Minute-by-Minute: Sunderland 1-1 Arsenal

(Note: This was supposed to be updated during the game, but The Blind Pig's wi-fi wasn't connecting for some reason. Hopefully for later ones we'll get that sorted out. This is unedited from my thoughts at the time though)


Here are the teams, nicked shamelessly from the Guardian:

Arsenal: Almunia, Clichy, Squillaci, Koscielny, Sagna, Song, Wilshere, Nasri, Fabregas, Arshavin, Chamakh
Subs: Fabianski, Rosicky, Vela, Denilson, Djourou, Eboue, Gibbs

Sunderland: Mignolet, Onouha, Bramble, Ferdinand, Richardson, El-Mohamdy, Riveros, Meyler, Malbranque, Welbeck, Bent
Subs: Carson, Bardsley, Zenden, Da Silva, Reid, Colback, Gyan

As mentioned in my preview post, this is a fixture that Arsenal lost last season, thanks to the man who we all know is really cack, Darren Bent (though we don't have much reason to sing that anymore with Eduardo's departure). This season should be different though, as our Gunners are on a goal-scoring rampage at the moment.

The big surprise though is on Sunderland's end, as World Cup star Asamoah Gyan has been left on the bench. Perhaps Steve Bruce thinks that Bent will provide the necessary physical presence, or it could be that he wants to use him late on when defenders' legs tire. Either way, former Manchester United prospect Danny Welbeck steps in to partner Bent up front.

As for Arsenal, it's the same side that put Braga to the sword mid-week. Continuity is usually a good thing, but Sunderland may be a tougher out...especially at the Stadium of Light. If things go pear-shaped, we can be a lot more confident in Vela's ability than in previous seasons.

1' - Off we go! Henderson sends an early shot into low-hanging orbit. NORAD will keep us posted, I'm sure.

4' - Sunderland have actually had much of the early exchanges, but the Arsenal backline have had little trouble so far.

5'- Some good work uin midfield has Song on top of the area. His square ball to Arshavin leaves the Russian with room, but his effort matches Henderson's on its way to the Van Allen Belt.

7' - Sunderland win a corner off of Sagna. Henderson to take, but it's skied over everyone and safely out of play. That was dreadful.

9' - Clichy wins the ball on the sideline, and gets a kick from El-Mohamdy for his troubles. But yeah, we're not targeted by these northern shitkicker sides or anything.

10' - Henderson wins another corner off of Cesc. It comes to the near post, but the Arsenal defense clear the danger with minimal fuss.

12' - A long free kick from the Black Cats comes into the box. The defense clears, but it comes back out to Henderson for the volley. No prizes for guessing which galaxy it ended up in.

GOAL! (Fabregas 13) - What a freak occurrence that was! Fabregas closed down Ferdinand's clearance, and it loops over Mignolet and into the unguarded net! The defender was badly at fault there, as he dallied over the ball for far too long. I can't say I've seen anything like that in quite some time. The Black Cats will be gutted to concede after dominating the game so far. Up the other end, Malbranque shouts for a penalty but if anything, he fouled his defender.

15' - Another Sunderland corner...Onouha wins his header, but it flies over the crossbar.

16' - Richardson canters down the sideline, and his cross is cut out by Koscileny. It comes out to Malbranque outside the area, and he completely Hendersons it.

18' - Yet another corner for the home side, as Clichy cuts out a cross. It's dealt with, but Sunderland come back in through Henderson. His looping cross is caught easily by Almunia.

19' - Song and Nasri combine to give Sagna a chance to cross. It comes to Song, but Mignolet saves at his near post. Wilshere with the corner, but Sudnerland clear.

21' - After Cesc has the run of the Sunderland midfield, some interplay leads to a shot by Nasri that appears to come off the hand of Ferdinand. On the replay, it's a stonewall penalty, but the referee isn't interested.

23' - Wilshere is robbed by Welbeck distressingly close to the Arsenal area. In response, he hacks him down, and his cautioned. The free kick is poor, and Arsenal clear.

