Sunderland 1 Arsenal 3: Ramsey’s Brilliance Sends Arsenal to the Summit
The Gunners visited the Stadium of Light in a rich vein of form but Arsene Wenger had fresh fitness concerns as Per Mertesacker fell ill while Santi Cazorla picked up an ankle injury that would sideline him till October. Bacary Sagna deputized in Mertesacker’s stead alongside Laurent Koscielny which afforded Carl Jenkinson a chance to play at right back. The game also saw new signing, Mesut Ozil, make his debut for the club and his impact was keenly felt.
Arsenal had an uncertain start to the game when a lofted ball into the box was headed into No Man’s Land by Jenkinson. The sailing ball was nodded into Arsenal’s danger area but Sagna was on hand to make a determined header that took the ball to safety. Arsenal turned the tables and instigated an attack with Ozil teeing up Theo Walcott but his cross was intercepted by Diakhite.
Arsenal’s opening goal arrived in swift fashion as Kieran Gibbs dinked a ball into Ozil’s path. The German schemer saw an onrushing Olivier Giroud with those orbicular eyes of his and he cushioned a first time pass that was finished aplomb with a neat one-timed shot from Giroud.
Sunderland almost salvaged an equalizer from a corner kick but Diakhite’s goal-bound header glanced the cross bar and sailed effortlessly over the bar. Ozil was at it yet again with another sublime through ball to Walcott but the Englishman certainly didn’t come with his shooting boots as he fired his effort straight at Westwood.
Jozy Altidore was given a sniff at goal and he blasted a wicked shot that was parried by Wojciech Szczesny in goal. Ozil was in the thick of things as he combined superbly with Jack Wilshere and the maestro fashioned a chance for Ramsey but the Welshman’s shot was blocked.
Wilshere made one of his slalom runs and won a free kick on the edge of the area. Up stepped Ozil to take the free kick but it was easy pickings for Westwood. With Arsenal on the ascendancy, Ozil tore open the Sunderland defense with a sumptuous through ball to Walcott but the speedster fluffed the chance again.
Walcott’s miserable outing continued Giroud and Wilshere combined superbly before the Englishman lofted a neat ball for Walcott but the forward nodded the ball wide off the mark. Giroud then managed to chip the ball over the Sunderland defense but Walcott was as profligate as ever, firing his shot straight at Westwood. Ozil fired the rebound but it was blocked by the Sunderland rearguard.
Sunderland began the second half with more urgency and almost grabbed an equalizer when Ondrei Celutska sent a dangerous cross into the area but it was nodded away by Koscielny. The French defender turned from hero to villain shortly afterwards when he scythed down Adam Johnson in the box with a somewhat clumsy challenge. Craig Gardner stepped up and sent Szczesny the wrong way to level the contest.
The equalizer injected some life into Sunderland and they took the lead when Steven Fletcher reacted quickly to dispatch Johnson’s drilled cross. However, the assistant referee’s offside flag came to Arsenal’s rescue. Mathieu Flamini lost the ball in midfield and conceded a needless foul. Gardner took responsibility for the dead ball and swung a cross that deceived everyone in the box and hit the post. Ki Sung-Yeung tried to nick it in but he was offside.
Arsenal got the lead when Jenkinson sighted Ramsey on his left and dinked the ball to the Welshman that was slammed home with a first-time shot giving Westwood no chance in Hell. It was a truly delightful goal from a player in extremely good form.
A moment of controversy arrived when Altidore wrestled off Sagna before placing a shot that crept slowly beyond the goal line but a quick sliding clearance brought the ball back into the play and the ref, Martin Atkinson, shockingly chose to blow his whistle for an infringement outside the box, much to the bewilderment of Paolo di Canio and the Sunderland faithful.
Arsenal rubbed salt into Sunderland’s wounds when Walcott, Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud exchanged some passes with the Handsome French Bloke providing a key through ball to Ramsey and the Welsh midfielder showed great composure to slot the ball home. A feat Theo Walcott lacked all game long.
Arsene Wenger replaced Ozil with Thomas Vermaelen and late on, Nacho Monreal came onto the pitch to put Walcott out of his misery. There was a moment for concern when Ramsey moved on the edge of the area with the ball and teed up Giroud but he suffered an injury after firing his flicked effort wide. Chuba Akpom replaced the HFB.
Understandably, Wenger lavished praise on the performances of Ozil, Giroud and Ramsey in his post-match conference. When you think of how far Ramsey has come from that player that was a lightning rod for abuses and vitriol by his own fans to this player that has become indispensable to the club, its a massive achievement.
It’s his brilliance that has sent Arsenal to the summit of the Premier League, albeit temporarily till we know the outcome of the Swansea vs. Liverpool encounter.
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