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9 February 2013
• Stadium of Light, Sunderland
Referee: A. Taylor
• Attendance: 46402
Anyway, that'll be all from me, Sam Wells. It's been a pleasure reporting on this game, thanks for listening and be sure to follow all the post-match reaction on Goal.com. Until next time, farewell!
Arsenal, meanwhile, will consider themselves lucky that, in spite of their dominance prior to the sending-off, they survived the onslaught that followed. However, they will also point to the various chances that they had and, as they fail to score more than a solitary goal for two consecutive games, they will be worried about their profligacy in front of goal as they continue to hunt for a top four place.
It's difficult to comprehend how neither side managed to add to the proceedings in that second half; both sides had chances galore but somehow failed to convert. Sunderland will be disappointed with the loss, particularly given their dominance after Jenkinson was dismissed, as gilt-edged chances fell to Bramble and Fletcher, amongst others.
90' + 4'
The game ends in an appropriate fashion as Mignolet comes forward for a last corner, Szczesny, after yet another goalmouth scramble, claims the ball and the referee whistles for full-time. What a finish!
90' + 3'
Sunderland, who have practically given up defending in their attempt to get an equaliser, let Cazorla have another crack at goal, but he spurns the chance yet again, firing over.
90' + 2'
Arsenal counter dangerously as Ramsey sets Giroud away. With options either side of him, Giroud goes alone and fires wastefully over. That was selfish.
This is increasingly frantic as Sunderland are desperately trying to break down Arsenal's defence. Their goal is leading a charmed life at the moment as Szczesny parries a Johnson effort wide for a corner.
An absolutely lovely delivery by Johnson draws yet another last-ditch clearance from Sagna, the right-back getting there just before Fletcher to clear the danger.
Mertesacker makes another meal out of a clearance and Sunderland have a throw-in deep in the Arsenal half.
This really would be an incredible clean sheet as the Black Cat's pressure refuses to relent. A cross is punched away by Szczesny, before Vaughan fires wastefully wide from about 35 yards out.
How have Sunderland not scored there?! After Szczesny makes a wonderful save from a Fletcher header, tipping behind for a corner, Bramble wastes a golden chance from all of six yards out from the goalmouth scramble that follows the set-piece! He shakes his left leg at the ball and ends up shooting well wide.
Yellow Card Theo Walcott
It's increasingly chaotic in the Arsenal area as Sagna makes another last-ditch challenge to prevent Graham getting on the end of a Bramble knockdown.
Sessegnon beats Walcott with ease down the left wing; Walcott, clearly uncomfortable, brings the winger down and is duly booked. A dangerous position for a free kick here.
This game is still being played at a furious rate as, with Rose's replacement yet to materialise, both sides are down to ten men. There appears to be one more goal left in this one; how there hasn't already been one in this second half is something of a miracle.
Bad news for Sunderland there as Danny Rose, impressive in this game and just back from injury, appears to have pulled his hamstring.
Fletcher goes close to equalising for the Black Cats! Mertesacker makes a hash of his clearance, firing against the Scotsman. As the centre-back appealed for a handball, Fletcher fired goalwards but Szczesny made a great save to prevent the goal.
Yellow Card Jack Colback
The game's intense tempo is put to an abrupt halt as the game is stopped with Giroud down from a Colback challenge.
Despite all that pressure, Walcott is a post's width from putting Arsenal further ahead! After Cazorla put him through with an exquisite pass, the striker dinks over Mignolet but can't beat the post!
It's fairly incessant here as Arsenal's ten men continue to be pegged back by the home side. Several Larsson deliveries are cleared as the Black Cats continue to try and find a goal.
Sunderland's pressure is building now as Sessegnon almost manages to level proceedings! A one-two between the Benin international and Colback puts him through, but, with Szczesny closing the angle, he tries to find a teammate but fails as the chance goes begging.
Just after Graham comes on for his home debut, Diaby almost puts Arsenal further ahead as, after nice interplay between the rangy midfielder and Walcott, the Frenchman fires straight at Mignolet who collects easily.
A last-ditch clearance from Sagna is required after a Johnson cross is almost deflected into the path of Fletcher; the ball is behind for a corner.
Giroud has another crack at goal as, after Walcott plays the ball to him down the right, he cuts inside on his left and curls goalwards. His effort has too much elevation on it though and it flies well over.
