Take in the beauty, because there was plenty to see - Arsenal 3-3 Fulham

Clive Rose

A last minute penalty save meant Fulham took a share of the spoils in a game that will be remembered for sheer, unadulterated entertainment.

"The only thing is that in the dying seconds we could have lost the game. Before that, we could have won it," said Martin Jol, after Fulham held Arsenal to a 3-3 draw at the Emirates Stadium. It summed up the game rather brilliantly.

It was certainly not your average Premier League match. Arsenal had gone two up early on, but Fulham soon pulled things back. And then, inspired by a splendid Dimitar Berbatov, they sought to take the initiative but Arsenal were, in keeping with the game, having none of that either.

Then, at 3-3, a harsh penalty was thrown Arsenal's way. It would have been unfair had Mikel Arteta converted and, as if the football Gods were looming overhead, Mark Schwarzer dived smartly and tipped the effort wide. Parity preserved. Entertainment ensured.

But if the game had ended in the most even of fashions, it certainly hadn't started so. Fulham were cool in possession, creating chances and looking the far more relaxed, purposeful side. But it was Arsenal who scored.

Yet again, set pieces were Martin Jol's undoing as a Theo Walcott cross was met well by Olivier Giroud. In spite of the notable status of their opponent, Fulham fans were in disbelief.

And it was only about to get worse. Kieron Richardson, who had looked assured, despite some suggestions he has characteristics which would suggest quite the opposite, pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury.

Alex Kacaniklic was his replacement and the Swede went on to have a terrific game. Liverpool will be wondering why they ever let him go. And why they ever took Paul Konchesky in exchange.

Arsenal doubled their lead and doubled the disbelief. Arteta strode into the penalty area and provided an accurate cross. Lukas Podolski met it with a stab of his foot and, though Fulham are carving a wonderful niche in the goalscoring market - 21 before this match began - the tie now looked beyond them.

But then again, Dimitar Berbatov is still hanging around at Fulham. He halved the worry in Martin Jol's head with another goal from a corner as he nodded home, unchallenged.

The Whites' play had deserved a goal too, and, in truth, another one would have set things right. Just as well.

Kacaniklic got this one, heading home from a Berbatov cross. While it was certainly entertaining to watch, it was quite clear that, defensively, both sides were performing awfully.

Each manager had half time to sort things out but you'd be hard pushed to say they achieved anything. Fulham were again stronger, though, for which credit must go to the adventurous Jol.

Walcott was Arsenal's main threat, with John Arne Riise, who's had better games, struggling to cope with his pace on the right hand side. He put a cross in for Giroud but it was inches too high.

The game then began to swing in Arsenal's favour, partly down to the more solid midfield footing of Aaron Ramsey, who replaced Francis Coquelin. But as we've now learnt, being in control doesn't always come with the usual merits.

Fulham took the lead soon after. Bryan Ruiz who, it has to be noted, played to such a great extent that his £10 million-or-so price tag finally appeared justified, was pulled back by a clumsy Arteta and Berbatov dispatched the penalty.

There has been much talk about Ruiz and Berbatov and, on today's evidence at least, they are a dreadfully lethal partnership. Both gracious, both accurate.

Just as the celebrations began to wane, however, Fulham lost their lead. A Giroud shot hit the post and Walcott struck it back from whence it came - Giroud. He headed over Schwarzer and we were back where we started.

Arsenal were now probing, sensing a somewhat delicate Fulham back line while the visitors were hitting on the break. Berbatov was stopped impressively by Laurent Koscielny and Schwarzer saved well from Giroud.

And then, of course, he pushed Arteta's penalty away after Phil Dowd had harshly adjudged a handball in the area.

But let's forget about the legalities for once, and take in the beauty of the game. There was plenty of that to see here.

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