Ten-man Fulham hold Arsenal to thrilling draw in North London

Ten-man Fulham hold Arsenal to thrilling draw in North London

Arsenal’s flawless start to the 2023-24 Premier League season concluded in a dramatic manner as 10-man Fulham held them to a 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium.

Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah initially seemed to guide Arsenal to a third consecutive victory following Andreas Pereira’s opening goal in the first minute. However, shortly after losing Calvin Bassey to a second yellow card, Fulham managed to salvage a share of the points through Joao Palhinha.

Despite facing a second defensive setback within two weeks due to Takehiro Tomiyasu’s suspension, Mikel Arteta once again kept Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Magalhaes on the bench, opting for Thomas Partey and Jakub Kiwior on the flanks.

Similar to their previous encounter against Bournemouth a few months ago, Arsenal found themselves trailing less than a minute into the match. Saka’s unfortunate backpass set up Pereira’s opportunity, and with Aaron Ramsdale caught off-guard, the former Manchester United player curled a powerful 30-yard shot into the bottom corner.

True to their nature, Arteta’s team responded well to the early setback. Kai Havertz had a prime opportunity to level the score after 12 minutes, but his stretched effort veered wide of Bernd Leno’s goal.

While Arsenal continued to push forward, their defensive vulnerabilities remained evident. In the 22nd minute, Raul Jimenez’s acrobatic attempt narrowly missed the target, grazing the crossbar.

Fulham’s Harry Wilson also came close, cutting inside and unleashing a fierce shot just wide of the post in the 26th minute. Five minutes later, Saka had a chance to atone for his early error but directed his header into the ground and over the crossbar from Leandro Trossard’s cross.

As the first half drew to a close, Arsenal persisted in their efforts. Martin Odegaard found the net in the 41st minute, but the goal was disallowed due to Havertz’s offside position in the buildup.

Arteta introduced Nketiah for Trossard in the second half, yet Arsenal’s defensive vulnerabilities persisted. Fulham’s Bobby Decordova-Reid had a good chance in the 52nd minute, but his strike missed the target.

Odegaard had a couple of chances around the hour mark, but Fulham’s resolute defense held firm. The balance shifted when Kenny Tete committed a foul in the box on Fabio Vieira, resulting in a clear penalty.

Saka quickly turned from scapegoat to hero, converting the penalty in the 70th minute to equalize. Fellow academy graduate Nketiah joined the action, scoring in the 72nd minute from Vieira’s precise left-sided delivery.

Fulham protested as Bassey was down injured on the byline, inadvertently playing Nketiah onside in the process. Bassey’s misfortune continued as he was substituted in the 85th minute for fouling Nketiah to prevent a breakaway.

However, Arsenal’s defensive frailties resurfaced in the 89th minute. Substitute Adama Traore earned a corner, which Harrison Reed delivered and Palhinha struck with an exceptional half-volley, eluding Ramsdale’s grasp. Fulham held on during 11 minutes of injury time.

Arsenal, who only had themselves to blame for Palhinha’s late equalizer, now gear up to host Manchester United next Sunday. Meanwhile, Fulham faces London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the EFL Cup on Tuesday.