Arsenal vs. Fulham: Final score 2-0, Cazorla powers Gunners to victory

Clive Rose

A second-half brace from Santi Cazorla earned Arsenal a 2-0 win against Fulham.

It took longer than they might have liked, but Arsenal eventually ran out comfortable winners against relegation-threatened Fulham. A second-half brace from Santi Cazorla was enough for the Gunners to claim a 2-0 victory, securing their spot at the head of the table for yet another week.

The first goal should have come within the opening five minutes. Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere demolished the Cottagers' defense with a snappy one-two, putting the former in on goal against Maarten Stekelenburg, but although Arsenal's record signing beat the goalkeeper with his shot, it was under-hit, allowing Brede Hangeland to clear off the line.

Shots from Olivier Giroud and Serge Gnabry both ended up going high and wide as the Gunners wasted chances to turn their dominance into an opening goal. Their profligacy apparently encouraged the visitors, who, emboldened, actually started pushing forward.

Dimitar Berbatov was giving Arsenal's defenders fits whenever he got onto the ball, and the Bulgarian provided the impetus for Fulham to put together some real attacks. Wojciech Szczesny was forced into action when Steve Sidwell thumped a shot on goal just outside the box, and he had to be alert when first Ashkan Dejagah and then Alexander Kacaniklic threatened to get free on goal.

The Cottagers' spell on top, however, was short-lived, and by early in the second half the hosts had re-established themselves as an attacking force. Arsenal were unlucky not to go ahead when an insane goalmouth scramble forced three or four last-ditch blocks (one of which came from Bacary Sagna), but Fulham were never going to keep them out forever.

The opening goal came just before the hour mark. Giroud knocked the ball down for Wilshere, who slid a pass that bisected Stekelenburg's box. Such was the disorganization in the visitors' defense that two or three Arsenal players could have tucked the ball away; it was ultimately Cazorla who did so, sweeping home with a deft finish on the slide.

Five minutes later, the points were safe. A partially-cleared cross fell to Cazorla 20 yards out, and the midfielder took a touch before sending a low left-footed shot just past Stekelenburg and in at the far post. Game over.

There was still a little time left to play -- enough for Stekelenburg to deny Lukas Podolski a goal of his own, tipping the substitute's shot onto the post -- but for the Cottagers, who've never beaten Arsenal away from home, most of the rest of the match was just about going through the motions and hoping for better next week.

The remainder consisted of Darren Bent missing an open goal and injuring himself.

Arsenal starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Wojciech Szczesny; Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Bacary Sagna; Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Flamini, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 86'), Serge Gnabry (Lukas Podolski 71'); Olivier Giroud.

Goals: Cazorla 57' 62'.

Fulham starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Maarten Stekelenburg, Kieran Richardson, Dan Burn, Brede Hangeland, Sascha Riether; Scott Parker, Steve Sidwell; Alexander Kacaniklic (Pajtim Kasami 86'), Clint Dempsey, Ashkan Dejagah (Darren Bent 68'); Dimitar Berbatov.

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