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Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Sunday, 11 May 2008 16:58 UK

Sunderland 0-1 Arsenal

By Mark Orlovac

Theo Walcott
Walcott slots home for his seventh goal of the season

England winger Theo Walcott scored the winning goal as Arsenal ended the season with victory over Sunderland.

Walcott coolly slotted home on 24 minutes after latching onto a superb through-ball from skipper Gilberto.

Sunderland almost took the lead after 14 seconds but Carlos Edwards' volley was well parried by Lukasz Fabianski.

Arsenal teenager Mark Randall had a goal disallowed while Fabianski had to save well to deny Sunderland striker Roy O'Donovan in injury time.

Arsene Wenger hails 'special team'

With Sunderland having already secured their Premiership safety and Arsenal guaranteed third place in the Premier League, the game was very much an end-of-season affair.

Arsenal went into the game after a turbulent week which had seen the departure of Mathieu Flamini to Milan and rumours about the future of Alexander Hleb and other first-team players.

The Black Cats players had a point to prove after last week's defeat against Bolton and the announcement during the week that manager Roy Keane had released four players.

And the home side almost made an explosive start but Fabianski stopped a cracking 30-yard half volley from Edwards.

The opening exchanges were pretty feisty and Emmanuel Eboue was stretchered off after a strong challenge from Danny Collins, although the defender was able to return to the field.


Arsenal should have taken the lead on six minutes but Sunderland keeper Marton Fulop, who was in the side in place of Craig Gordon, was quick to react as he blocked at the feet of top-scorer Emmanuel Adebayor after a flowing move.

But Arsenal did go ahead when Walcott ran onto Gilberto's wonderful defence-splitting pass before firing home into the right-hand corner.

Sunderland were holding their own but although they enjoyed plenty of possession, Arsenal's defence was able to prevent the home side from creating many clear-cut chances.

The Gunners continued to threaten and centre-half Philippe Senderos had a 35-yard shot that flew just over the bar while Walcott failed to hit the target from six yards out as he connected with an Adebayor centre.

Interview: Sunderland boss Roy Keane

Striker Kenwyne Jones was forced off at half-time for Sunderland after injuring his wrist when painfully blocking a Gilberto shot and his replacement O'Donovan almost put his side level when play resumed.

Transfer-listed winger Ross Wallace, making his first start since January in a season disrupted by injury, played in Collins to cross from the left but O'Donovan's header looped over the bar.

Arsenal were awarded an indirect free kick just six yards out on 57 minutes when Dean Whitehead cushioned a Walcott cross into the arms of Fulop but Gilberto could only fire wide.

Sunderland refused to lie down and O'Donovan should have done better when he found himself all alone in the box after a Dwight Yorke cross.

The Black Cats then had a penalty appeal when Michael Chopra tangled with Alexandre Song Billong in the area but referee Keith Stroud was not convinced.

Randall, 18, made a lively contribution when coming on for his Premier League debut 10 minutes from time, having a goal disallowed for offside before seeing a shot saved by Fulop.

Sunderland had the last word though and Fabianski had to get down well to stop O'Donovan's shot in the closing stages.

  • Sunderland boss Roy Keane:
    "We have finished 15th and we are probably the 15th best team.

    "Manchester United have been the best and the three worst teams have gone down. That is why I have always felt deep down that we would be fine.

    "But you need those points on the board to make sure you are fine."

  • Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger insists his side will be back stronger than ever next season to challenge Premier League champions Manchester United:
    "Quality-wise, we've been remarkable the whole season. We lost a 100m race by a fraction of a second.

    "It doesn't mean we have not made a good 100m. To have a great 100m, you need three or four who compete for the final place.

    "This year, the Premier League, for maybe the first time in the last four or five years, was exciting until the last day of the season, and we have contributed to that."

    "My message to United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is congratulations for the achievement - and get ready for the fight next year."

    Sunderland: Fulop, Whitehead, Nosworthy, Evans, Collins, Edwards (Miller 71), Yorke (Chopra 75), Leadbitter, Wallace, Reid, Jones (O'Donovan 46).
    Subs Not Used: Gordon, Higginbotham.

    Booked: Collins.

    Arsenal: Fabianski, Song Billong, Senderos, Djourou, Clichy, Eboue (Randall 81), Denilson, Silva, Walcott, Adebayor, Bendtner (Traore 81).
    Subs Not Used: Mannone, Nordtveit, Barazite.

    Booked: Clichy.

    Att: 47,802

    Ref: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).

    BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Arsenal's Theo Walcott 8.65 (on 90 minutes).

    Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

    see also
    How the title was won
    11 May 08 |  Premier League
    Premier League finale as it happened
    11 May 08 |  Premier League
    Premier League photos
    11 May 08 |  Football
    BBC pundits on the Premier League
    11 May 08 |  Premier League
    Garth Crooks's team of the week
    24 Feb 08 |  Score on BBCi