Gabriel finds redemption as Arsenal finally overcome a resilient Fulham
Arsenal (0) 2 Odegaard 64, Gabriel 85
Fulham (0) 1 Mitrovic 56
Gabriel atoned for a potentially costly blunder by poking home a late winner as Arsenal retained their 100 per cent record in thrilling fashion.
The Premier League leaders dominated virtually from start to finish but fell behind shortly after the break after a howler from the Brazilian defender.
Aleksandar Mitrovic spotted Gabriel dithering on the ball inside the box and pounced to dispossess the Gunners defender. He then had the strength to hold off his man and drill low past Aaron Ramsdale’s right hand.
The Serb’s fourth goal of the campaign – once again laying waste to the theory that the Premier League is not for him – happened to bring up a century of goals for the Whites.
The lead lasted only eight minutes, though. Bukayo Saka, getting just ahead of Joao Palhinha, drove into the danger area from the right and laid the ball into the path of Martin Odegaard on the edge of the area, and the Arsenal skipper found the bottom corner with the aid of a helpful deflection off Tosin.
Mitrovic very nearly restored the lead when he headed an Andreas Pereira corner powerfully goalwards from eight yards, but Ramsdale was equal to it.
After that, it was all hands to the pump for an increasingly under-siege Fulham. Eddie Nketiah, who came on just before the equaliser, was one of the prime agitators as the Gunners upped the tempo and the crowd responded to his energy and intensity.
The pressure reached such a crescendo that a goal seemed inevitable and Gabriel it was who poked home a loose ball five minutes from time after former Gunners stopper Bernd Leno made a hash of trying to punch a corner clear.
For Fulham, it was a tough one to take after their had battled so gamely. But they did not give up their unbeaten start lightly and once again showed themselves capable of being competitive in the top flight.
They have never won an away fixture against Arsenal but briefly looked like they might achieve that feat.
The Cottagers’ spirited and disciplined resistance restricted Arsenal to only a couple of snatched chances before the break.
The best moments for the hosts came when Odegaard – the skipper leading by example with his tireless promptings – floated a ball to the far post and Granit Xhaka miscued a volley over after being teed up by Gabriel Jesus.
And Leno had to get down smartly to smother a Saka shot after the England winger burst through a gap at the back to turn Tosin and bend a shot towards the far corner.
With Pereira and Joao Palhinha snapping at the home side, spaces were quickly closed down, even with Saka, Jesus and Odegaard looking sharp and playing some sweet one-touch football.
And there was just enough going forward to raise hopes of a smash and grab win. After Neeskens Kebano had done well to retrieve a ball hit wide to the left by Mitrovic, the Dutchman played a ball into the middle which Pereira scooped over the bar with a first-time effort.
Marco Silva’s men remained alive and full of hope until the very end, but were ultimately undone at a raucous Emirates, which seems to have discovered a new lease of life this season. Optimism abounds.
Gunners: (4-2-3-1) Ramsdale – White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney (Nketiah 60) – Elneny, Xhaka – Saka, Odegaard (Holding 90), Martinelli – Jesus (Tomiyasu 88). Subs not used: Turner, Smith Rowe, Soares, Vieira, Lokonga, Marquinhos
Whites: (4-2-3-1) Leno – Tete (Mbabu 79), Tosin, Ream, Robinson – Reed, Palhinha (Chalobah 88) – Kebano (Cairney 69), Pereira (Diop 79), Decordova-Reid – Mitrovic. Subs not used: Rodak, Duffy, Francois, Harris, Stansfield