Arsenal 2-2 Fulham: Pereira nets fastest goal of PL season as Arsenal drop points at home

Looking to continue their two-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal welcomed Fulham to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Cottagers were heavily defeated by Brentford last time out, and find themselves lingering in the bottom half of the table as a result.

ARS: Ramsdale; Kiwior, Saliba, White, Partey; Havertz, Rice, Ødegaard; Martinelli, Trossard, Saka

FUL: Leno; Robinson, Bassey, Diop, Tete; Pereira, Palhinha, Lukić; Decordova-Reid, Jiménez, Wilson

Yet despite the palpable confidence that surrounded the Emirates Stadium ahead of this clash, it was the visitors that took the lead in the opening minute. Saka’s poor pass was intended for White, but was interecepted by Pereira – darting forward and settling an effort in the bottom-left corner after capitalising on an off-balance Ramsdale.

The Gunners sought to restore parity immediately through Martinelli, but despite his best efforts to find the target after cutting inside from the left, the Brazilian was only able to plant his curling strike wide of the far post. It would seemingly be the story of the first half for Mikel Arteta’s side, with Havertz squandering a golden opportunity to equalise from Saka’s cross.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

The chances continued to flow for the home side as the half progressed, with Martinelli denied on numerous occasions – but the best chance came form Saka’s free-kick. A low curling effort looked set to catch Leno off-guard, but Robinson was able to divert the chance over the crossbar to maintain his side’s advantage.

It was Jiménez that looked destined to double Fulham’s lead with 22 minutes on the clock, as White’s poor clearance from Pereira’s speculative ball forward allowed the striker to attempt an acrobatic scissor kick. It was sent a few inches wide of the target though, and the visitors failed to capitalise on another Arsenal mistake mere moments later as Wilson skewed his strike wide of the post.

The thirty-minute mark would prove to be the turning point, with Saka well-placed to nod Trossard’s cross into the back of the net – but a spectacular miss saw the Englishman send a headed effort into the ground and over the bar! He would be offered the opportunity to make amends for that miss soon after, kickstarting a move that ultimately granted Martinelli space for a shot. The Brazilian was denied well by Leno though, allowing Fulham to retain their half-time lead.

But the Gunners were quick to test Leno in the second half, with Saka dancing down the right flank before creating space for a strike – but the German held his effort well. It could have proven to be a costly mistake for the hosts, but Decordova-Reid sent his chance wide of the post too after a blistering counterattack sparked by a Havertz error.

Yet Mikel Arteta’s side would be granted an opportunity to level the match from the penalty spot in the 70th minute, as Tete lunged in to haul Vieira to the ground with a reckless challenge. Saka opted to take to the resulting penalty, powering a convincing strike into the bottom-right corner to restore parity at the Emirates Stadium.

And merely two minutes later, the Gunners took a sensational lead through Nketiah. Having been introduced as a half-time substitute, the forward latched onto Vieira’s cross from the left flank – poking past Leno. The goal would stand, despite vocal protests from the opposition as Bassey had been left on the deck following a tussle with Saka.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

That would be Bassey’s last real involvement of the match though, with the defender dismissed for a second yellow card offence in the 83rd minute. Yet bizarrely, it would prove to bear fruit for the visitors – as Arsenal’s mentality was to sit back and absorb pressure, rather than going in search of a third goal to wrap up proceedings. That allowed Palhinha to break through, connecting with Reed’s cross to draw this match level with just three minutes of regulation time remaining.

And despite a late flurry of chances for Arsenal in stoppage time, Mikel Arteta’s side weren’t able to find another breakthrough – and the Gunners drop their first points of the season as a result. They’ll look to return to winning ways against Manchester United next Sunday, while there’s a shorter wait to return to action for Fulham. They’ll face Tottenham Hotspur in midweek in the Carabao Cup.