25' - Sunderland are in the Arsenal area again...Song clears for a corner. Almunia punches but doesn't have a lot on it. Luckily, the shot back in is a daisy cutter that the keeper easily claims.

27' - Rosicky looks to be warming up and preparing to come on. The announcers reckon he may be coming on for Fabregas. Meanwhile, Koscileny trips Bent in the area, but Dowd is not interested again. In fairness, it could have been given.

28' - Arshavin has an effort from the side of the penalty area after some good work by Song, but Mignolet comfortably saves. By the way, on the replay, Bent runs into Koscileny...that was never a penalty.

29' - Richardson wins another corner off of Clichy. In the meantime, Rosicky comes on for the Captain, and takes the armband in the process. Almunia comfortably claims the corner.

31' - Bramble and Koscileny collide, and a foul is given to the Arsenal man. The free kick is cleared, but Sudnerland keep battering at the door. Several crosses come in, but the Arsenal defense just do clear. Henderson finally gets the last one in, but Bent heads wide. He was offisde anyway, though. Still, this is quite the spell of pressure from the Black Cats.

34' - A poor pass from Song leads to the ball being given away. He wins it back from Malbranque, but leaves his foot in and is called for a soft foul. Once again, the home side can't do anything with the set piece.

36' - El-Mohamedy causes problems once again, as his cross finds the onrushing Riveros on the back post. He makes a hash of it though, and Almunia is able to collect.

38' - Song is finally booked, as he fouls Henderson in the middle of the park after giving it away again, and reacts poorly to the call. He's having a bit of a mare so far.

40' - A poor pass from Henderson sends Arsenal away. Chamakh's strong link-up play gets it to Nasri, who finds Clichy on the wing. He cuts it to the back post, but no one was making the run. I certainly hope that wasn't a shot, anyway.

42' - Wait a minute, Richardson CAPTAINS this lot? Really?

43' - The stat came up that Sunderland has had 65% of the possession...I can't remember when we've had so little of the ball against a midtable side. Anyway, Chamakh's hard work wins a corner. Nasri takes, but it's cleared out immediately.

45' - Welbeck steals the ball off of Clichy in the area, just an unforgiveable lapse from the LB, and it eventually comes to El-Mohamedy, whose looping ball into the area is claimed by Almunia. That is a let-off for Arsenal there,

45 + 3' - Dowd blows his whistle, closing the curtain on what has been a strange half of football. Arsenal go into the interval with a 1-0 lead, but they really should scram before the cops show up. Sunderland have played with verve and bite, and have really jumped all over a strangely-reserved Arsenal squad. I don't know if it's a continental hangover or what, but the Gunners have largely been abysmal. Poor passing, lethargic off the ball...only the central defense have come out of this with any credit so far (besides our now-departed captain, of course). I don't know what Arsenal can do to shake this up in the second half...although I suppose an optimist may say that Sunderland may get discouraged the longer this goes without a goal for them. Getting to halftime without conceding was huge mentally...hopefully the team can kick on from here and get back into this game somewhat.


46' - Rashida still doesn't have a beer. Poor show from the lads behind the bar...meanwhile, Sunderland pick up where they left off, with Welbeck hooking a shot miles over.

47' - Nasri plays a lovely ball over the top to Chamakh...the Moroccan crosses to Arshavin, who volleys over the bar. That was a real chance there.

48' - Welbeck needlessly follows through on Sagna long after the ball has left, and gets a deserved yellow card.

49' - Rosicky dances through several defenders, and finds Song in a central position. The Cameroonian really should have had a pop himself, but passes off to Arshavin off to the side. His bad-angle shot is inevitably far wide of the mark.

50' - Sunderland's defense is looking a little ropey. This won't finish 1-0, I reckon.

52' - Fabulous save by Mignolet! Chamakh is played through one-on-one thanks to a great ball from Nasri, but the Belgian comes off his line quickly to bravely block at the big man's feet.

55' - Another yellow card for Song, who is off! I was afraid this would happen...and it was a stupid one, too. Song blocked off his man off the ball...it was definitely a foul, but arguably not a yellow. Still, you have to be careful when you're on a caution already AND the ref is a cunt like Phil Dowd. This will be a real test of Arsenal's mettle now.

