Fulham boss Scott Parker says he “doesn’t understand” how Eddie Nketiah’s stoppage-time equaliser was allowed to stand in their Premier League draw at Arsenal.
Nketiah’s 97th-minute effort came with Arsenal defender Rob Holding stood in an offside position to the side of Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who had saved Dani Ceballos’ initial shot.
However, as Holding did not touch the ball he was deemed not to be interfering with play as Gunners forward Nketiah tapped in.
It delivered a major blow to the Cottagers, who led through Josh Maja’s second-half penalty and looked on course to gain a valuable three points in their battle against relegation.
“That was a real painful one,” Parker said. “I don’t know how the goal stood. I don’t understand it. I am a little bit confused but we are all confused of late.
“We all scratch our heads a bit, people who have played the game for a long time. Whether he [Holding] attempts to go for the ball or not the ramifications of his position affect my goalkeeper.
“What is factual for us is we’ve come to another place and the difference between one point and three points is a decision with the last kick of the game.”
The result leaves Fulham six points from safety but they have played one game more than Burnley – the side directly above them – and two more games than Brighton in 16th.
On-loan Bordeaux forward Maja opened the scoring with Fulham’s only effort on target after Mario Lemina was fouled by Arsenal’s Brazilian defender Gabriel.
However, in a game of few clear-cut chances Arsenal, who remain ninth, merited their point.
Mikel Arteta’s side had Ceballos’ first-half goal disallowed after Bukayo Saka had strayed fractionally offside, while Gabriel Martinelli also found the back of the visitors’ net after the whistle had gone for offside against Emile Smith Rowe.
Substitute Nicolas Pepe and Saka also both went close to levelling the score before Nketiah’s late intervention.
After dismantling Slavia Prague in the Europa League on Thursday, Arsenal did little to dispel the feeling of unpredictability that surrounds them as they faced a team battling the drop.
On paper, Arteta would have expected his side to dispatch their struggling opponents with few difficulties.
But their up-tempo start, which saw Martinelli twice go close to scoring, soon fizzled out.
That allowed the visitors to gain a foothold in the match, although VAR contributed to Arsenal’s failure to break the deadlock with Ceballos seeing a header ruled out after Saka was judged to be centimetres offside in the build-up.
To their credit, Arsenal persevered after going behind despite seeing Alexandre Lacazette limp off with 20 minutes left.
And a late siege saw Nketiah, Saka, Gabriel and Martinelli all have efforts on goal before their dominance finally told.
Fulham’s fading hopes
While Arsenal will be hoping to finish their season with a flourish, Fulham’s hopes of survival look more forlorn with each week that passes.
Ordinarily, a point against opponents they have historically struggled against – losing each of their previous six meetings and conceding 18 goals in the process – might have been viewed as a good return.
But their need for maximum points was apparent from the outset, with Fulham arriving at Emirates Stadium on the back of four consecutive defeats.
While Parker’s players defended gallantly under some early pressure and then continued until virtually the last kick of the game, they will be frustrated by the way a valuable victory slipped away.
And just as worryingly, they are yet to show they have the firepower to make a real fight of it in their final five games, a run that includes trips to Chelsea and Manchester United.
Maja’s penalty was their only effort on target in a game that saw them muster three shots in total.
Given their inability to score, it was all the more mystifying that Aleksander Mitrovic remained on the bench throughout.
The Serbia forward has shown in previous campaigns that he has the capabilities to score in the top flight but has started just 12 games this term.
‘It’s been painful’ – what they said
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, speaking to Sky Sports: “We started really well, controlling the game and creating chances, scoring a goal that was disallowed, in a very disappointing way, we kept going and didn’t allow any shots on target and suddenly we concede a penalty and the game changes completely.
“We took risks in the right way, we could have scored three or four, we totally deserved to win the match but put ourselves in a difficult position.
“We have to just focus on the boys playing away in Europe and arriving here with the desire to go all the way to the 97th, 98th minute.”
On Alexandre Lacazette’s injury: “He felt his hamstring so we don’t know. We have to rotate players, we have players who didn’t recover from the game on Thursday. That is the risk. You cannot change those players every game.”
Fulham boss Scott Parker, speaking to BBC Sport: “My team were relentless today with passion and desire. Of course we understand that sometimes you need a bit more than that. We’ve come to a very good place where they play good stuff and got our noses in front.
“I understand that [Saka offside] one. It is factual. I don’t agree with it but it is either offside or not offside.
