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Live Commentary: Fulham 0-1 Arsenal - as it happened

Find out how Arsenal were able to win 1-0 away at Fulham with Sports Mole's text updates.

Arsenal made the short trip across London this afternoon looking to tighten their grip on one of the Premier League's places in the Champions League next season.

Their chances were boosted early on when Steve Sidwell was shown a straight red card for Fulham and they went on to make the most of their numerical advantage shortly before the break when Per Mertesacker scored from close range.

They failed to add to their tally during the second half and even had Olivier Giroud dismissed in the closing stages, but they were able to hold out for all three points.

You can find out how the match unfolded with our minute-by-minute updates below.

Afternoon all. Well, thankfully another weekend has arrived and with it comes Premier League football. Here, we've got a London derby between Fulham and Arsenal.

As mentioned in the introduction, this match probably means much more to visiting Arsenal than it does to Fulham. Having said that though, the home side will not be wanting to lose this one. After all, the higher you finish up the Premier League, the more prize money the club receives.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere loves a good tweet doesn't he? Earlier today, he had this to say: "Morning everyone. Big game in Fulham today...decent weather for it. #AFC #COYG."

It's hard to disagree with Jack actually, the weather is "decent". It actually feels like spring - perfect conditions for football.

Talking of Wilshere, the team news from Craven Cottage is just reaching us and the England international will not be happy because he is not included in the Arsenal starting lineup...

ARSENAL XI: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky; Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud

So, having recently admitted that he rushed Wilshere back from an ankle injury too quickly, boss Arsene Wenger has rested the youngster from the start today. Coming in is Tomas Rosicky, who has overcome a hamstring complaint. Meanwhile, Nacho Monreal has been preferred at left-back to Kieran Gibbs, with Theo Walcott also included in a wide role.

As for the home side, here is what they have to offer...

FULHAM XI: Schwarzer; Manolev, Senderos, Hangeland, Richardson; Enoh, Sidwell, Ruiz, Emanuelson, Kacaniklic; Berbatov

Just a couple of days after he was recalled from his loan stint in the Championship with Burnley, Alexander Kacaniklic has been hoisted into the Fulham team. He will start on the right side of midfield, which also includes Steve Sidwell, who recently served a suspension. Meanwhile, Kieran Richardson has kept his place at left-back ahead of John Arne Riise.

While we are at it, let's just reveal who has been selected to sit on the benches.

FULHAM: Etheridge, Riise, Hughes, Karagounis, Frei, Rodallega, Petric

ARSENAL: Mannone, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski, Gervinho

Right, with the team news done, let's look ahead to this encounter shall we? It may surprise you to know that Fulham are unbeaten in their last four games against the Gunners. In fact, when the sides last met at the Cottage back in January 2012, the home side ran out 2-1 winners.

And who can forget the mad match involving these two earlier in the season? It finished 3-3 at the Emirates, but that only tells half the story. There were incidents aplenty, as well as a last minute penalty, which Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta saw saved by Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham net. Don't believe me? Watch this:

Berbatov may have stolen some of the headlines in that clash because of his two-goal contribution, but one player that was extremely impressive for Fulham that day was the returning Kacaniklic. He caused numerous problems to the Arsenal rearguard and will no doubt be looking to do the same today. He will be up against Monreal, who has been in and out of the Arsenal lineup of late.

The quality of Berbatov cannot be ignored though. While some may criticise him for his lack of workrate, there can be doubting that he possesses that something special. It seems that Arsenal manager Wenger will also have some plans in place to try and keep him quiet today:

"Berbatov is at the heart of their creative side. He can score and he can provide so it's important that we keep him very quiet," the Frenchman said recently.

Meanwhile, Wenger's opposite number, Martin Jol, has backed Arsenal to qualify for next season's Champions League:

"I admire Wenger, he is an unbelievable manager. He is emotional, he wants to win but even this season if you look at them they have been under pressure. I think they will make the top four."

I think I preferred these two when Jol was in charge of Tottenham Hotspur. There was none of this back-slapping going on!

Someone that could put a dent in Arsenal's Champions League chances today is Schwarzer. The veteran goalkeeper has been in top form this season and as revealed by Fulham's twitter account moments ago, he will reach a milestone this afternoon:

"Mark Schwarzer’s appearance between the sticks today is his 500th in the Premier League. Great achievement by our Aussie stopper #ffc #coyw."

A victory for the away side really would be most welcome. They would move up to third above Chelsea and Spurs, while holding a five-point lead over the latter of those two clubs. Granted Spurs would have two games in hand, but at this stage of the season, you'd much rather have the points on the board.