Yellow Card Sebastian Larsson
This game is getting increasingly testy as the game proceeds; after Bramble is booked for a cynical challenge on Cazorla, Rose and Walcott come together. There was no malice in the latter challenge, though both teams seem to be fired up.
Yellow/Red Carl Jenkinson
Jenkinson, brought in late in the day to replace Koscielny, has been sent off! Sessegnon beats him with ease down the left, the right-back jumps in rashly and is duly given his second booking of the game. He can't argue with that.
Arsenal respond instantly though, as Cazorla beats Bramble with a clever shimmy, but fires wide on his left foot. They might rue this profligacy later on.
Sunderland are building some pressure here as, after good play from Larsson brings the ball into the area, the Gunners manage to hack the ball clear for a throw-in.
A golden chance for Sunderland! Ramsey, overly casual in the centre of midfield, was dispossessed by Sessegnon. The midfielder set Fletcher away and, with plenty of time and space, he snatched at the chance, firing wide at the near post. That was a very disappointing finish, particularly given his prolific form this season.
Giroud has yet another strike at goal, firing wide from the edge of the box. It left Mignolet scrambling but it was always going wide really.
The fieriness of that opening half has returned as Ramsey and Arteta go down in quick succession, both from challenges by substitute Sebastian Larsson.
He does indeed whip it in but Mertesacker is equal to it, heading behind for a corner. Diaby heads the ensuing corner clear.
Rose does really well down the left for Sunderland, winning a foul in a decent position for the Black Cats. Larsson prepares to whip it in.
Abou Diaby appears to be ready to come on as Wilshere comes off, carrying a knock. Gunners fans will be hoping that is purely precautionary.
The Gunners are awarded a free-kick about 40 yards out as Wilshere, looking to complete a one-two, is body-checked off the ball by N'Diaye. They're really struggling to cope with the England international here.
Early action here in the second half as Sunderland believe they should have a penalty! Sessegnon goes down hopefully as he felt he got a touch from Monreal; there didn't seem to be much in that though.
The game gets back underway at the Stadium of Light, with Sunderland making one change as Lee Cattermole is withdrawn, presumably with that booking in mind and Sebastian Larsson is introduced to the action.
As the teams come back out onto the pitch, Sunderland will be hoping that they can play more of a part in this second half; they looked overwhelmed by the potency of Arsenal's attacking prowess in the first half and can consider themselves lucky to be only a goal down.
That was an impressive half from Arsenal; a half in which they probably should have put themselves further beyond the home side. Golden chances fell to Walcott, Ramsey and Cazorla, amonst others, but the Spaniard was the only one who managed to convert. They'll be hoping that they don't rue those missed chances come the end of the second half.
45' + 2'
And, with that action, the referee calls an end to the first-half proceedings as Arsenal go into the break 1-0 up.
Ramsey could have, and probably should have, put Arsenal ahead on the stroke of half-time! Giroud fumbled the ball through to the Welshman on the edge of the area and the midfielder somehow found himself one-on-one just six yards out. Mignolet spread himself well though and Ramsey could only fire straight against him.
Walcott had another chance to add the scoring there; a hopeful cross is cleared abjectly by Bramble as the centre-back gets the header all wrong. The ball falls to Walcott but it's on his left foot - he takes a swing at it but it falls into Mignolet's arms fairly tamely.
Sunderland finally relieve the pressure somewhat as Rose beats Jenkinson down the left, but puts in a cross that is just out of the reach of Fletcher. Szczesny claims easily and Arsenal are away again.
The Gunners are really enjoying themselves out there now as Danny Rose prevents them from going two ahead. A lovely move ends with Wilshere putting a ball back post but the left-back beats Walcott to it, putting behind for a corner.
Assist Theo Walcott
GOAL! Cazorla opens the scoring here at the Stadium of Light! Theo Walcott, put through by the constant threat that is Jack Wilshere, runs at goal but is blocked by Titus Bramble. He lays the ball off to Cazorla, who duly slams it home from 20 yards out to finally put Arsenal ahead!
Goal Santi Cazorla
The Gunners keep up the pressure but are struggling to break down the home side, who are keeping things very narrow and contested, much to Arsenal's frustration.
Ramsey forces another good save out of Mignolet as, after nice play on the edge of the box from Wilshere, the ball is fired goalwards by the Welshman. The ball takes a slight deflection but the keeper does well to adjust, palming it wide adeptly.
