Pantsil to face possible ban following Eboue tackle

August 24, 2008

John Pantsil, Fulham's new Ghanaian defender, could be facing a three-match ban if the Football Association look at television footage of his horror tackle on Arsenal's Emmanuel Eboue during the Gunners' shock 1-0 defeat at Craven Cottage.

Referee Martin Atkinson did not impose any punishment other than a free-kick for what looked, on video, an over-the-top foul, but BBC Match of the Day pundits Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson agreed it looked like a challenge worthy of a red card.

The FA, aware of the game's tarnished image, having launched their new 'Respect' programme, could show the film to Atkinson, whose view of the incident may have been obscured.

The FA could ask him if, on reflection, he feels it was a sending-off offence - which could lead to a charge.

Making his home debut as the makeweight in a £6.3million move which brought him and striker Bobby Zamora from West Ham in the summer, Pantsil's challenge spoiled an otherwise exemplary personal display in a rock-solid Fulham defence which frustrated Arsenal during a one-way second half that followed the Gunners miserable performance before the interval.

Boss Arsene Wenger, who had no public complaint about the Pantsil foul, was left scratching his head for answers to his team's malaise and surely contemplating the wisdom of his words last week when he insisted Arsenal were good enough to win the Premier League title.

He is now likely to hasten star midfielder Cesc Fabregas' return from a hamstring injury in time for Wednesday's second leg Champions League qualifier at home to Dutch side FC Twente.

With a 2-0 lead from their visit to Holland two weeks ago, reaching the group stage must surely now be a formality but Wenger knows that, without Fabregas, Arsenal were outgunned for much of the first leg by the side now managed by former England boss Steve McClaren.

Even if Euro 2008 winner Fabregas returns before next Saturday's home clash with Newcastle, Wenger still needs more than just him to revitalise his team.

He has been linked with moves for Fabregas' Spain team-mate Xabi Alonso who could be available at Liverpool for around £10million, or England's Gareth Barry for whom Aston Vila have rejected a Liverpool bid of £18million.

But Wenger, with just a week to go before the end of the transfer deadline, said: 'Of course I am frustrated but when you lose a game it is not always the solution to buy.

'We did not create enough chances and have to look at why and how we can do it better. I didn't feel we were into the game right from the start and you can't be like that.

'We had problems as well to win our (early) games last year but we did win them and it made things easier. Now we have to respond.

'We had 60 minutes to respond after Fulham scored but we did not create a lot and I don't know why.

'But let's not make comparisons with this team and last season's team because it is not a lot different. If it is better only the future will tell us that.'

Robin van Persie missed a first-half sitter and Emmanuel Adebayor headed against a post, but in between those escapes Fulham took a deserved lead when giant Norwegian centre-back Brede Hangeland brushed off William Gallas to finish off Jimmy Bullard's low cross.

Wenger fumed: 'It was not excusable to concede a goal like that.'

It was Hangeland's first since joining Fulham from FC Copenhagen in January and he said: 'I'll always remember it but the most important thing was that it earned us a big three points.

'After last week starting with a defeat at Hull we really needed something from this game.'

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson admitted he sweated through the last 20 minutes just as much as through last season's great escape from relegation.

And although he praised his side for the fighting sprit which saw them through in the end, he said: 'I would rather watch the Fulham who go forward looking to play than the one hanging on but we can do both things.'

Experienced Jimmy Bullard and Danny Murphy outwitted Arsenal's midfield where Theo Walcott, Eboue and Brazilian Denilson looked lost.

New boy Samir Nasri ran himself into the ground, but that expected from a £12million signing.

Fulham's Zamora, who virtually finished Sol Campbell's career at Arsenal with a two-goal show and was also the man who scored the goal which provided Arsenal's first-ever defeat - against West Ham - at The Emirates Stadium, was Fulham's star.

His sharpness and diligence put the lethargic Adebayor and van Persie to shame.

Wenger has to hope it is just a one-off.