ARSENAL 2-0 SUNDERLAND. MATCH REPORT AND PLAYER RATINGS
Arsenal 2-0 Sunderland
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger made six changes following Wednesdays defeat to Porto. Almunia replaced Fabianski after his horror-show in mid-week, Song came in for Denilson, Ramsey replaced the injured Diaby, Silvestre replaced Campbell who is not yet fit enough to complete two 90 minutes in four days, Eboue replaced Sagna and Walcott started ahead of Rosicky.
Arsenal began well and set about attacking the Sunderland goal with several half chances being squandered by Bendtner and Walcott. The young England winger was giving McCartney all sorts of problems with his pace, although not for the first time his final ball was letting him down.
Cesc Fabregas played a short corner to Samir Nasri who cut in and saw his deflected shot fly narrowly over the bar. Sunderland were playing with Jones up front on his own and were causing Arsenal’s defense very little trouble. Niklas Bendtner wasted a glorious opportunity on 18 minutes to open the scoring after being found in space 8 yards out by Fabregas, but the Dane’s weak left foot shot deflected off Turner and dropped onto the bar.
But Bendtner didn’t have to wait long for his goal. Eboue made a superb jinking run into the box and cut the ball across goal, Bendtner was their to simply tap into the empty net.
1-0 Bendtner (24)
All the play was coming down Arsenal’s right hand side through the pace of Eboue and Walcott and it only seemed a matter of time before the Gunner’s extended their lead. All that was missing was that killer final ball.
Lorik Cana was booked for a lunge on Eboue shortly before Kenwyen Jones missed a glorious opportunity to level things up. Aaron Ramsey was caught in possession in the centre circle by Richardson who opened up the Arsenal defense with a through-ball which found Jones in the clear. He was one-on-one with Almunia but scuffed his shot wide of the post. Terrible miss and Arsene Wenger will not be happy with Ramsey losing possession in such a dangerous area.
Another ball over the top of Arsenal’s defense caused problems as Almunia came rushing out of his box to deal with it but his clearance hit Vermaelen and luckily bounced out for a corner. Finally Sunderland were posing a threat.
Once again Walcott was clear down the right and sent in a dangerous ball towards Bendtner but Gordon did well to get down low to intercept.
Half time and one of the most one-sided game you will see. Although Sunderland were completely out-played for most of the half, they missed a glorious chance to go in at 1-1 but Jones fluffed it.
Arsenal started the second half like they began the first, attacking the Sunderland goal. A great piece of skill by Nasri turned Tuner inside-out but his cross was too high for Bendtner. Soon after Fabregas sent in a dangerous cross which narrowly evaded the out-stretched leg of Vermaelen.
A superb run by Ramsey saw him find Walcott who again sent in a disappointing cross. But the flying winger almost extended Arsenal’s lead after a trade-mark run saw his low left-footed drive well saved by Gordon. Much better from Walcott.
Alex Song was having a great game in the middle of the park, he was winning everything today.
Walcott won a free-kick just outside the area as Vermaelen tried to send him clear. The Belgian centre-half took the free-kick himself and stung the fingers of Gordon with a powerful strike.
Just as a second Arsenal goal seemed on the cards Sunderland almost grabbed an equalizer. Bent wrestled past Silvestre to find himself one-on-one with Almunia, but the Spaniard got down well to smother him and make an important block. Another warning for Arsenal.
Another superb run by Eboue as he drove into the box and cut it back to Ramsey who’s shot was deflected wide for a corner.
Arsenal wasted three chances in a minute to extend their lead. First Nasri saw a low effort well saved by Gordon, with Walcott also being denied on the follow-up, the ball eventually fell to Nasri again who blazed wide. Surely a second goal is coming for Arsenal sooner or later.
Cana fired straight at Almunia from long range as Arsenal looked to have run out of ideas.
With 2 minutes remaining Sunderland won a very generous free-kick on the edge of the area. But Zenden fired straight at the wall.
Two minutes into injury time Arsenal won a penalty as Febregas was hacked down just inside the area. He stepped up himself to slot past Gordon to make it 2-0 and secure the three points.
2-0 Fabregas (92)
Almunia – 7 – Never thought i would say it, good to have him back. Couple of important saves.
Eboue – 8 – Great game from Eboue, always dangerous, superb run created opening goal.
Vermaelen – 7 – Steady game, dealt with Jones well enough.
Silvestre – 7 – See above.
Clichy – 6 – Quiet game, but solid at the back.
Song – 8 – Great game from Song, won everything. Glad he’s back.
Walcott – 5 – Same old Walcott, bits of brilliance, but no end product.
Fabregas – 8 – Good game capped off with a penalty.
Ramsey – 7 – Solid game, full of running, but error almost let Sunderland back in the game.
Nasri – 7 – Comfortable on the ball and even had a few strikes at goal.
Bendtner – 6 – Easy tap-in but should have ran-riot against this Sunderland team. Didn’t do enough for me.
A hard fought victory but in honesty we made it a lot harder than it should have been. Sunderland were awful and an in-form Arsenal would have hammered them today. Song, Fabregas and Eboue were all very good today. Eboue was a constant threat with his surging runs down the right, Song bossed the midfield and Fabregas was Fabregas.
Arsene Wenger will be concerned by the lack of cutting edge his side showed today, but three points in the bag, a clean sheet, a striker scored a goal (as predicted in my match preview!) and only 2 points behind Man Utd in the Premier League table. A good day all round for the Gunners.
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