Premier League

Arsenal falter once more at Fulham, Spurs close on top four

Arsenal have lost twice in four days to dent their Premier League title challenge © Adrian DENNIS / AFP

London (AFP) – Arsenal’s Premier League title challenge suffered another blow in a 2-1 defeat at Fulham on Sunday, as Tottenham beat Bournemouth 3-1 to close in on their north London rivals.

The Gunners’ high hopes of a first league title in 20 years have been rocked by two damaging defeats in four days.

Mikel Arteta was looking for a response after losing 2-0 at home to West Ham on Thursday and the visitors started brightly at Craven Cottage.

Bukayo Saka pounced to tap home his first goal in six games after Bernd Leno parried Gabriel Martinelli’s initial effort.

But Arsenal failed to build on their early advantage and Fulham hit back to snap a three-game losing run in the Premier League without even scoring a goal.

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Raul Jimenez was badly missed during his three-game ban for a red card at Newcastle and the Mexican kickstarted the Fulham fightback with his fourth goal in as many games.

Former Arsenal winger Willian sent Tom Cairney free down the left and his dangerous low cross was swept home by Jimenez at the back post.

Martinelli was inches away from restoring Arsenal’s lead before the break.

But it was Fulham who were the better side in the second half and they got their reward just before the hour mark.

Arsenal failed to clear a corner and the ball broke kindly for Bobby De Cordova-Reid to smash home from close range.

Only a fine save from David Raya to deny Cairney and the crossbar from Andreas Pereira’s free-kick prevented Arsenal from suffering further punishment in the pouring rain in west London.

But enough damage may have been done to their title aspirations over the past week.

Arsenal remain in fourth, two points behind leaders Liverpool and level on 40 points with Manchester City, but having played a game more than both their title rivals.

Son’s parting gift

Arteta’s men could even be outside the top four by the time they are next in league action in three weeks’ time as Tottenham closed to within a point of the Champions League places.

Ange Postecoglou’s men shrugged off a mounting injury crisis to inflict Bournemouth’s first defeat in eight games.

Pape Sarr’s precise finish into the bottom corner opened the scoring after just nine minutes.

But the Senegalese midfielder left the field in tears midway through the first half with an injury that puts his participation in the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations in doubt.

Pape Sarr is a doubt for Senegal's African Cup of Nations defence after picking up an injury
Pape Sarr is a doubt for Senegal’s African Cup of Nations defence after picking up an injury © Ben Stansall / AFP

Bournemouth will feel they should have been level before the break as the in-form Dominic Solanke hit the bar amid a flurry of chances.

Instead, the visitors were picked off in the second half.

Son Heung-min is also set to depart for a few weeks to lead South Korea at the Asia Cup.

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The Spurs captain signed off in style with a thumping finish from a narrow angle before Richarlison made it 3-0.

Alex Scott pulled a goal back six minutes from time, but it was too little, too late for the Cherries, who remain in 12th.

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