Arsenal eased to a comfortable victory over struggling Fulham at Highbury thanks to goals from Thierry Henry and Robert Pires.
The Gunners got off to the perfect start when Henry equalled Ian Wright’s haul of 128 league goals for Arsenal by firing home Freddie Ljungberg’s ball on the turn after just twelve minutes. Ljungberg was also the provider for Arsenal’s clinching second goal with twenty minutes to play when he supplied a cross for Pires to tuck home from close range.
Arsene Wenger’s side could have wrapped up the contest long before that with better finish. Ljungberg wasted a sumptuous set up from Henry by firing into the crowd just before half time and the Gunners continued to miss chances after the interval, with Kolo Toure glancing a header wide from Dennis Bergkamp’s precise free-kick.
van der Sar then saved well from Pires as Fulham’s goal came under serious pressure. The French winger raced onto a lovely chested pass by Bergkamp but the Dutch goalkeeper raced off his line to narrow the angle and pulled off an excellent stop. Ljungberg wasted another opportunity when he headed unaccountably wide from Henry’s cross after being left completely alone at the back post.
Fulham almost equalised midway through the second half when Collins John reached a forward ball from Zat Knight and the teenager’s clever finish whistled past the far post. Manuel Almunia then bravely blocked Thomas Radzinski’s clever chip after the Canadian international had reached a raking pass from Zesh Rehman, but Arsenal remained in the ascendancy and Henry was unfortunate not to double his tally when he curled a majestic finish against the near post from the edge of the box.
The hosts finally made the game safe in the 71st minute when Pires profited from a flowing Arsenal move. The Gunners passed Fulham into submission around the penalty area and Ljungberg’s low ball in was tucked away by Pires after he had sidestepped a challenge on the edge of the six-yard box.
ARSENAL (4-4-2) Almunia; Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Clichy; Ljungberg (Flamini 76), Fabregas, Vieira, Pires; Bergkamp (Van Persie 78), Henry. Subs (not used): Lehmann, Senderos, Pennant.
GOALS: Henry (12), Pires (71).
FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Volz, Bocanegra, Pearce, Knight; Rehman (Malbranque 81), Diop, Pembridge, Radzinski; Cole (McBride 66), John. Subs (not used): Crossley, Fontaine, Legwinski.
BOOKED: Rehman, Volz.
REFEREE: Barry Knight (Kent).