Dutchman hits brace as Arsene Wenger's side earn just third victory of the season as they climb into the top half of the table, while Wearsiders stay above the relegation zone
Arsenal claimed their third win of the season as they beat Sunderland 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium thanks to a brace from captain Robin van Persie, while former Gunner Sebastian Larsson netted for the visitors.
The hosts got off to a great start by scoring after just 29 seconds when Gervinho was put clear of the Black Cats defence by Tomas Rosicky and slid the ball across to Van Persie, who made no mistake firing past Simon Mignolet.
Arsene Wenger’s side were having the better of the early minutes with Gervinho especially seeing a lot the ball, and the Ivorian cut open the Sunderland defence again but this time his ball across the area was well cut out by Wes Brown.
Arsenal should have doubled their lead through Van Persie, who was on top form, as he controlled the ball and skinned Kieran Richardson before chipping a delightful effort at goal which looped over Mignolet but struck the inside of the post and was cleared by the Black Cats defence.
Despite the Gunners' dominance, Sunderland started to get back into the game and could have got an equaliser when Stephane Sessegnon rounded Wojciech Szczesny and tried to find Lee Cattermole, but Alex Song prevented the ball getting to the Wearsiders' skipper with a good intervention.
The Black Cats did get their equaliser minutes later through former Arsenal man Larsson as his spectacular 25-yard free kick soared into the top corner, leaving Szczesny with no chance to draw Steve Bruce’s side level.
Sunderland should have taken the lead as the half neared its end as Sessegnon was put through again behind the Gunners defence. The Benin international then crossed for Cattermole whose header from two yards was fantastically saved by Szczesny, but the midfielder should have found the net.
Bruce’s side were guilty again of spurning chances, this time Jack Colback should have got his effort on target after blazing his volley over the bar from 10 yards following a good Sunderland move.
The Gunners came out in the second half and began to dominate possession and Mignolet was forced into an early save as a Theo Walcott effort was deflected towards goal, but the Belgian was equal to it.
Referee Howard Webb had a quiet first half but was called into action regularly in the first 15 minutes of the second period, booking five players as challenges from both sides flew in.
Arsenal had opportunities with free kicks just outside the Sunderland box but Andre Santos, Mikel Arteta and Walcott spurned their chances when they should have at least tested Mignolet.
Gunners substitute Andrei Arshavin nearly found a way through the stubborn Black Cats defence as he jinked between John O’Shea and Wes Brown before firing a left-footed shot just wide of the post with Mignolet beaten.
Sunderland were trying to hold on and were struggling to get out of their own half and seemed content to take a point away from the Emirates Stadium.
But Wenger’s side finally got their second goal in the 83rd minute through Van Persie, whose sublime free kick sailed over the Sunderland wall and into the top corner of the net.
The Black Cats tried to get back into the game but were unable to create any clear cut chances as the home side retained possession and hit them on the counterattack.
Wenger’s men held onto the points as they climbed into the top half of the table to ease the pressure on the Frenchman, while Sunderland are only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
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