LONDON: Arsenal preserved the Premier League’s last remaining 100% record as defender Gabriel went from villain to hero to earn a 2-1 victory over Fulham with a late winner yesterday.
The Brazilian gifted Fulham the lead in the 56th minute but made amends in the 85th, tapping in from close range after a mistake by former Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno.
The home fans were in full cry at the final whistle as their side remained top with 12 points from four games — two more than champions Manchester City and Brighton & Hove Albion.
Arsenal had laboured against a well-drilled Fulham side who had been unbeaten on their top-flight return and fell behind when Aleksandar Mitrovic slotted in his 100th goal for the club.
But Fulham’s lead lasted only eight minutes before captain Martin Odegaard’s deflected effort levelled it up.
Arsenal have won their first four games of a Premier League season for the third time after doing so in 2003-04 when they claimed the title undefeated and 2004-05 when they came second.
“Big boost, winning like this is really nice,” manager Mikel Arteta said. “We made a mistake and they punished us but then how we reacted against adversity, the connection with the supporters, the way we went about it, the team believed.”
Arsenal started confidently and Granit Xhaka was close to opening the scoring with a volley that flew just wide after being set up by Gabriel Jesus.
But the rest of the first half was forgettable as Arsenal’s attack was easily stifled by Fulham’s rearguard.
The hosts injected a little more thrust into their attacks after the break and carved out a couple of good chances with Leno saving well from Odegaard and then Jesus.
Fulham had barely mustered an attack but Arsenal self-destructed when Gabriel received a ball on the edge of his own area and was robbed by Mitrovic who clinically fired past Aaron Ramsdale to send the visiting fans into raptures.
Gabriel pulled his shirt over his head and his gaffe looked to have stopped Arsenal’s early-season charge, but Arteta’s side responded strongly to turn things around.
There was a touch of fortune about their equaliser though as Bukayo Saka played the ball in to Odegaard whose shot took enough of a defection to wrongfoot Leno.
Ramsdale then denied Mitrovic as the game opened up but Arsenal went ahead when Leno could not gather a corner under pressure and the ball dropped for Gabriel to tap in.
There was still time for substitute Nathaniel Chalobah to force a save from Ramsdale but Arsenal held out.
Fulham will take heart from another gritty display and manager Marco Silva said they were unlucky not to grab a point.
“I didn’t see many clear chances for Arsenal. After 1-0 when the game seemed to be more open they had luck to score with the deflection,” he said.
“We can do better but we deserved to get more from this game. I hope the bad luck we had this evening will go our way in the future.”