Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla struck twice in the second half as Arsenal beat Fulham 2-0 to stay one point ahead of Manchester City at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Scorer: Arsenal - Cazorla 57, 62
After a slow first half, the Gunners finally sparked into life as two quick goals from diminutive Cazorla gave them what was in the end a comfortable victory.
The visitors were almost behind on five minutes when Jack Wilshere played Mesut Ozil into the right side of the penalty area, and his scuffed shot rolled past goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, but was hacked clear by captain Brede Hangeland.
Arsenal continued to attack, but were met with a determined wall of dark blue shirts at the edge of the Fulham penalty area.
Fulham finally came to life on 20 minutes when the ball dropped to Steve Sidwell at the edge of the Arsenal penalty area. The midfielder fired in a superb half-volley which Wojciech Szczesny beat away one-handed as it flew towards the top-right corner.
The Poland international then had to get his timing inch-perfect as he came out to save at the feet of Ashkan Dejagah as Fulham pressed again.
Clever footwork from Cazorla after a quick free-kick saw the Spaniard brought down just outside the penalty arc. Ozil stood over the ball, but left it for Cazorla, whose low strike came off the bottom of the wall, rebounding to Bacary Sagna. His shot was saved as was Giroud’s follow-up, but the offside flag had been raised.
There was a scare for Arsenal at the start of the second half as Fulham defender Dan Burn, making his Premier League debut, sent a header goalwards from a corner, but Per Mertesacker was well placed to clear.
Gnabry continued to look lively and made space for a shot at the edge of the Fulham box which Stekelenburg pushed wide.
The Cottagers’ goal continued to lead a charmed life as both Cazorla and Gnabry saw close-range efforts blocked before Laurent Koscielny hit the post.
Arsenal finally got the breakthrough their play deserved on 57 minutes when the ball was worked by Giroud to Wilshere in the left side of the crowded box and he cut it back to Cazorla who drilled his shot into the bottom right corner.
Before Fulham could regroup, they were 2-0 down.
Nacho Monreal’s cross from the left was headed out by Burn, and the ball dropped to Cazorla.
The Spaniard needed little invitation to set himself before clipping a lovely drive low past Stekelenburg on 62 minutes.