April 29, 2007
LONDON (AFP) – Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor plunged Fulham deeper into relegation trouble as his late goal set up a 3-1 win over Lawrie Sanchez’s struggling side on Sunday.
Fulham had looked set to snatch a crucial point when Simon Davies cancelled out Julio Baptista’s early goal at the Emirates Stadium. But Adebayor’s sublime strike left Fulham heartbroken and Gilberto Silva rubbed salt into their wounds with a penalty in the final moments.
The west London club sit uncomfortably just a point above the relegation zone after their 10th match without a win.
The decision to sack Chris Coleman earlier this month and hire Northern Ireland coach Sanchez has failed to bring the upturn in fortunes Fulham’s board had hoped for.
Fulham now face a nervous finale to the season as they try to scrape the points they need for survival in their last two matches against Liverpool and Middlesbrough.
Bolton and Everton’s failure to win on Saturday had guaranteed Arsenal the top four finish that brings entry into next season’s Champions League. With no pressure weighing down on them, Arsene Wenger’s side started brightly.
They were ahead after just four minutes and it was a surprise it took that long.
Kolo Toure’s long ball picked out Adebayor and the Togo striker exchanged passes with Alexander Hleb before crossing to Baptista, who rose above Liam Rosenior and buried his header into the bottom corner.
Baptista should have doubled the lead in the 15th minute after a typically flowing move carved open the Fulham defence.
Gael Clichy and Cesc Fabregas combined to give the on-loan Real Madrid midfielder a clear sight of goal but he screwed his shot well wide.
Baptista has only scored three league goals for Arsenal and it was easy to see why. If the Brazilian’s shooting had been more accurate he could have had a hat-trick within 20 minutes as he squandered another chance created by Fabregas.
But Arsenal’s habit of dominating teams without killing them off has been a recurring problem this season and, once again, they showed they are yet to discover a killer instinct.
Fulham were completely overwhelmed, but the Gunners were unable to find a way to beat Antti Niemi for a second time.
Hleb teed up Fabregas just inside the area, but the Spaniard’s low shot was palmed away by Niemi. Then Adebayor’s powerful header from Clichy’s cross was arrowing towards the top corner until Niemi plunged to his right to push it clear.
Adebayor then showed great dexterity to trick Zat Knight but, with just Niemi to beat, he blazed high and wide.
Fulham’s Danish midfielder Claus Jensen, making his first Premiership appearance since December, finally brought his moribund side to life with a low drive that skimmed wide.
They pushed forward with increasing belief without really threatening to score until Lehmann gifted them an equaliser in the 78th minute.
The Germany goalkeeper made a complete hash of his punch as he raced off his line to challenge with Heidar Helguson for a deep cross. The ball fell to Davies on the edge of the area and he looped a perfectly-placed shot over Toure and into the net.
Clint Dempsey and Michael Brown both wasted chances to put Fulham ahead before Adebayor capped a thrilling finale.
Fabregas’s 84th minute pass released Adebayor and he surged past Philippe Christanval before curling a superb strike into the far corner.
Gilberto wrapped up the points with three minutes to play when he stroked home a penalty after Moritz Volz had clumsily brought down Hleb.