-hand post.

63:41 Substitution

Substitution Dickson Etuhu comes on in place of Danny Murphy.

63:41 Substitution

Substitution Simon Davies replaces Jonathan Greening.

63:41 Substitution

Substitution Vassiriki Diaby goes off and Andrey Arshavin comes on.

63:41 Substitution

Substitution (Arsenal) makes a substitution, with Emmanuel Eboue coming on for Kieran Gibbs.

63:41 Substitution

Substitution Theo Walcott joins the action as a substitute, replacing Aaron Ramsey.

63:26

The ball is swung over by Bacary Sagna, Header from close in by Robin van Persie misses to the left of the target.

61:55

Andrew Johnson takes a shot. Wojciech Szczesny makes a comfortable save.

61:33

The ball is delivered by Robin van Persie, save by Mark Schwarzer.

60:45

The official flags Bobby Zamora offside. Indirect free kick taken by Bacary Sagna.

60:22

Bobby Zamora takes a shot. Comfortable save by Wojciech Szczesny.

59:17

Vassiriki Diaby challenges Bobby Zamora unfairly and gives away a free kick. Danny Murphy restarts play with the free kick.

58:00

Philippe Senderos challenges Marouane Chamakh unfairly and gives away a free kick. Samir Nasri restarts play with the free kick.

57:31

Effort from the edge of the penalty box by Andrew Johnson goes wide of the right-hand upright.

56:05

Assist by Jonathan Greening.

56:05 Goal scored

Goal! - Bobby Zamora - Fulham 2 - 1 Arsenal Bobby Zamora finds the net with a headed goal from close range. Fulham 2-1 Arsenal.

55:58

Jonathan Greening sends in a cross,

54:01

Robin van Persie fires a strike on goal direct from the free kick.

54:01 Booking

Booking Jonathan Greening goes into the book.

53:58

Unfair challenge on Samir Nasri by Jonathan Greening results in a free kick.

52:40

Outswinging corner taken by Jonathan Greening from the right by-line, Vassiriki Diaby manages to make a clearance.

52:26

The ball is sent over by Steve Sidwell, Johan Djourou makes a clearance.

51:37

Samir Nasri takes a inswinging corner to the near post, clearance made by Bobby Zamora.

50:21

Foul by Clint Dempsey on Jack Wilshere, free kick awarded. Shot comes in from Samir Nasri from the free kick, save by Mark Schwarzer.

48:27 Booking

Booking Robin van Persie is shown a yellow card.

47:18

Corner taken by Jonathan Greening, The ball is swung over by Matthew Briggs.

46:32

The assistant referee flags for offside against Aaron Hughes. Free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.

45:01

The game restarts for the second half.

45:00 +2:09 Half time

Half Time The players leave the pitch at half time.

45:00 +0:11

Bobby Zamora concedes a free kick for a foul on Thomas Vermaelen. Indirect free kick taken by Thomas Vermaelen.

45:00 +0:02

Bacary Sagna produces a cross, save made by Mark Schwarzer.

43:02

The assistant referee flags for offside against Bobby Zamora. Johan Djourou restarts play with the free kick.

39:26

Samir Nasri takes a shot. Steve Sidwell makes a clearance.

39:13

The ball is delivered by Bacary Sagna, clearance made by Brede Hangeland.

38:03

Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Jonathan Greening.

37:31

Danny Murphy takes a shot. Thomas Vermaelen gets a block in.

36:19

Centre by Aaron Ramsey, Brede Hangeland makes a clearance.

33:22

Inswinging corner taken by Jonathan Greening from the left by-line, Marouane Chamakh makes a clearance.

32:49

Johan Djourou gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Bobby Zamora. Direct free kick taken by Jonathan Greening.

32:38

Bacary Sagna delivers the ball, Steve Sidwell makes a clearance.

32:26

Bacary Sagna crosses the ball, Aaron Hughes manages to make a clearance.

32:04

Centre by Kieran Gibbs, clearance by Philippe Senderos.

28:49

Assist by Vassiriki Diaby.

28:49 Goal scored

Goal! - Robin van Persie - Fulham 1 - 1 Arsenal Robin van Persie grabs a goal from inside the box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Fulham 1-1 Arsenal.

27:20

Bobby Zamora has an effort at goal from the edge of the area that misses to the right of the target.

25:14

Assist on the goal came from Bobby Zamora.

25:14 Goal scored

Goal! - Steve Sidwell - Fulham 1 - 0 Arsenal Steve Sidwell scores a goal from inside the box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Fulham 1-0 Arsenal.

23:02

Andrew Johnson takes a shot. Save made by Wojciech Szczesny.

22:37

Kieran Gibbs crosses the ball, Headed effort from deep inside the area by Marouane Chamakh misses to the left of the goal.

21:22

Andrew Johnson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Thomas Vermaelen. Free kick taken by Johan Djourou.

18:50

Foul by Marouane Chamakh on Danny Murphy, free kick awarded. Indirect free kick taken by Steve Sidwell.

17:46

Bacary Sagna produces a cross, Kieran Gibbs takes a shot. Save made by Mark Schwarzer.

17:36

A cross is delivered by Kieran Gibbs.

15:35

Bobby Zamora fouled by Johan Djourou, the ref awards a free kick. Danny Murphy takes the direct free kick.

13:29

Andrew Johnson is ruled offside. Free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.

11:38

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jack Wilshere by Clint Dempsey. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Samir Nasri from left channel.

11:28

The ball is delivered by Samir Nasri, clearance made by Brede Hangeland.

8:31

Jack Wilshere delivers the ball, Samir Nasri takes a shot. Mark Schwarzer makes a comfortable save.

6:20

Free kick awarded for a foul by Philippe Senderos on Robin van Persie. Free kick taken by Johan Djourou.

4:27

Robin van Persie is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Indirect free kick taken by Mark Schwarzer.

0:49

Foul by Andrew Johnson on Johan Djourou, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Thomas Vermaelen.

0:00

The referee gets the game started.

0:00

The ball is swung over by Aaron Hughes.

0:00

The ball is crossed by Bobby Zamora.

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