Sunderland form an attack of their own, but it comes to nothing after a dismal attempt at a cross from Gardner, operating from the right-back position today.
Arsenal have some impetus here as some concerted pressure leads to Ramsey putting a cross. O'Shea heads away though and the ensuing cross is claimed by Mignolet. Still no goals here, and putting the first ten minutes aside, very few chances.
Cattermole is at the centre of the controversy once more here as, after scampering after the ball, he brushes Cazorla on his way to Ramsey. Cazorla, somewhat theatrically, goes down clutching his head. Nothing really comes of it and the Sunderland captain is safe, for now at least.
Sessegnon blazes well wide and over with a speculative long-range effort; symptomatic of Sunderland's failure to create chances in this opening period really.
The Black Cats are having most of the possession now, but aren't really threatening Arsenal's makeshift defence as hopeful balls continue to be aimed towards Fletcher.
Fletcher heads at goal after a hopeful cross in, but Szczesny collects the header with ease, before setting Arsenal away. Nothing comes of the attack though and it remains goalless here.
The tempo has increased once again here with both sides threatening, albeit to little avail as neither side can quite find the breakthrough just yet.
Giroud has his first shot of the game, though it barely tests Mignolet as he shoots tamely at the goalkeeper from distance.
The game's calmed down a bit now with Arsenal taking control of possession, stroking the ball about in typical fashion as Sunderland seem happy to sit back, inviting the away side to attack.
Yellow Card Carl Jenkinson
This is getting extremely feisty already; Jenkinson is booked after a rash challenge on Johnson, minutes after Wenger was up in arms when he thought Walcott should have been awarded a foul after Danny Rose dived in.
Cattermole is already treading carefully out there, another rash challenge and the fiery midfielder could be off. Meanwhile, the liveliness of that opening shows no signs of relenting as it's end-to-end stuff here.
In that hectic opening, there was a seemingly customary booking for the returning Lee Cattermole, who clattered Aaron Ramsey within the first eighty seconds of the game.
Yellow Card Lee Cattermole
An early chance for either side here in a frantic start as just after N'Diaye heads over from a Gardner cross, Arsenal sweep down the other end of the pitch courtesy of Theo Walcott - the striker danced into the area before testing Mignolet, forcing the keeper into a smart save.
And we're underway here at the Stadium of Light!
With kick-off now imminent, both teams are out on the pitch and seem to be raring to go.
It appears as though Bacary Sagna will be shifting to centre-back in Koscielny's absence; hardly ideal for the away side, particularly given the right-back's recent form.
However, the big team news is that Laurent Koscielny, initially picked in the starting eleven despite picking up a knock on international duty in midweek, has been ruled out just prior to the game after suffering a recurrence of his calf injury in the warm-up. Jenkinson has come in to replace him, leaving the Gunners with just six substitutes.
Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, makes two changes of his own accord, bringing Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey in to replace Abou Diaby and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from the team that overcame Stoke in a 1-0 win last Saturday.
The home side make two changes from the side that suffered a 2-1 away defeat to Reading, with Lee Cattermole returning from a long-term injury to replace David Vaughan, as Danny Rose also comes back from a knock to displace Sebastian Larsson from the starting eleven.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Jenkinson, Monreal; Arteta, Wilshere; Walcott, Cazorla, Ramsey; Giroud. Subs: Diaby, Rosicky, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Miquel, Mannone.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, Bramble, O'Shea, Rose; Cattermole, N'Diaye, Colback; Johnson, Sessegnon, Fletcher. Subs: Bardsley, Larsson, Graham, Vaughan, Mangane, Cuellar, Westwood.
And here come the team line-ups...
This could be a hotly-contested tie as, with both teams heading into this game in mixed form, it could go either way. Sunderland, befitting of their recent form, look set for mid-table mediocrity this season but will be eager to bounce back from last Saturday's disappointing loss to Reading with a result here. That, though, is a big ask against an Arsenal side that has impressed in recent months, albeit predominantly in an attacking sense – they've scored thirteen in their last six games, but also conceded six in that time. They'll be hoping that they can stay within touching distance of fourth spot here as rivals Tottenham, following their win over Newcastle earlier today, sit seven points clear of them, having played a game more.
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's live coverage of today's Premier League clash between Sunderland and Arsenal, I'm Sam Wells and I'll be guiding you through today's proceedings.
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