Premier League: Fulham 0 Arsenal 1
By Football News
Arsenal battled to a 1-0 win at Fulham to move back up into third in the English Premier League on Saturday.
After Steve Sidwell's early red card, Arsene Wenger's men struggled at a sun-bathed Craven Cottage but secured the win thanks to Per Mertesacker's first-half effort.
Olivier Giroud was also given his marching orders late on.
Arsenal jump above Chelsea, who have two games in hand, and into third as Fulham slipped to 11th on the table.
The visitors dominated possession early on and Fulham's frustration showed when Sidwell saw red on 12 minutes for an over-the-ball challenge on Mikel Arteta.
The former Chelsea and Aston Villa man was only just making his return from a three-match suspension and could have no complaints about referee Andre Marriner's decision.
Despite that unexpected boost, Arsenal struggled to create openings and on 20 minutes it was Fulham who went closest to breaking the deadlock.
A surging run from Urby Emanuelson saw the Dutchman set up Dimitar Berbatov, but the Bulgarian could only direct his close-range effort straight at Wojciech Szczesny.
It took until the 27th minute for Mark Schwarzer to be called into action when the veteran Australian made routine saves from Aaron Ramsey and then Theo Walcott.
Those initial openings were followed by Arsenal's first real opportunity when Giroud collected a Santi Cazorla pass and fired across Schwarzer, only to find the outside of the post.
Fulham continued to threaten on the counter-attack and Emanuelson forced Szczesny into a sprawling save after showing good strength to win the ball back off Nacho Monreal.
With two minutes of the half to play, Arsenal finally made their numerical advantage count.
Bryan Ruiz was caught sleeping from a Walcott free-kick and that left Laurent Koscielny free to nod across goal for central-defensive partner Mertesacker to put in the opener.
In the second half, Arsenal looked content to pass the ball around Fulham without exerting real pressure on Schwarzer.
The Australian did show good reactions to rush out at the feet of Walcott when he looked set to latch onto a Cazorla pass.
Arsenal were almost made to pay for their rather casual approach when Szczesny palmed away a Ruiz free-kick into the path of Stanislav Manolev to tuck away the rebound.
But the Bulgarian's celebrations were pulled up by a correct offside flag.
In the closing minutes, Giroud was sent off for a poor challenge on Manolev, but Arsenal held out fairly comfortably for the win.