Premier League – Fulham see off poor Arsenal
Roy Hodgson’s side controlled the game for long periods, and scored the decisive goal on 21 minutes when defender Hangeland was allowed to finish from close range.
Fulham have added steel over the summer, and look a tougher prospect than last season after making their visitors look far from title contenders.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has often voiced his worries about the match immediately following an international break, but midweek exertions could not be blamed for this failure.
The Gunners looked clueless in midfield without the injured Cesc Fabregas.
Arsenal’s back-line cannot blame injury of inexperience for their defending of Hangeland’s goal.
But neither Almunia nor William Gallas moved to intercept the ball, and the giant Norwegian stuck out a long leg to prod the ball in from a couple of yards.
The goal came between Arsenal’s best – perhaps their only – opportunities of the first half.
Having survived those scares, Fulham began to exert a measure of control over the game – so much so that the crowd greeted each pass with a gleeful ‘Olé’ during one lengthy spell of possession.
Then Seol found Zamora, who declined to shoot and teed up Simon Davies instead, but the Welshman’s shot flew high and wide.
Van Persie supplied a reminder of his quality with a powerful low shot that flashed just wide from the edge of the box, but his set-piece delivery was generally poor.
Four times the Dutchman wasted free-kicks in shooting range, while Adebayor found himself so devoid of ideas by the end he resorted to diving blatantly in search of a penalty.
Last season Fulham repeatedly threw away good positions late in games – costing them 13 points – while Arsenal sometimes seemed to score as many goals in the last 10 minutes as in the other 80 combined.
But, for all the understandable nerves from the home fans, Fulham’s lead never looked in serious danger.
A fast start to the season helped Wenger’s side mount a serious title challenge last season. They must improve – and fast – or their hopes could be distinguished as soon as early autumn.