Report: Sunderland 1-0 Arsenal
Arsenal succumbed to their third defeat of the season after failing to tame Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
The performance – and perhaps result – was very typical of Steve Bruce’s men this season.
Stubborn and spirited, Darren Bent the killer. Even Chelsea, United and Liverpool have all had their scares against the black cats this campaign but Wenger’s men knew better heading to Wearside today.
Knowing better did not mean much though, as Arsenal were again downed by giant-killers on another cold, wet day up North. ‘Same old story’ to those doubting this team’s maturity, but for the optimists, another defeat to smarten off – just like the couple in Manchester.
The Gunners might have been in front as early as the fifth minute when Fabregas expertly turned Bacary Sagna’s deep cross into the path of Rosicky, who forced a good save from Fulop with a well-struck volley.
Fabregas whistled a 13th minute drive just over the bar, but Fulop was a relieved man after Song and Eduardo had combined to carve their way into the penalty area with 32 minutes gone.
The pair exchanged passes on the edge of the box and Song continued his run, only to just fail to get a touch to Eduardo’s shot as it ran agonisingly wide of the post.
In the meantime, Sunderland had created two chances of their own, both of them falling to Steed Malbranque from left wing crosses.
The first saw him fire just over from full-back George McCartney’s ball in, but he skied the second, with Andy Reid this time the provider, high over the bar.
Arsenal resumed in much the same vein as they took the game to Sunderland, although they were still unable to pierce the Black Cats’ defence.
But Sunderland produced a flurry of their own, full-back Armand Traore just managing to cut out Henderson’s 52nd minute through-ball to Bent and keeper Manuel Almunia coming from his line to claim possession with Reid putting William Gallas under intense pressure seconds later.
Almunia’s goal came under threat once again five minutes later when Reid drilled a long-range free kick just wide, and the Irishman then skied a snapshot high over the bar.
Wenger’s response was to replace Ramsey with Arshavin, and Bruce quickly followed suit when he withdrew Malbranque and sent on Fraizer Campbell.
But it was Sunderland’s newcomer who made a swift impact with 71 minutes gone, although he did not know a lot about it.
Bent’s header from a Reid corner cannoned back off his legs at the far post and fell perfectly for his strike partner to smash it home before Almunia could get there.
Wenger immediately sent on Theo Walcott and Vela for Rosicky and Eduardo, but it was Arshavin who very nearly came to their rescue with three minutes remaining.
The midfielder got to Song’s cross at the far post, but he could only direct his shot into the side-netting.
But the Gunners could not believe they were not awarded an injury time penalty for Campbell’s challenge on Vela with referee Alan Wiley waving their appeals away.