Sunday, 21 April 2013

Mertesacker/Koscielny outstanding -Monreal's our savour -Giroud's red card challenge not malicious

Morning Gooners.

Well wasn't yesterday afternoon fun! I think like most people when Fulham went down to ten men I expected us to out play the home team because our player advantage but it didn't go like that at all.

Before the sending off we looked far the better team. We played the ball around at a good tempo, were pressing to win it back early when we lost it and generally looked more threatening. After Steven Sidwell's  challenge on Mikel Arteta, which was correctly called as a red card by the referee, it was like the wind had been taken from our sails.

Nothing we did going forward was coming off. We passed it about a lot, but there was nothing incisive about the way we were playing. Before the sending off Tomas Rosicky looked like he was owning the game. After it he disappeared. But it wasn't just the Czech, all our players seemed to drop off.

We took the lead through a Per Mertesacker goal, his third league goal of the season - the other two coming in our north London derby matches. Theo Walcott swung the ball into the far post where Laurent Koscielny escaped his man and headed across the goal. Mertesacker was there to turn it home.

It was the goal we needed to make sure we were in the driving seat for three points and would hopefully mean Fulham would open up and allow us the opportunity to create more in front of goal.

However the second half was a real slog. We only had two shots on goal for the whole of the second period. Our defence was resolute. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscienly were outstanding in the heart of the defence. The pair hardly put a foot wrong all afternoon.

But I think it was Nacho Monreal's late interception which saved us dropping points. It was the kind of last gasp challenge we needed.

We were of course left in a tricky position  in the final five minutes following Olivier Giroud's red card. I thought the referee got the decision right. Giroud didn't have control of the ball and went over the top of it. While I don't think the challenge was malicious, the Frenchman doesn't have control of the ball and catches Manolev.

While the second half was excruciatingly painful for all Gooners, all that mattered were making sure we took all three points away from Craven Cottage. The fight for a Champions League place is still out of our hands but we know that the pressure is ramped up on both of our London rivals.

That's it for today. Back with more tomorrow.

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