Vol. 5 Num 1141 Tue. August 14, 2007  

Barclays English Premier League
Arsenal accused of simulation

Furious Fulham manager Lawrie Sanchez accused Arsenal of diving after his side slipped to a controversial 2-1 English Premier League defeat on Sunday.

The Cottagers' manager cited three separate examples of diving during the first half at the Emirates stadium and suggested that referee Phil Dowd's failure to punish them had contributed to his decision to award Arsenal a crucial equalising penalty.

"I was at the same Premier League meeting with Arsene Wenger and (referees' chief) Keith Hackett last Tuesday, and it was agreed that simulation was going to be a big no-no this year," Sanchez said.

"Yet here there were three simulations that went unpunished. That gives people the impression they can get away with it and it didn't surprise me when the penalty was given.

"It's a bit harsh, as a small club coming here to a big stadium and not getting those decisions."

Sanchez's frustrations in the aftermath of a galling defeat were understandable, but his accusations weren't backed by TV evidence.

Replays suggested that Arsenal were not guilty of gamesmanship and Fulham were fortunate to avoid conceding a 20th-minute penalty when Alexander Hleb was felled by Steven Davis.

Arsenal boss Wenger launched an impassioned defence of his players in the face of Sanchez's claims but revealed that he had a policy of speaking privately to any of his players found guilty of diving.

"I am totally against simulation but I don't think this was," he said.

"You cannot be a coach and encourage these things. I have spoken to players about it in the past and I am for the use of video in any way. But the only way to cut it out is to allow people to receive red cards after the game."

Wenger preferred to focus on his side's thrilling two-goal comeback in north London - which was sealed in the last seven minutes of an absorbing contest - and claimed that it proved Arsenal's spirit was still in tact, despite the summer departures of Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljungberg.

After falling behind to David Healy's first-minute debut goal - comically gifted to the Northern Irishman after goalkeeper Jens Lehmann made a hash of clearing Gael Clichy's back-pass - Arsenal hit back through Robin van Persie's penalty, awarded after Kolo Toure had been fouled by Carlos Bocanegra, and Hleb's last-gasp drive.

"We had a horrible start and were playing against a good Fulham side but we were resilient and physically and mentally strong," Wenger said. "That's the kind of result that changes a team and a season.

"You can get momentum from these games, and especially belief. Nobody could ever measure it in terms of psychology, but it is important. Once your team believe, really, that they can do it in a season it helps.

"To have lost the game today would have been a big blow for the team because everyone would have said it was because Thierry Henry has left. So this is a very positive start."

The only dark clouds on Wenger's horizon was the news that Emmanuel Adebayor will definitely miss Wednesday's Champions League qualifier with Sparta Prague, although he rates new signing Eduardo da Silva as "fifty-fifty".

Defeat was harsh on Fulham, and in particular Tony Warner, who excelled in goal after being drafted into the starting line-up following a warm-up injury to Antti Niemi.

"Tony's a decent keeper and put in a good performance," Sanchez said.

"It's a very hard position, reserve goalkeeper, and you've got to be a decent character. To be finally beaten by a penalty was cruel on him. He was one of the mainstays of our team."