LONDON — Arsenal substitute Eddie Nketiah’s equalizer in the final moments crushed Fulham’s hopes of a big win and denied the team a huge boost as it tries to avoid relegation in a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
Nketiah scored in the seventh and final minute of added time, tapping a rebound in at the near post. Fulham’s players and managers couldn’t believe it since they only had to hang on for a few more seconds after going up 1-0 with a penalty in the 59th minute.
Fulham forward Josh Maja’s emphatic spot kick sent Arsenal goalkeeper Mat Ryan the wrong way and went into the roof of the net. It came after Mario Lemina was fouled by Arsenal defender Gabriel.
A Fulham victory would have given manager Scott Parker’s side a huge amount of belief going into the last five matches of the season. His team remained in 18th place, with 27 points, as the London team tries to dig its way out of the drop zone. Arsenal stayed in ninth place with 46 points.
The visitors looked like they would hang on after the penalty, defending resolutely as Arsenal pressed forward for an equalizer. Fulham center back Tosin Adarabioyo cleared Nicolas Pepe’s ball off the line in the 71st and goalkeeper Alphonse Areola palmed away a close-range shot from forward Gabriel Martinelli in the 90th.
The Gunners wasted their dominance in the opening stages of the match with Martinelli missing two early chances. The Brazilian had only the goalkeeper to beat in the second minute, but he lifted the ball over Areola and it went wide of the far post.
Martinelli missed again in the seventh, when midfielder Emile Smith Rowe cut to the byline and fed him the ball. The forward fired his shot on the spin, but he wasn’t able to generate power and Fulham was able to clear the ball.
The visitors gradually started winning balls off Arsenal and started pushing forward. Fulham manager Parker shouted out to Adarabioyo: “Keep looking for Cav on the top line,” urging him to get a long ball to forward Ivan Cavaleiro.
But the closest Fulham came in the first half was when Maja’s shot in the penalty area deflected off an Arsenal defender and squeezed just wide of the post in the 21st.
Arsenal thought it had finally scored just before halftime with some nice linkup play that was capped by a fine cross from right back Hector Bellerin and a powerful header from Dani Ceballos in the 40th. But the goal was disallowed after a VAR check showed that Bukayo Saka’s foot was just offside in the buildup.