Sunderland 0 – Arsenal 1 (Cazorla 35)
Man of the Match - Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal)
It was nerve-wracking. It was nail-biting. It was heart-stopping. Some serious edge of the seat stuff. In the end, it was 3 points. And a really hard fought one at that. 10 man Arsenal put in a real gritty performance to cancel out Sunderland to latch on to potentially massive win, in the larger scheme of things.
Arsenal came into the game in the midst of a mini-injury crisis at the back. Thomas Vermaelen and Kieran Gibbs were ruled out, and Laurent Koscielny pulled a calf during the pre-match warmup. That meant a defensive shuffle. Bacary Sagna partnered Per Mertesacker at the back, and Carl Jenkinson came in at right-back. Aaron Ramsey was included in the squad, replacing Lukas Podolski.
Sunderland had the first attempt on goal, but after that it was all Arsenal. N’Diaye’s header was wayward. Theo Walcott’s shot was easily saved by Simon Mignolet, who, like Asmir Begovic last week, would put in a massive performance for the Black Cats.
Lee Cattermole proved he just cannot handle Aaron Ramsey. Everyone talks about how Ramsey owned Cattermole in an under-21 game. So much so that Cattermole had to be subbed. The Sunderland midfielder clattered in on Ramsey, probably should have gotten a red card for his troubles.
Giroud set up Walcott, but Mignolet was on hand to make another stop. Stephane Sessegnon was hassling Arsenal’s defenders, with his ability to switch flanks. He got the better of Nacho Monreal, but Carl Jenkinson managed to clear the ball. Jack Wilshere surged through Sunderland’s midfield and set up Giroud, who escaped the attentions of Sunderland’s defenders, but his effort went narrowly wide.
Wilshere then set up Aaron Ramsey, for a shot, and for a moment it seemed to be going in, but Mignolet popped up from nowhere to make a diving save to his left. Arsenal finally had their goal, through a neat passing move. Wilshere made his trademark run through midfield, before Walcott played in a carefully weighed in ball. Cazorla struck it sweetly with his left-foot, and the ball sailed past a couple of Sunderland defenders into the back of the net. It was a well deserved goal, for the Spaniard, who now has 9 goals in the league.
Arsenal by now were upping the pressure, and Walcott should have done better with a couple of efforts. The chance of the match came, when Giroud brilliantly set up Ramsey, who had only Mignolet to beat. But, the Sunderland keeper made a point blank save.
Arsenal started the second half a bit slow, as Sunderland tried to find a way back into the game. Jack Wilshere was bought down, and had to be removed as he had received a knock. Abou Diaby replaced him. Sunderland almost got their equalizer, when Ramsey lost possession in midfield, but Steven Fletcher failed to trouble Szczesny with the resulting move.
Arsenal were dealt a severe blow, when Carl Jenkinson was sent off for a tackle on Sessegnon, though television replays suggested the defender had gotten a bit of the ball. Arsenal had to make do, with whatever they had, and Aaron Ramsey was moved to right-back.
Arsenal almost sealed the game, despite the disadvantage, when Cazorla returned the favor to Walcott, with a delightful through ball, but Walcott’s chip over Mignolet could only strike the post. Moments later, a failed clearance from Mertesacker struck Steven Fletcher in the arm, but the referee failed to acknowledge it. Fletcher continued and drew a brilliant save from Szczesny.
Minutes later, Szczesny made the save of the match, as a Steven Fletcher header, seemed destined to go in, was put over the bar by a one-handed effort from the Pole. Szczesny came to the rescue again, when Fletcher again managed to head the ball goalwards from a corner. The Pole made an instinctive save, before Bramble could only strike the ball wide.
Szczesny was carrying out a one-man rescue mission, as a long range Adam Johnson effort was brilliantly saved. In the final seconds, Szcsesny confirmed the victory, with the entire Sunderland side forward, as he latched on to the ball for dear life.
There were palpable scenes of relief at the final whistle, as Sagna, Szczesny et al displayed their various emotions. It was a well fought out win, given the circumstances.
Plenty of positives to take out, then. First, the magnificent defending from Bacary Sagna, who would have been my man of the match, but for Szczesny’s godlike saves. He was playing out of position, yet was disciplined, and defended like a real centre-back should. His defending at times, was akin to that of a warrior.
Monreal had a good game too, though was caught out quite a few times. Stoke and Sunderland really aren’t the first two sides you would want to be playing in the league. Jenkinson had a average game, and he looked wanting. The red card was harsh though.
Wilshere and Cazorla were threading stuff in midfield, ably supported by both Arteta and Ramsey. The stats say it all. The trio of Arteta, Cazorla and Ramsey completed 253 passes, 4 lesser than the entire Sunderland side. Walcott and Giroud complemented each other brilliantly, with only the finishing lacking at some points.
After Jenkinson was sent off, Sunderland took the man advantage, and consistently bombarded Arsenal through their crossing. Aaron Ramsey put in a good shift at right-back, with no complaints whatsoever, and he needs to be lauded for a good performance, despite a couple of errors, that could’ve proven costly.
Arsenal were under caution, for a good half an hour, but it was good to see the team battling it out, and putting everything on the line, to seal a second clean sheet in a row. A massive 3 points indeed, with Sp*rs and Chelsea winning. Absolutely brilliant feeling to watch the team fight it out for a win like this!
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