There is also still something riding on this match for Fulham. They may no longer be involved in the relegation dogfight, which means that they can now be looking up. If results go there way today, they could move up to ninth in the standings. I'm sure most Fulham fans would be delighted by a finish in the top half.

Right, here come the players into a Craven Cottage that is bathed in sunshine. It really is a very nice day in West London. Not long now until we are off and running.

GAME ON! Here we go then. Arsenal, kicking from right to left, get this important fixture started.

DISALLOWED GOAL! It's been a bright start at the Cottage, with both sides mounting attacks. Arsenal have actually stuck the ball in the net, but Theo Walcott was well offside when he converted from inside the area. Positive stuff all round.

It's pretty much what you would have expected from this match now as Arsenal take control of proceedings. They are keeping the ball very well and are making their opposition work extremely hard. Santi Cazorla in particular is looking a class above everyone else on the pitch.

RED CARD! Sidwell (Fulham)

Steve Sidwell has just returned from a suspension and he has lasted 12 minutes! What an earth is he thinking? He slides in on Arteta, gets nowhere near the ball and catches the Arsenal midfielder hard on the ankle. Sidwell looks disappointed with himself and so he should. He's left his side to face one of England's best passing sides with 10 men for 78 minutes. It could be an uphill task for the hosts now.

I wonder if Jol will now be contemplating a change to his lineup. He's lost an energetic midfield player, so he may want to address that. Perhaps the experienced Giorgos Karagounis may come on at some stage in place of one of Fulham's wider players. At the moment, Bryan Ruiz has dropped into the centre of midfield.

SAVE! Arsenal have had all of the ball so far and yet they almost fell behind. It's a quick break from Fulham and Urby Emmanuelson, who bursts into the Arsenal half. His pass splits the defence and frees Berbatov, who you'd expect to score from 10 yards out. His shot is good, but Wojciech Szczesny gets his hand up in time to divert the ball to safety.

How frustrating are Arsenal to watch? Very is the answer! So often they get the ball 20 yards from goal, but none of their players seem interested in having a shot. They've been the same for years in all honesty. It's Aaron Ramsey who is guilty on this occasion as the chance opens up, but he opts to dink a pass into the area which skids out of play.

To be fair to Fulham, they've played better since Sidwell was sent for an early bath. They are defending extremely well, but what's more impressive is the fact that they are looking threatening on the break. The likes of Emmanuelson and Kacaniklic have the pace to cause problems and they are trying to do that now.

He may end up scoring, but Olivier Giroud has had a poor game so far for Arsenal. He's been picked out on numerous occasions, but his first touch in particular has let him down. It doesn't look like he truly fits into Arsenal's style of play.

OFF THE POST! Well, it seems as though Mr Giroud may well be a reader of Sports Mole, or at least someone has told him what I said! Cazorla picks him out inside the area with a low pass. His touch is good and the shot is even better. It beats Schwarzer, but not the base of the post. Unlucky for the French striker.

SAVE! Emanuelson may not have pulled up many trees since joining Fulham on loan in January, but he's having a very good game today. He's just cut inside Monreal from the right, before lashing a left footed shot goalwards from 20 yards out. The ball is heading for the bottom corner, but Szczesny gets down to push clear the danger. Good stuff from the Dutch international.

GOAL! Fulham 0-1 Arsenal (Mertesacker)

Martin Jol will be furious with his players because they've conceded from a free kick situation. If Arsenal tear you apart with their passing football, then fair enough. That hasn't happened here though. A lofted pass from Walcott is headed across goal by Laurent Koscielny, leaving Per Mertesacker the most simplest of tap-ins. All that hard work from Fulham for nothing.

We will have two minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half.

HALF-TIME: Fulham 0-1 Arsenal

Well, it's not been the best of halves if you're of a Fulham persuasion. The hosts were reduced to 10 men after just 12 minutes and then they concede a really poor goal with the break fast approaching. There is a lot of work for Jol to do with his players during the next 15 minutes.

As if all that wasn't bad enough, here's a statistic from the guys at Opta which won't make for pleasant reading: "5 - Fulham have won fewer points from losing positions than any other Premier League side in 2012-13 (5). Worry."

Having said all that, Arsenal haven't been brilliant. Considering the fact that they are playing against 10 men and have seen virtually all of the ball, they haven't created too much. The goal will have helped and will probably have changed Arsene Wenger's team talk. Even so, he will no doubt be asking his players to be more clinical in the final third of the pitch.

