Sunday, October 7, 2007

Arsenal vs. Sunderland: Match Review

Match Preview

Arsenal went back on top of the Premier League table, beating Sunderland 3-0 to make it 10 straight wins. A Robin van Persie double inspired the hosts to a late victory over Roy Keane's stubborn Sunderland side.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, Gael Clichy; Alex Hleb, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby; Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie

Sunderland: Craig Gordon; Danny Higginbotham, Paul McShane, Nyron Nosworthy, Danny Collins; Grant Leadbitter, Liam Miller, Ross Wallace, Michael Chopra, Dwight Yorke; Kenwyne Jones

The hosts started the game brightly, with Robin van Persie feeding Emmanuel Adebayor through in the first minute. The Togolese striker, who is the top scorer in the Premier League with 6 goals, shot over the bar in what was a warning of the Arsenal onslaught to come.

In the 7th minute, Cesc Fabregas was taken down just outside the 18 yard box, and Abou Diaby's strike (the first of 5 Arsenal balls to hit the back of the Sunderland net) was ruled out because the referee had already blown his whistle. Amends were made though when van Persie powered the resulting free kick into Craig Gordon's goal. It was a true Robin van Persie strike, a powerful left-footed shot, which couldn't be kept out of the net.

Only 7 minutes later, Arsenal added a second after a badly cleared corner kick fell to Philippe Senderos, who made no mistake from close range. Roy Keane was (rightly) furious with his team's defending, but his fury wouldn't last too long.

In the 20th minute, Arsenal looked to have added a third when Abou Diaby shot into the roof of the net, but the referee's assistant flagged for a dubious offsides call.

Five minutes later Sunderland got a break from the previously tight Arsenal defense. A long ball to Kenwyne Jones who outpowered Gael Clichy and got off a shot. Almunia saved well, but the rebound fell to Ross Wallace who calmly slotted home.

Arsenal had two great chances to go two goals up again before the halftime whistle, but a good save from Robin van Persie's 25 yard screamer kept the margin to one. Philippe Senderos had the last clear chance of the game, as he headed wide from three or four yards out after losing his marker.

It was Sunderland who made the best of their chances after the break though. Liam Miller crossed the ball to Kenwyne Jones, who headed it past Manuel Almunia. The keeper did not react well, and I would have thought that Jens Lehmann would have saved the shot. I can't wait for Crazy Jens to get back.

Arsenal nearly took the lead after an incredibly powerful 30 yard shot from Kolo Toure came off of Gordon's goalpost.

Theo Walcott, who had come on for Diaby in the 57th minute, then missed his kick from 4 yards after a cut back from Alex Hleb. He did better in the 80th minute though, as he played in van Persie who controlled the ball well and slotted home with his second touch, granting Arsenal the full 3 points.

Paul McShane was shown a straight red card just before stoppage time for a nasty tackle on Alex Hleb, and the man advantage showed immediately.

Theo Walcott once again did well with an angled drive, but his shot hit Gordon's post in injury time. It didn't matter though, as Arsene Wenger's young side had already claimed their 10th straight victory.

Although they didn't look as assured in this match, I am proud of our side. They are showing the spirit of champions, and if they continue to play like this on their bad days, Arsenal will surely win the title.