Arsenal 2-1 Fulham: From zero to hero! Gabriel grabs last-gasp winner for hosts

When the final whistle sounded on this frantic, fiery, frankly bonkers win over Fulham, Arsenal’s resident DJ pressed play. 

The first song on his post-match playlist? Tequila, and before long the Emirates was bouncing to the tune of an old classic. One they have adapted in honour of William Saliba.

For perhaps the first time this season, however, the French defender had played in the shadow of his centre back partner. This was an evening that belonged to Gabriel Magalhaes. Eventually for the right reasons, after he turned home a late winner that maintains Arsenal’s 100 per cent record and keeps Mikel Arteta’s side top of the table.

Arsenal defender Gabriel made up for a shocking error to score the winner against Fulham

Gabriel redeemed himself with a scrambled finish from close range in the 85th minute

Gabriel redeemed himself with a scrambled finish from close range in the 85th minute

MATCH FACTS

Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney (Nketiah 61), Elneny, Xhaka, Saka Odegaard (Holding 90), Martinelli, Gabriel Jesus (Tomiyasu 89).

Subs Not Used: Smith Rowe, Cedric, Vieira, Sambi Lokonga, Alencar, Turner.

Booked: White, Gabriel Jesus.

Goals: Odegaard 64,Gabriel 86.

Fulham: Leno,Tete (Mbabu 79), Adarabioyo, Ream (Stansfield 88), Antonee Robinson, Reed, Joao Palhinha (Chalobah 88), Reid, Andreas Pereira (Diop 79), Kebano (Cairney 69) ,Mitrovic.

Subs Not Used: Rodak, Duffy, Francois, Harris.

Booked: Joao Palhinha, Antonee Robinson, Reid.

Goals: Mitrovic 56.

Att: 60,164

Ref: Jarred Gillett (Australia)

For a while, though, it seemed his error would cost Arsenal both. Ten minutes into the second half the Brazilian pulled his shirt over his face – as shellshock swept round this place – after Aleksandar Mitrovic picked his pocket and opened the door for Fulham to snatch a remarkable victory. It was comical stuff. From Bukayo Saka’s barmy pass across his own box, to Gabriel’s clumsy footwork and Mitrovic’s daylight robbery.

Alas, the lead lasted only eight minutes, before Martin Odegaard’s deflected equaliser set up a late siege on the Fulham goal. The visitors’ resistance was eventually undone by the most agricultural assault. With five minutes to play, a corner was sent towards the front post, where Bernd Leno – of this parish until recently – was surrounded. The goalkeeper tried to punch it clear, he failed, the ball dropped to Gabriel, who was left with an open goal. And so the 100th Premier League match of Arteta’s tenure ended with a 53rd win. Not many have felt this significant.

No wonder this place was alive once more. From the dugout, Oleksandr Zinchenko was going more loopy than most – and he was supposed to be injured.

‘I’m really happy with the performance, the attitude and the mentality,’ Arteta said. ‘We made an error… it’s about how you respond to that and I’m really pleased. It’s not a coincidence because Gabi has changed his mentality and the way he approaches every day is different to a year ago.’

Arteta added: ‘What is most important in his life apart from his little daughter and his family (is) how consistent he is every day in his habits and how much he really wants to become one of the best.’

Aleksandar Mitrovic fired Fulham ahead in the second-half at the Emirates on Saturday

Aleksandar Mitrovic fired Fulham ahead in the second-half at the Emirates on Saturday

Gabriel lost possession on the edge of box to allow Mitrovic to fire the visitors ahead

Gabriel lost possession on the edge of box to allow Mitrovic to fire the visitors ahead

Still, though, let the post-mortem of this match show that there were two sides and to ignore Fulham would be to overlook a performance of grit, tenacity and tactical intelligence that Marco Silva felt deserved more. And he’s probably right.

Yes, they spent much of these 90 minutes without the ball, banking on creating a few chances and converting enough to nick something. But that simple plan so nearly paid off.

After this first defeat of the season, Fulham will rue a few near-misses that proved costly. Andreas Pereira was free inside the area when Neeskens Kebano tried to square the ball, only to kick it with his standing foot and fall over.

Then at 1-1, Mitrovic’s powerful header was saved by Aaron Ramsdale before a follow-up shot was blocked by Ben White. Fulham demanded handball and a penalty, to no avail.

Even at 2-1, they could have nicked something. But again Ramsdale was down to save from Nathaniel Chalobah.

The goalkeeper stood tall when Arsenal needed him. Odegaard was excellent too, and Eddie Nketiah made a real difference from the bench.

Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard equalised with a deflected strike in the 64th minute

Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard equalised with a deflected strike in the 64th minute 

Boss Mikel Arteta celebrates after Arsenal maintained their 100 per cent start to the season

Boss Mikel Arteta celebrates after Arsenal maintained their 100 per cent start to the season

This win was particularly satisfying because, for the first time all season, Arsenal faced real adversity. And for the first time, they were missing key players: both Zinchenko (knee) and Thomas Partey (thigh) were ruled out by injury.

That did, at least, offer a first chance for Kieran Tierney to remind supporters why he was such a crucial part of this side before he walked out of the shower towards the end of last season, tweaked his knee and began another spell out with injury.

Last night, he returned at left back, a role that has rather changed since he vacated it. The arrival of Zinchenko has ushered in a new era where full backs must double up as creative midfielders. That doesn’t seem Tierney’s bag but there he was, tucking in, looking to conduct play alongside Mohamed Elneny. Is it the best use of his tenacity and energy? Probably not. Does he offer the same guile as Zinchenko? On this evidence, definitely not. He came off after an hour as Arteta sent on Nketiah and Arsenal pushed for a winner. It took a while to come.

When it did, Gabriel sunk to his knees and looked up to the heavens. Around him, they sung about Saliba and being top of the league.

Follow Sportsmail’s live blog for the Premier League clash between Arsenal and Fulham. 

 

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