There are two players that I would not want to be right now. Jol is scary enough at the best of times and you feel that Sidwell and Bryan Ruiz will cop for it over the next few minutes. Sidwell because of that shocking challenge that saw him red carded, while Ruiz fell asleep at the back post as Arsenal took the lead. I wouldn't be surprised to see him looking a little sheepish when he returns for the second half!

And here's a bit more on that Sidwell tackle from former Liverpool and Germany midfielder Dietmar Hamann on Twitter: "Sidwell got sent off in the last 2 games he played for poor challenges and both times he pretended he got hurt. EMBARRASSING."

Meanwhile, here is what has been going on around the country.


Swansea 0-0 Southampton
Fulham 0-1 Arsenal
Norwich 0-0 Reading
Sunderland 1-0 Everton
West Brom 0-1 Newcastle
West Ham 1-0 Wigan

Right then, the players are back with us and we are underway again at Craven Cottage. Big 45 minutes ahead, particularly for Arsenal in their battle for a place in the Champions League. No changes have been made.

It's been all Arsenal at the start of the second half. To be honest, you wouldn't have really expected anything else. Fulham need to get Emanuelson on the ball as much as possible because he has been their best player so far. He's looked the only one that could get Fulham back into this encounter.

BOOKING! And it's the dangerous Emanuelson who raids forward, but as he goes to cut inside his legs are swiped from underneath him by Mikel Arteta. The Arsenal midfielder protests his innocence but Andre Marriner is having none of it. The resultant free kick is wasted by Ruiz.

For all their possession, Arsenal really are struggling to create any decent goalscoring opportunities. It's been pretty up until a point, but from 20 yards out they've been lacking in ideas. It's bound to be frustrating Wenger on the touchline.

Just as they were in the first half, Fulham are doing okay considering the situation. If anything, they've actually shown a bit more ambition during the opening 15 minutes or so of this half. They do need a bit of magic though from the likes of Berbatov or Ruiz.

Arsenal really are labouring at the moment. There's no urgency about their play and if they are not careful, they could well pay for this. Shots of Wenger on the sidelines show that he is not very happy at all.

SUBSTITUTIONS: Wenger reacts to the poor showing by making a double switch. A disappointed Walcott and Tomas Rosicky make way for Wilshere and Lukas Podolski. That's an attacking decision from Wenger and it should inject some quality into Arsenal's performance.

It's only early days, but neither Wilshere nor Podolski have been able to have an influence on Arsenal's performance. It's still as you were. If they don't sort this out and Fulham become more positive, they may live to regret their poor showing when it comes to going forward.

DISALLOWED GOAL! And if this isn't a warning for Arsenal, I don't know what is. It's poor from Szczesny as he parries a weak shot into the path of Stanislav Manolev, who lashes the ball into the roof of the net. The Bulgarian is correctly ruled offside by Sian Massey, but it's still a big escape for the Gunners.

You'd have to say that at the moment Fulham look more likely to score than Arsenal do. They are breaking with pace and purpose and now have the Gunners on the back foot. Of course the danger is that as they commit more men forward, they will leave more gaps at the back. It's a risk they've got to take though.

SUBSTITUTION: It's a first change of the afternoon for Fulham as the lively Kacaniklic is given a deserved breather. He was impressive considering that he has been playing in the Championship recently. On in his place is Croatian striker Mladen Petric.

SUBSTITUTION: It's like London buses where Fulham substitutes are concerned as Emanuelson's number goes up. The Dutch winger has been Fulham's best player today. He has been replaced by Swiss youngster Kerim Frei for the closing stages.

RED CARD! Giroud (Arsenal)

It's 1-1, but only in terms of red cards. That is a typical tackle from a striker as Giroud goes in over the top of the ball on Richardson. He clearly caught the Fulham defender and despite his protests, he has to go. The more you look at it, that is a dangerous tackle that could really have hurt Richardson. Meanwhile, we will have three minutes of stoppage time.

Fulham are piling on the pressure and they have a corner...

...but it is cleared by an Arsenal head. It looks as though the Gunners have weathered the storm.

FULL TIME: Fulham 0-1 Arsenal

So, there is the final whistle. It wasn't pretty, but it is a massive result for the Gunners, who are now in command where Champions League qualification is concerned. Fulham were spirited, but they ultimately paid the price for Sidwell's early red card.

That's all we have time for from Craven Cottage. Thanks for joining us this afternoon and be sure to look out for our analysis of this clash, which will be on the site shortly. Until next time, goodbye.

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Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov celebrates scoring against Tottenham on March 17, 2013
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Wenger wary of Berbatov

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