Arsène Wenger slipped up in more ways than one at Craven Cottage last night as a woeful Arsenal lost further ground in the title race with a costly defeat to Fulham. The Gunners manager then lost his footing on his way to the post-match press conference and declined to speak to the written press such was his anger at a defeat inflicted by first-half goals from Brian McBride and Tomasz Radzinski.
Wenger did, however, share a few words with radio and television, but refused to rule out a title challenge instead preferring to turn his attention to the north London derby on Saturday. "I will leave the mathematics of the title race," Wenger said. "We will now go away and focus on preparing for our next game.
"We never expected defeat but the game was played at a high pace. But we gave it everything and created chances, so I am not disappointed by the way we played. It was our third away defeat in a row and at the moment, things are just not going for us." So much so that the defeat means Arsenal are now 16 points adrift of Manchester United at the top of the Premiership.
To add to Wenger's woes, he saw his defender Philippe Senderos sent off after receiving two bookings, as Fulham recorded their first home win over the Gunners in 40 years in a heated encounter that bought 10 yellow cards. Wenger rested Cesc Fabregas and played Alexandre Song in midfield, a decision which backfired horribly, as the visitors were run ragged by an inspired Luis Boa Morte.
The Fulham manager, Chris Coleman, was delighted with his side. "That was the best performance I have seen from Fulham," he said. "Better than beating Chelsea last season and when we beat Manchester United 3-1 at Old Trafford.
"It is easily the best performance I have seen since for so many reasons. We have come back from two defeats and done everything tremendously well from start to finish. Boa was excellent. He has stayed with us and worked hard while all the other big-hitters have left and when his neck is on the line, he always gives 100 per cent and that's why he is our captain."
Boa Morte had already tested Arsenal's defence before McBride put Fulham into the lead in the sixth minute when he climbed highest in the box to head in from Claus Jensen's corner. Jens Lehmann got a hand to the ball but could not keep it out.
Radzinski doubled the advantage with only 19 minutes played when he slotted home from close range after good work from Boa Morte. Relishing the chance to rub salt into the wounds of his former club, he turned Song inside out before crossing for Radzinski to finish.
Boa Morte then squandered a great chance to kill the match when he beat the Arsenal offside trap but his shot was saved by Lehmann. Boa Morte was made to pay for his miss when Robin Van Persie reduced Arsenal's deficit with a sumptuous left-foot free-kick from 25 yards.
After the interval, Wenger introduced Fabregas for the hopeless Song to add some creativity into Arsenal's midfield. It almost paid instant dividends, too, as Thierry Henry put the ball in the goal, only for his effort to be ruled out for offside.
Arsenal's hopes of getting level, however, took a serious dent when Senderos underlined another below par performance by getting sent off. The Swiss defender, who had been cautioned in the first half, lunged at Boa Morte leaving the referee, Howard Webb, little option but to flash a second yellow.
It was almost the final insult for Wenger, but that seemed to come on his way to explain another lacklustre display to the media.
Goals: McBride 6 (1-0); Radzinski 19 (2-0); Van Persie 36 (2-1).
Fulham (4-5-1): Niemi; Volz, Knight, Christanval, Rosenior; Radzinski (Routledge, 64) Brown, Diop, Jensen, Boa Morte; McBride (Helguson, 76). Substitutes not used: Lastuvka (gk), John, Zakuani.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Hoyte, Senderos, Touré, Flamini; Hleb (Djourou, 66), Gilberto Silva, Song ( Fabregas 46), Rosicky (Walcott, 61); Henry, Van Persie. Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Djourou, Adebayor, Walcott.
Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).
Bookings: Fulham Brown, Rosenior, Boa Morte, Helguson; Arsenal Song, Senderos, Van Persie, Flamini, Rosicky.
Sent off: Senderos 66.
Man of the match: Boa Morte.
Attendance: 24,510.Reuse content