Edward “Eddie” Nketiah scored an equaliser in the 7th minute of stoppage time as Arsenal managed a 1-1 draw against relegation-threated Fulham in the 2020-21 Premier League.
The goal was marred with controversy as Rob Holding appeared to be in an offside position when the ball was played into the box but was not deemed to be offside since the Arsenal defender did not touch the ball.
Fulham boss Scott Parker seemed frustrated in what was a decision that could prove to be vital in their quest for survival in English football’s top flight. He said that he did not understand how Nketiah’s stoppage-time equaliser stood at the Emirates in North London.
Nketiah’s 97th-minute effort came with Arsenal defender Rob Holding standing in an offside position to the side of Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who had saved Dani Ceballos’ initial shot.
However, as Holding did not touch the ball, Gunners forward Nketiah tapped in the equaliser to ensure that Arsenal at least came away with a point.
It delivered a major blow to the Cottagers, who led through Josh Maja‘s second-half penalty and truthfully deserved just a point in their battle against relegation but felt a little hard done by given the decision.
“That was a real painful one,” Parker said disappointedly. “I don’t know how the goal stood. I don’t understand it. I am a little bit confused but we are all confused of late.
“We all scratch our heads a bit, people who have played the game for a long time. Whether he [Holding] attempts to go for the ball or not the ramifications of his position affect my goalkeeper.
“What is factual for us is we’ve come to another place and the difference between one point and three points is a decision with the last kick of the game.”
The result leaves Fulham six points from safety but they have played one game more than Burnley who are in 16th place, just outside the drop zone.
Fulham’s only effort on target came from the penalty spot after Mario Lemina was fouled by Brazilian defender Gabriel.
However, in a game of few clear-cut chances Arsenal, who remain ninth, merited their point.
Mikel Arteta’s team had Dani Ceballos’ first-half goal disallowed after Bukayo Saka was caught just fractionally offside in what was another VAR controversy, while Gabriel Martinelli also found the back of the net after the whistle had gone for offside against Emile Smith Rowe.
Nicolas Pepe and Saka also went close to levelling the score before Nketiah’s late intervention in a game that Arsenal deserved at least a point from.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said, “We started really well, controlling the game and creating chances, scoring a goal that was disallowed, in a very disappointing way, we kept going and didn’t allow any shots on target and suddenly we concede a penalty and the game changes completely.
“We took risks in the right way, we could have scored three or four, we totally deserved to win the match but put ourselves in a difficult position.
“We have to just focus on the boys playing away in Europe and arriving here with the desire to go all the way to the 97th, 98th minute.”
Fulham boss Scott Parker said, “My team were relentless today with passion and desire. Of course we understand that sometimes you need a bit more than that. We’ve come to a very good place where they play good stuff and got our noses in front.
“I understand that [Saka offside] one. It is factual. I don’t agree with it but it is either offside or not offside.
“The one that does us I just don’t understand. Holding is standing in an offside position. He is two yards away from my goalkeeper and three yards away from the goal line.
“We were so close today, so it’s been painful. As disappointed as I am now and the team are, we’ll wake up tomorrow and we will fight again and keep going. You see a team with effort, desire, with spirit and with that we’ve got a fighting chance.”
Arsenal have a massive game against Everton next in the Premier League whereas Fulham have an uphill task against Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea.