Fulham 0-3 Arsenal: Rampant Gunners blow the hosts away with three first-half goals as Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel send Mikel Arteta’s title-chasers five clear of Man City at the top of the Premier League
- Gabriel Magalhaes powered home a header after the visitors had a goal ruled out by the VAR
- Gabriel Martinelli nodded a second after some good work from Leandro Trossard on the left
- Martin Odegaard made it three just before the break as Arsenal left Fulham shell shocked
The tennis courts were busy in Bishop’s Park on Sunday afternoon. Families sat outside the pretty bay window of The Tea House, eating the all-day brunch and watching the world go by. Cloncurry Street and Woodlawn Road have rarely looked more elegant and rareified. It was, all things considered, a pleasant afternoon for a stroll by the Thames.
Arsenal got into the spirit of it. If there has been plenty of fire, brimstone and brinksmanship about some of their encounters this season, this was a gentle jaunt on the cusp of spring. They sauntered past a disappointingly tame Fulham team without breaking sweat. They made it look so comfortable that no one would have noticed if one of them had wandered off to watch the rowers on the river.
Their 3-0 victory, courtesy of first half goals from Gabriel, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard took them five points clear of Manchester City again at the top of the Premier League again with 11 games of the season left to go. Fulham have had a fine campaign and a win here would have taken them above Liverpool into fifth place but they never looked like troubling the leaders. Not remotely.
Mick Jagger was watching from the stands and at half time, the stadium announcer played Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones. It sounded like a plaintive plea to Marco Silva’s side but the home team never got the message. They failed to make this any sort of a contest. Arsenal, who have the best away record in the league with 11 wins from 15 matches, are edging closer and closer to an improbable prize.
Both sides had had early escapes. Mitrovic might have punished Arsenal when the flight of the ball deceived White and the Serbia striker chested it down inside the box. Mitrovic tried to lob the ball over Ramsdale but misjudged his effort and lifted it high over the bar.
A minute later, Martinelli escaped down the left after a one-two with Granit Xhaka, opened his body and drilled a shot across Bernd Leno towards the far corner. Leno flung himself to his left to push it out but it cannoned off the leges of Antonee Robinson and rolled into the net. Arsenal celebrated but VAR checked for offside. ‘This is ****,’ a Fulham fan shouted out. He may have changed his mind a few seconds later when the goal was disallowed.
Midway through the half, though, Fulham ran out of luck. Trossard curled in a corner from the Fulham right and Gabriel rose highest in a crowded six-yard box to nod the ball down and past Leno into the net. If that seemed too easy, Arsenal’s second, five minutes later, owed much to more poor defending. Trossard floated a cross to the back post, Robinson got the wrong side of Martinelli and could not even muster a leap as the Brazil forward guided his header past Leno.
Ten minutes before half time, Arsenal nearly added a third with what would have been a beautiful team goal. Adarabioyo gave the ball away cheaply to Thomas Partey, Partey played it to Martin Odegaard, Odegaard slid it to Xhaka, who let it run and then moved on to a return pass from Trossard. With only Leno to beat, Xhaka took a heavy touch and the ball rolled harmlessly into the grateful arms of the Fulham goalkeeper.
Arsenal missed another chance to extend their lead on the stroke of the interval when White lofted a cross to the back post and Martinelli stole in behind the Fulham defence. Martinelli met it on the volley and played it into the ground but as Leno fell backwards into his goal, he palmed it away to safety with his left hand.
Fulham could not survive until half time without conceding again, though. Arsenal seemed to be able to cut through their defence at will by now and when Saka worked the ball to Trossard on the left, Fulham’s centre backs let his cross drift over them to Odegaard. Odegaard took it down, dribbed past one defender and then, untroubled by any semblance of a challenge, curled his shot beyond Leno. Arsenal were making it look embarrassingly easy.
Their fluency dipped a little after the break and they seemed content merely to maintain their lead but midway through the second half, a brilliant flick from Xhaka freed Martinelli and only a superb block from Kenny Tete prevented a fourth goal. Fulham even started showing signs of life: Ramsdale saved well from Bobby De Cordova-Reid and a header from Mitrovic crashed against the face of the bar.
Gabriel Jesus came on quarter of an hour from the end to make his first appearance since he was injured for Brazil at the World Cup. He looked impressively sharp and hungry. For Arsenal, was the perfect end to an easy afternoon.