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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 October 2007, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
Arsenal 3-2 Sunderland
By Phil McNulty

Robin van Persie celebrates putting Arsenal ahead against Sunderland
Robin van Persie celebrates putting Arsenal ahead against Sunderland
Arsenal survived a scare before returning to the Premiership summit with a narrow win against Sunderland.

Robin van Persie's stunning free-kick and Philippe Senderos's finish put Arsenal two up inside 14 minutes.

But Ross Wallace pulled one back for Sunderland before half-time and Kenwyne Jones headed an equaliser three minutes after the interval to stun Arsenal.

Van Persie slid home an 80th-minute winner, while Sunderland's Paul McShane saw red for fouling Alexander Hleb.

606: DEBATE
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Arsenal opened in a fashion that suggested it was going to be a harrowing afternoon for Sunderland - but Keane's side showed real reserves of strength.

The Gunners went ahead in the seventh minute when Grant Leadbitter was penalised for a foul on Cesc Fabregas.

Arsenal felt hard done by because Abou Diaby curled in a brilliant finish just seconds after referee Rob Styles blew for the free-kick.

It was only a brief reprieve for Sunderland as Van Persie rifled home an unstoppable free-kick, the ball flying directly over the head of keeper Craig Gordon and in off the crossbar.

Sunderland were in further trouble after 14 minutes when Senderos took advantage of more hesitant defending to stab Emmanuel Adebayor's cross beyond Gordon.

The visitors were fortunate not to fall three behind six minutes later when Diaby swept home Hleb's cross, only for the goal to be ruled out for what appeared to be a very debatable offside flag against Mathieu Flamini.

But Sunderland somehow managed to build on these shaky foundations and pulled a goal back after 25 minutes.

Manuel Almunia raced out of goal to halt Jones, but the rebound fell kindly for Wallace, who finished in composed fashion.

Arsenal continued to dominate before the interval and could have restored their two-goal advantage, Gordon doing well to turn over another powerful Van Persie drive and Senderos heading wastefully wide when unmarked.

Sunderland hung on and were rewarded with an equaliser three minutes after the interval as Jones rose to head Liam Miller's cross past Almunia.

Arsenal were suddenly in danger of failing to win a game they had dominated, and they were frustrated again after 57 minutes when Kolo Toure's brilliant rising drive from 30 yards rebounded to safety off an upright.

Sunderland suddenly saw an unlikely point in sight, but survived another scare 13 minutes from time when Hleb's cross found substitute Theo Walcott at the far post only for the youngster to miss his kick horribly.

Walcott made amends by finally unlocking Sunderland's brave resistance after 80 minutes, sliding in a neat pass for Van Persie to steer a left-foot finish past Gordon.

Sunderland were still refusing to lie down, with substitute Anthony Stokes bringing a fine save from Almunia and Jones shooting across the face of goal with the Arsenal keeper out of position following a fine run by Miller.

The visitors then lost McShane for a wild tackle on Hleb before Walcott hit a post in the dying seconds.


  • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:
    "After 15 minutes, the game looked to be easy and maybe we convinced ourselves of that as well.

    "Part of our mental focus went and when you do that at this level, you pay for it.

    "At the end of the day it was a good lesson for us, because again we still found the resources which showed that there is something in the team which is really strong."

  • Sunderland boss Roy Keane:
    "If you get off to a poor start, you think that it could be five or six. But we stayed in the game and got a decent first goal.

    "I keep talking about the attitude and character, and also there was some very good play.

    "The lads gave it their all, but you need a hell of a lot of luck to get positive results at these grounds. We had a bit, but not enough."


    Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna (Eboue 68), Toure, Senderos, Clichy, Hleb, Fabregas, Flamini, Diaby (Walcott 57), Adebayor, Van Persie (Silva 85).
    Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Bendtner.

    Goals: Van Persie 7, 80, Senderos 14

    Sunderland: Gordon, McShane, Nosworthy, Higginbotham, Collins, Leadbitter, Miller, Wallace (Etuhu 77), Yorke (Harte 90), Chopra (Stokes 77), Jones.
    Subs Not Used: Ward, O'Donovan.

    Booked: Jones, Chopra.

    Goals: Wallace 25, Jones 48

    Att: 60,098

    Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).

    SEE ALSO
    Premier League as it happened
    07 Oct 07 |  Premier League
    Sunday's football photos
    07 Oct 07 |  Football


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