By JUSTIN FERGUSON
When Fulham’s Steve Sidwell was sent off just 12 minutes into Saturday’s match at Craven Cottage, three points seemed all but guaranteed for Champions League hopeful Arsenal.
The visiting Gunners never do anything easily though, and they struggled to get one past Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer until just before halftime, when Laurent Koscielny’s header across the face of the goal found the head of fellow center back Per Mertesacker. The German defender’s 43rd-minute goal was to defeat Fulham on Saturday as Arsenal moved back into third place in the Premier League with a 1-0 win.
Despite playing a man down and getting out-possessed 71 to 29 percent, Fulham came close to an equalizer several times in the second half. Stanislav Manolev was there to tap in a mishandled ball by Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the 77th minute, but the Bulgarian defender was ruled offside.
Arsenal lost their man advantage in the 90th minute when Olivier Giroud, who hit the woodwork earlier in the match, saw red for a poor tackle of his own. The Gunners held off Fulham’s late charge to move past Chelsea once again for control of third place.
Here are the rest of Saturday’s results from the Premier League:
SUNDERLAND TOP EVERTON FOR DI CANIO’S FIRST HOME WIN
The Black Cats of Sunderland moved farther away from the dreaded relegation zone with a 1-0 win over Everton on Saturday.
The loss was a huge blow for Everton’s dreams of European competition next season. The Toffees are now two points back from fifth-place Tottenham, who have played two fewer games than Everton.
The match’s lone goal came after a poor turnover from Everton captain Leighton Baines just before the halftime whistle. Stephane Sessegnon finished a quick counter attack with a fine strike just out of the reach of Tim Howard, who made an incredible diving save to keep Sebastian Larsson’s free kick out just seconds earlier.
Sunderland were close to giving away an equalizer 10 minutes from time when goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was forced to snatch an overhit backpass out of the air. Baines had a chance to redeem himself when the ball fell his way on the ensuing indirect free kick, but his powerful shot was kept out by a wall of defenders.
It was an emotional win for Paolo Di Canio, who has been under a lot of criticism since arriving at the Stadium of Light. But his new club is now six points above the drop after recording back-to-back wins for the first time since January.
PREMIER LEAGUE SCOREBOARD
– Norwich’s Ryan and Elliot Bennett (no relation) scored two goals in the span of three minutes in the Canaries’ 2-1 home win over last-place Reading. The second win in Norwich’s last 17 Premier League matches moved the club seven points above the drop.
– Stoke City recorded a vital 2-0 win over relegation favorites QPR to move six points above the drop. Former QPR player Peter Crouch scored just before halftime and Jonathan Walters converted a penalty for the visiting Potters.
– Southampton inched their way closer to a spot in next season’s Premier League after a scoreless draw at Swansea City. The Saints are now eight points clear in the league table.
– Newcastle United failed to put some extra distance between themselves and the drop zone after a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion. The visitors dominated the first hour of the match, but Billy Jones ensured a point for West Brom with a 64th-minute goal.
– West Ham United kept Wigan Athletic in the relegation zone Saturday with a 2-0 win at Upton Park. Matthew Jarvis and Kevin Nolan scored for the Hammers, who shutout the visiting Latics despite only having 37 percent of possession.
What do you make of these results? What are your thoughts on Arsenal’s tough win at Fulham? Think Everton’s European dreams are done with the Sunderland loss? Do you think Wigan can still beat the drop?
Share your comments below.