Arsenal's season of frustration ends with draw

Fulham 2 Arsenal 2

Arsenal's season of frustration ended with a 2-2 draw at 10-man Fulham, which will leave the Gunners having to qualify for the Champions League.

Steve Sidwell had swept the hosts in front in the 26th minute, only for Robin van Persie to quickly equalise.

Bobby Zamora nodded the Cottagers back into the lead just before the hour with substitute Zoltan Gera shown a straight red card two minutes after coming on - but a late goal from Theo Walcott earned Arsenal a point as they finished fourth in the Barclays Premier League behind FA Cup winners Manchester City.

The Gunners had won just twice in their previous 10 league matches as a campaign which promised so much quickly fell apart after defeat in the Carling Cup final against Birmingham at Wembley.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger left the field to chants of "spend some money" from the travelling support, who will expect much better next time around.

Fulham saw most of the ball during the opening exchanges at a blustery Craven Cottage.

When Jack Wilshere - the centre of a club-versus-country row over his proposed inclusion in the Under-21s European Championship squad - did pick out Samir Nasri with a chip into the Fulham box in the 10th minute the Frenchman, just back from a hamstring injury, could only loop a tame header goalwards.

Arsenal's defence, so often their Achilles heel this season, played a very high line and were almost caught out when Andrew Johnson scampered clear, but was called back by a tight offside flag.

The visitors almost snatched the lead when Bacary Sagna whipped over a deep cross to the far post, where fellow full-back Kieran Gibbs' downward header was clawed away by Mark Schwarzer, who came close to joining the Gunners in the summer.

Fulham took the lead in the 26th minute when Arsenal defender Johan Djourou played Zamora onside as the England striker scampered away down the right before cutting the ball back to Sidwell, who drilled home from six yards.

The lead, though, did not last long.

Abou Diaby, so often an under-performer this season, won the ball in midfield, before playing a neat one-two with Marouane Chamakh to release Van Persie on the edge of the Fulham area.

The in-form Dutchman needed no second invitation, killing the pass with his first touch before dispatching a low strike into the bottom left corner to level on 29 minutes and take his tally to nine in consecutive away games.

Arsenal were, however, soon back on the defensive.

Thomas Vermaelen produced a brilliant goal-line tackle after Danny Murphy had barged into the six-yard box and stabbed the ball past Wojciech Szczesny.

At the start of the second half, Van Persie was booked for protesting after referee Martin Atkinson failed to award a foul when he was checked by Brede Hangeland.

Schwarzer denied Arsenal again with another fine save, this time turning Nasri's goalbound free-kick over the crossbar.

Fulham were back in the lead after 57 minutes when Jonathan Greening darted into the left side of the Arsenal box, before chipping the ball across goal where Zamora nodded in at the near post.

Szczesny was off his line quickly to deny Zamora the chance to poke home a third as Arsenal were on the back foot.

There was a let-off for Fulham, though, when Schwarzer spilled Van Persie's right-wing cross, but Chamakh could only stab the loose ball wide.

Arsenal made a triple substitution on 64 minutes, replacing Aaron Ramsey with Walcott, Diaby with Andrey Arshavin and Gibbs with Emmanuel Eboue.

With news filtering through of Manchester City taking a 2-0 lead at Bolton, Arsenal looked certain to finish fourth.

Arshavin almost released Wilshere with a neat pass, but the ball just ran away from the England youngster.

With 20 minutes left, Zamora, appearing to be carrying an injury, was replaced by Gera, who looks set to leave at the end of his contract this summer.

The Hungarian was soon walking off again however after his lunging two-foot challenge on Vermaelen was punished with a straight red card on 74 minutes.

With Fulham hoping to stay high in the Fair Play League table, and earn a chance at European football again in the summer, it could yet prove a costly dismissal.

Arshavin flashed a low drive just wide, before Walcott levelled in the final minute when his shot went in off the far post.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey
film
Sport
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
football
News
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
Sport
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
people
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot