LONDON (AFP) – Mikel Arteta saw an injury-time penalty saved as Arsenal’s hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League faded a little further on Saturday after an entertaining 3-3 draw at home to Fulham.
The result left Arsene Wenger’s side four points below the Champions League places in seventh position, with four of the teams above them still to play.
Despite a strong start from Fulham at the Emirates Stadium, the hosts found themselves 2-0 up inside 23 minutes thanks to a near-post header from Olivier Giroud and a predatory finish from Lukas Podolski.
Fulham hit back through Dimitar Berbatov, who headed home unmarked from a corner, before substitute Alexander Kacaniklic draw the visitors level with a downward header five minutes before half-time.
Berbatov then gave Fulham the lead from the penalty spot in the 67th minute, after Arteta tripped Bryan Ruiz, but Giroud restored parity two minutes later with a header after an initial attempt hit the post.
Arteta could have given Arsenal victory in the fourth minute of stoppage time after Sascha Riether was penalised for handling Andrey Arshavin’s cross, but his low spot-kick was brilliantly saved by Mark Schwarzer.
“It is very frustrating, because it’s difficult to score goals but we have to continue to score and of course get defensively better,” Wenger told the BBC.
“I think Giroud has always been dangerous and he was a positive today. He raised questions, and that’s good news for us.”
Later on Saturday, leaders Manchester United will look to extend their advantage to four points with victory at Aston Villa.
Second-placed Chelsea host Liverpool on Sunday, while third-placed defending champions Manchester City tackle Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium.
Everton held onto fourth place by beating Sunderland 2-1, with Marouane Fellaini scoring the equaliser and setting up the winner for Nikika Jelavic after Adam Johnson had put the visitors ahead with a 45th-minute half-volley.
West Bromwich Albion remain level on points with Everton in fifth place after a 2-1 success at Wigan Athletic.
James Morrison headed in Chris Brunt’s sublime cross to put the visitors ahead in the 31st minute, with Gary Caldwell’s own goal doubling West Brom’s lead before Arouna Kone replied for Wigan prior to half-time.
Southampton climbed off the foot of the table despite being pegged back by Swansea City in a 1-1 draw at St Mary’s Stadium, while third-bottom Reading remain without a win after a 0-0 draw at home to Norwich City.
In the day’s other game, Charlie Adam claimed his first goal for Stoke City to give Tony Pulis’ side a 1-0 win at home to Queens Park Rangers that sent the London club back to the bottom of the table.