Premier League: Sunderland 0 Arsenal 1
By Football News
Arsenal defeated Sunderland 1-0 at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, despite losing Jack Wilshere to injury and having a man sent off.
Arsene Wenger's visitors took the lead in the 35th minute, as Theo Walcott set up Santi Cazorla to smash a low drive past Simon Mignolet from 20 yards out.
Reduced to 10 men in the second half when Carl Jenkinson was shown a second yellow card, the Gunners had to cling on for three huge points.
Captain Lee Cattermole returned to the Sunderland starting XI in place of former Gunner Sebastian Larsson, while Tottenham loanee Danny Rose was picked at left-back.
Laurent Koscielny, a doubt before the game, limped out of the pre-match warm-up, so was replaced by Jenkinson, with Bacary Sagna moving to centre-back.
Elsewhere, Aaron Ramsey and Cazorla came in for Abou Diaby and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The match began at a furious pace with Wenger gesticulating angrily from the sidelines as the Black Cats threw themselves into thunderous tackles – Cattermole was booked after just 80 seconds – though the Frenchman's side did not wilt in the face of such physicality.
Wilshere, who starred for England against Brazil in midweek, threaded a pass behind the Sunderland defence for Olivier Giroud, but the Frenchman dragged his shot wide of the far post.
Minutes later Wilshere was involved again, back-heeling the ball to Ramsey on the edge of the box after a mazy run forward. The Welshman's powerful effort glanced off Titus Bramble and flew toward the top corner, but Mignolet soared through the air and palmed the ball away.
Arsenal's number 10 was beginning to take a firm grip on the match, and another silky foray toward goal created the Gunners' opener.
Wilshere found Walcott on the edge of the box and he laid the ball off to Cazorla, the Spaniard rifling a left-footed shot into the far corner of the goal.
Ramsey could have doubled Arsenal's lead just before the break, latching on to Giroud's deflected pass, but he fired straight at Mignolet from close range.
Just five minutes after the restart, Wilshere – already carrying a heavy bandage on his thigh – was forced off following a body-check by Alfred N'Diaye, and the 21-year-old's exit signalled a shift in momentum.
Sunderland began to commit more men forward; N'Diaye robbed Ramsey in midfield and galloped toward goal, playing the ball to Steven Fletcher, but the isolated Scot slashed his left-footed shot wide of the near post.
The impetus shifted further when Jenkinson, booked in the first half, picked up a second yellow card for a late lunge on Stephane Sessegnon.
The Benin winger should have carved out an equaliser soon after, but could not find a red and white shirt with his cross.
As Sunderland flooded forward, bombarding the box with crosses aimed at substitute and home debutant Danny Graham, Arsenal found space on the break.
Cazorla released Walcott, but the forward's dinked finish struck the post and bounced clear.
Arsenal had Wojciech Szczesny to thank for clinging onto all three points. First the Pole rushed off his line to save Fletcher's shot with his legs, then he palmed the Scot's header behind for a corner.
From the resulting set-piece, Fletcher's poked effort was clawed off the line by the Gunners keeper before Bramble thumped the loose ball high and wide.
Arsenal held on, and remain four points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, who defeated Newcastle 2-1 at home in the early kick-off.