John Arne Riise rubbishes Arsene Wenger claims of red card plan


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The Independent Football

John Arne Riise has denied Fulham players deliberately tried to get Arsenal defender Johan Djourou sent off yesterday.

The Gunners looked set for a fifth victory in six away Barclays Premier League matches until the home side's late comeback at Craven Cottage.

Steve Sidwell and Bobby Zamora netted in the final minutes of the match to secure Fulham a 2-1 win, with the catalyst seemingly Djourou's red card for a second bookable offence 12 minutes before time.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was furious after the match and, as well as hitting out at referee Lee Probert, claimed the Cottagers attempted to get the Switzerland international sent off.

The Frenchman suggested substitute Kerim Frei was brought on to look for a second booking, but Riise has followed manager Martin Jol in denying the allegation.

"We would never do that," the Norway international said.

"What we do, we know people are strong like Kerim and give him the ball, make him go one against one and see what he can do.

"That's a tactic but we never go out and get people sent off. That's not fair play and we never do that.

"He should have been yellow carded for a tackle before that. I think he had three tackles in quite a short time. It was the right decision.

"I think before the sending off we played well, pushed them but we couldn't get the goals.

"When they lose a man, you know it is going to be hard for them and you get the extra energy to push on again."

While Arsenal felt aggrieved after the match, defeat would have been cruel on Fulham after a spirited performance.

The west Londoners rode a first-half storm and impressed onlookers after the break with their swashbuckling attacking style.

"The team spirit is very high," left-back Riise said.

"We played okay in the first half as well and had a few chances but gave them too much space on the counter attack but in the second half we decided to be more compact.

"We knew fitness would play a part in the game.

"We have a fit squad and we like to work hard and we proved in the second half that we were a little bit stronger at the end."

The victory comes after impressive draws at Chelsea and Norwich, which have helped to put their recent 5-0 mauling by Manchester United behind them.

"We were disappointed and a little embarrassed at how we played against United," Riise added.

"We showed a lot of character to bounce back to draw against Chelsea and now we beat Arsenal.

"We worked hard and we are extremely happy - people are looking forward to some days off now."

While the home side revelled in their surprise victory, Arsenal players were quickly ushered out of Craven Cottage after the match.

Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny tweeted in the aftermath: "Poor result for us, poor goalkeeping by me for the first goal, poor day all around!

"Let's move on and win the next one!"

Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen, who missed the match with a calf strain, echoed Szczesny's comments, tweeting: "Disappointing result today but still long way to go. Keep fighting!"