Fulham 0 Arsenal 1 match report: Arsenal weigh up appeal after Olivier Giroud is sent off at Craven Cottage
Gunners hold on to win
Arsenal will study tapes of Olivier Giroud's challenge on Stanislav Manolev in the final minutes of Saturday's game before deciding whether to appeal against his red card. Unless the decision by the FA Cup final referee Andre Marriner is overturned, Giroud will be available for only the final match of the season, at Newcastle; if an appeal was deemed frivolous - although that would be as harsh as the dismissal - the three-match ban could be extended to cover the Newcastle match as well.
For Fulham's combative midfielder Steve Sidwell, however, the war is over. His lunge at Mikel Arteta only 12 minutes after returning from a three-match suspension earned for doing the same thing in his previous appearance, means a four-game rest this time and no more football for three months.
Giroud said he had merely slipped as he challenged Manolev, and his countryman Laurent Koscielny summed up the dressing-room feeling when he said: "I thought he jumped out of the tackle. I thought it was a bit less of a red card than the sending-off for Fulham." Without him against Manchester United on Sunday, then Queen's Park Rangers and Wigan, Arsenal's attack would lack the focal point the French striker has provided in an encouraging first season and they could be vulnerable again to Chelsea and Tottenham in the chase for Champions' League places.
Koscielny and the goalscorer Per Mertesacker, his partner in central defence, were two of Arsenal's only impressive performers, justifying Arsene Wenger's decision to keep the club captain Thomas Vermaelen in the dug-out until added time, when each side had ten men and Fulham were seriously threatening to score a deserved equaliser. Koscielny seems to like the present pairing, suggesting: "Per reads the ball well. He attacks the ball and wins headers whereas I can go behind and be quick and cope with the long balls. He is good technically and calm on the pitch.
"He is good for me and he uses his experience and this helps me."
While Arsenal pursue a 16th successive Champions' League appearance, Fulham could finish in the top 12 for a fifth season running. They will have to do it without Sidwell, after whose unwise tackle manager Martin Jol said: "I can't defend Steve, because he touched him. But I still feel it was not intentional."
Football league ups & downs
Promoted Cardiff (champions); Hull will be promoted if they win at Barnsley on Saturday or if Watford lose on Friday at home to Leicester.
Play-offs Hull and Watford are assured of a play-off spot, while Brighton, Crystal Palace, Bolton, Leicester, Nottingham Forest and Charlton are also in contention.
Relegated Bristol City; two from Barnsley, Wolves, Peterborough, Blackburn, Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday, Millwall, Blackpool, Burnley and – given an unlikely mathematical sequence of results – Ipswich can go down.
Promoted Bournemouth; a draw will be enough for Doncaster against Brentford, who have to win to go up.
Play-offs Sheffield United, Swindon, Yeovil, plus Brentford or Doncaster.
Relegated Bury, Hartlepool, Portsmouth; Scunthorpe need to win against Swindon and hope Colchester lose to Carlisle with a considerable goal swing.
Promoted Gillingham (champions); with one game left Port Vale are all but up with a +28 goal difference on fourth. If Rotherham beat Aldershot they will go up automatically, leaving Burton Albion and Cheltenham Town to contest the play-offs.
Play-offs Bradford City, Northampton Town, and two of Burton, Cheltenham and Rotherham.
Relegation Aldershot must win at Rotherham and make up a goal difference deficit of six to survive. A Wimbledon win over Fleetwood could condemn Barnet, Dagenham & Redbridge, York City, Plymouth Argyle or Torquay United.
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