Fulham vs. Arsenal: Final score 1-3, Gunners pick Cottagers apart with relative ease

Jamie McDonald

Arsenal made surprisingly light work of Fulham at Craven Cottage as the hosts failed to replicate the coherence of their performance in beating Sunderland last week.

Fulham started brightly enough, but it was Arsenal who had the first real chance after a neat interchange of short passing allowed Tomas Rosicky to play in Theo Walcott, but David Stockdale tipped his effort wide. Immediately afterwards, however, Olivier Giroud opened the scoring after accidentally collecting Aaron Ramsey's mishit shot and taking advantage of the opportunity to prod the ball past the advancing Stockdale.

The goal appeared to wake the hosts up, however, and Fulham began to grow into the game, building pressure and creating an increasingly frequent string of chances. The closest came soon after the goal, with Adel Taarabt's long-range effort parried back into play by Wojciech Szczesny, leaving a brief goalmouth scramble which saw Damien Duff's shot blocked before the visitors eventually managed to clear their lines.

More fine play from Fulham saw a combination of Dimitar Berbatov and Adel Taarabt tee up Scott Parker arriving on the edge of the area, but the midfielder's effort was over the bar. Arsenal were surprisingly sitting very deep rather than pressing their opponents, and their counter-attacking style was to prove bountiful.

Although one promising attack broke down after a rapid break saw a five-on-three at one point, a second move a bit later saw Theo Walcott break free and test Stockdale with a decent effort. The Fulham keeper was able to make the save, but Lukas Podolski arrived outside the area to smash the ball into the net, too hard for any defender to get a block in.

The 2-0 scoreline was somewhat harsh on Fulham, but they seemed to be more conservative after the break, perhaps wary of being caught on the counter again. Adel Taarabt continued to be a source of promise for the hosts with some inventive dribbling, but his long-range efforts could not beat Szczesny. The Arsenal keeper saved one effort early into the half before the Fulham corner came to nothing.

The hosts were unable to replicate their energy from the first half, however, and Podolski dealt the killer blow midway through the second half after he raced onto Cazorla's cutback and fired a low, powerful finish into the bottom corner to make it 3-0 and seal the win.

Fulham were able to gain a consolation however, with substitute Darren Bent, making his debut for the club, scoring a typical goal as he tapped the ball into an empty net from close range after Szczesny had parried Berbatov's smart turn and shot.

Fulham: Stockdale, Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise, Duff, Parker, Sidwell, Taarabt, Kasami, Berbatov.

Goals: Bent 77'

Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Sagna, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Rosicky, Ramsey, Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud.

Goals: Giroud 14', Podolski 41', 68'

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