Sunderland substitute Grant Leadbitter (86) put the Black Cats ahead, squeezing away from the pressure of Song and shooting past Almunia off the underside of the crossbar. However when all looked lost Cesc Fabregas (90+3) stole in at the near post from the only good corner of the day, incidentally taken by not the Spaniard but Van Persie.
It was a disappointing first half where both sides didn’t allow much space and therefore created little clear cut chances. Cisse had the best for Sunderland, profiting a lose ball from Walcott but his shot was well charged down with his legs by Almunia. Song has the best chance for The Gunners, his free header over the bar though he may have been put off by the slightest of touch from the defender behind him.
In the second half, a moment of controversy. Theo Walcott’s ball in from the byline found Van Persie and he put the ball in but which was disallowed as the ball was adjudged to have been out of play when Walcott crossed; replays showed inconclusive. The Dutchman then had a clear chance, Bendtner the substitute playing a dinked ball forward and Van Persie’s shot was saved by Gordon.
Sunderland came here to ruin the party and Leadbitter nearly did that after trudging away froma weak attempt of a tackle from Song and his swerving poke-shot was too good for Almunia. But Cesc Fabregas had the last word of a frustrating game, surprisingly there to head in as Gordon came committed to punch a ball in a crowded penalty box.
Sunderland were clearly set up with a game plan; a five man midfield line in front of the defense to try and break down the Arsenal play and when they did get the ball counter with Cisse’s pace. Malbranque was hardworking as was Whitehead. Arsenal recognised this and also played with a five man midfield, Van Perise and Walcott on the wings but as a result what turned out was a tight game with no clearly link from midfield to attack, Cesc Fabregas having to play with his back to play; not what he is used to.
The crossing all round was dreadful from the Gunners playing textbook crosses with no variety. Walcott did play two quick balls and Van Persie’s corner were the only ones of note. Sagna kept on floating the ball in while Fabregas just didn’t have any speed or clever direction.
Man of the Match: Steed Malbranque- Typified the Sunderland display with a workmanlike display both in defence and attack.
Arsenal: Almunia (7), Sagna (6), Toure (7), Gallas (6), Clichy (6), Walcott (6) (Bendtner (On 66) (7)), Denilson (6) (Nasri (On 73) (6)), Fabregas (7), Song (7) (Vela (On 87) (6)), Van Persie (6), Adebayor (6).
Subs not used: Fabianski, Nasri, Vela, Silvestre, Djourou, Bendtner, Eboue.
Sunderland: Gordon (6), Chimbonda (6), Ferdinand (8), Collins (7), McCartney (6), Malbranque (8)*, Whitehead (7), Yorke (6), Reid (6), Richardson (6), Cisse (7)
Subs: Fulop, Bardsley, Diouf, Murphy, Chopra, Leadbitter, Healy.
Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire) (6).