Arsenal miss chance to end year on top as they falter against Fulham

Tottenham end Bournemouth's streak with 3-1 victory

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Arsenal missed the chance to end the year at the top of the table as Fulham fought back from a goal down to claim a 2-1 win on Sunday.

The visitors took the lead five minutes in when Gabriel Martinelli's attempt was parried by keeper Bernd Leno, but the ball fell to Bukayo Saka who finished from close range.

Fulham equalised around the half-hour mark with a swift counter when Tom Cairney's cross from the left flank was fired into the net by Raul Jimenez.

The hosts took the lead at the hour-mark with Willian's corner causing a scramble in the Arsenal box leading to Bobby De Cordova-Reid's finish.

Saka had a chance to equalise in the 63rd when the ball fell to him in the area but he volleyed well high. In fact, Arsenal didn't have an effort on target in the second half until a scuffed cross from Saka in injury time that fell harmlessly to Leno. And that was despite striker Gabriel Jesus coming off the bench in the 67th to partner Eddie Nketiah up front as Arteta opted to play with just three defenders.

The win ended Fulham's three-game losing streak, as they rose to 13th in the table with 24 points. Arsenal, who were top of the table on Christmas day, have ended the year fourth after going winless in their last three matches.

Arsenal enter 2024 on the backfoot after this defeat followed their first home loss of the season against West Ham on Thursday. A win at Fulham would have lifted Mikel Arteta’s team provisionally above leader Liverpool in a tightly packed top four.

Arteta's team 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.

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. 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.

Updated: December 31, 2023, 4:30 PM