“The one that does us I just don’t understand. Holding is standing in an offside position. He is two yards away from my goalkeeper and three yards away from the goalline.
“We were so close today, so it’s been painful. As disappointed as I am now and the team are, we’ll wake up tomorrow and we will fight again and keep going. You see a team with effort, desire, with spirit and with that we’ve got a fighting chance.”
Fulham’s London derby woes – the stats
- Arsenal have never lost at home against Fulham in 30 previous competitive meetings (W24 D6), more than they’ve faced any other side at home without defeat in all competitions.
- Fulham have dropped 13 points from winning positions away from home in this season’s Premier League, more than any other side.
- Fulham remain winless in 23 Premier League London derby matches (D5 L18), although four of their five draws in this run have come this season.
- Arsenal’s late equaliser means that the Gunners have recorded the exact same points tally after 32 games this season as they had at the same stage last term (46); they last had fewer from their first 32 matches of a league season in 1994-95 (40).
- Only against Liverpool (seven) have Fulham conceded more 90th-minute goals in the Premier League than they have against Arsenal (six).
- Josh Maja’s opener for Fulham was the 87th penalty to be scored in this season’s Premier League; no campaign has ever had more penalty goals in the competition’s history (level with 2006-07).
- Aged 22 years and 112 days, Fulham’s Josh Maja was the second-youngest player to score a Premier League penalty against Arsenal, after Daniel Sturridge for Manchester City in November 2008 (19y 82d).
- Eddie Nketiah’s equaliser (96:09) was Arsenal’s latest Premier League goal since January 2017 against Burnley (Alexis Sánchez in 97:14).
Arsenal host Everton in their next Premier League game on Friday, 23 April (20:00 BST).
Fulham travel to Chelsea in their next top-flight match on Saturday, 1 May (15:00 BST).
Player of the match
with an average of 6.53
Squad number30Player nameNketiah
Squad number7Player nameSaka
Squad number32Player nameSmith Rowe
Squad number35Player nameGabriel Martinelli
Squad number33Player nameRyan
Squad number9Player nameLacazette
Squad number34Player nameXhaka
Squad number16Player nameHolding
Squad number8Player nameDani Ceballos
Squad number6Player nameGabriel Magalhães
Squad number18Player namePartey
Squad number19Player namePépé
Squad number2Player nameBellerín
Squad number25Player nameMohamed Elneny
Squad number1Player nameAreola
Squad number27Player nameMaja
Squad number5Player nameAndersen
Squad number19Player nameLookman
Squad number34Player nameAina
Squad number18Player nameLemina
Squad number21Player nameReed
Squad number33Player nameRobinson
Squad number17Player nameCavaleiro
Squad number29Player nameZambo Anguissa
Squad number16Player nameTosin
Squad number23Player nameBryan
Squad number14Player nameDe Cordova-Reid
Squad number15Player nameLoftus-Cheek
- 2BellerínSubstituted forPépéat 68′minutes
- 25ElnenySubstituted forParteyat 68′minutes
- 32Smith Rowe
- 9LacazetteSubstituted forNketiahat 70′minutes
- 17Cédric Soares
- 1AreolaBooked at 89mins
- 5AndersenBooked at 50mins
- 14De Cordova-ReidBooked at 61mins
- 29Zambo Anguissa
- 19LookmanSubstituted forReedat 69′minutes
- 27MajaSubstituted forLoftus-Cheekat 77′minutes
- 17CavaleiroSubstituted forBryanat 84′minutes
Match ends, Arsenal 1, Fulham 1.
Second Half ends, Arsenal 1, Fulham 1.
VAR Decision: Goal Arsenal – Arsenal 1-1 Fulham (Eddie Nketiah).
Goal! Arsenal 1, Fulham 1. Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal) right footed shot from very close range to the bottom left corner following a corner.Goal confirmed following VAR Review.
Attempt saved. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Mat Ryan with a headed pass.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by André-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Bobby De Cordova-Reid.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Harrison Reed.
Attempt blocked. Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Bukayo Saka.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Ola Aina.
VAR Decision: No Penalty Arsenal.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Mario Lemina.
Attempt blocked. Gabriel Magalhães (Arsenal) header from the right side of the six yard box is blocked. Assisted by Dani Ceballos with a cross.
Attempt blocked. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Alphonse Areola.
Attempt saved. Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Eddie Nketiah.
Alphonse Areola (Fulham) is shown the yellow card.
Attempt missed. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses the top left corner. Assisted by Emile Smith Rowe.
Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Joe Bryan (Fulham).