57' - Sunderland win another corner. They work it well to Bent, who has a golden chance in a central position. Luckily, he just about keeps his shot inside the stadium. Meanwhile, Denilson comes on for the completely peripheral Arshavin.

59' - Bramble fouls Wilshere on the edge of the area. Somehow, this isn't a card? Nasri to take...but his effort loops onto the top of the net. Wasted chance, there.

62' - Gyan is just about to come on...we're going to find out a lot about this Arsenal team now.

63' - Hey! A yellow card for Sunderland! Riveros gets it for holding Chamakh back. That will be his last contribution, as he comes off for Gyan.

65' - Gyan wins another corner for the home side. It's a good one, but Clichy clears off the line after it comes off of Denilson's shoulder.

67' - Gyan fluffs a chance to take a shot from a central location, but he had made the chance for himself by brushing Clichy off the ball as if he were a child. The more time passes, the more Kieran Gibbs looks like the better option there.

69' - Yet another corner...it comes to the edge of the area, but once again low-hanging satellites are in danger. Didn't see who hit it, sorry. Up the other end, patient build-up from Arsenal (once again thanks to the hold-up play of Chamakh) results in a tame shot wide of the post from Rosicky.

71' - Phil Dowd is having a shocker. Denilson gets slid through from behind, and it's not even a foul. This ref is a fucking one-man farce. Then, Clichy goes down softly under the attentions of Onouha, and THAT is called? Fuck's sake.

73' - Rosicky to take, but Mignolet catches easily.

74' - PENALTY TO ARSENAL! - Nasri is tripped in the area by El-Mohamdy. Stupid, stupid penalty to concede.

74' - MISSED! - Rosicky takes it for some reason, and hammers it way over the crossbar! Why on earth was he the man to take the shot? For all of his talents, scoring isn't one of them and honestly we just threw away a goal there.

76' - Sunderland change, Zenden on for Onouha.

80' - Nasri and Rosicky combine nicely down the left, but the move breaks down when the latter opts to get too cute with the ball. He's another who has had somewhat of a mare.

81' - Malbranque finds Welbeck in the area, and he wins his header...but Almunia is positioned perfectly and catches well. Up the other end, Chamakh almost gets on the end of a raking long ball, but Mignolet collects.

83' - Nasri is the latest to send a shot off the launch pad and into the Andromeda Galaxy.

84' - Strangely, Arsenal have had far more fo the ball with 10 men. Denilson makes a nice run down the center, but is hacked down by Malbranque. The Frenchman gets a yellow for that, and apparently will also be coming off shortly.

85' - Nasri tees it to Denilson, whose kick is shite and goes tamely wide. Malbranque is off for Andy Reid, so that's all the subs for both teams, then.

87' - Going up for a header, Zenden lands on Chamakh's ankle on the way down. The Moroccan will milk this a bit, and good for him. Everyone does it for us.

88' - Chamakh is fouled again...he has been so important to Arsenal keeping the ball today, especially in the second half. It's taken short - Nasri skins two guys by the corner flag, but it's cut out. Sunderland break quickly, but Henderson's long-range effort is well held by Almunia.

90' - Rosicky defends against El-Mohamedy down the wing. His cross is blocked, but it's another corner...Sunderland's 10th. Denilson blocks...four minutes of added time!

92' - Mignolet's long punt sends Sunderland away, but Arsenal deal with it. Now they break through Chamakh...he's 1-on-3, but he finds Denilson who flashes his shot just wide.

93' - All hands to the pumps now...

94' - One last corner, won by Bramble. Reid's effort is cleared out...

GOAL! (Bent 95) - It is deserved, but my fucking god, what a sickener. Clichy clears into Koscielny, and Darren Bent is there to poke it into the net with the last kick of the game.

Well, you can certainly blame this on Phil Dowd if you want, and you wouldn't be miles off. The red card was debatable at best, with the second yellow being as soft off a sending-off as you'll ever want to see. But, at the end of the day, Arsenal were 30 seconds away from winning this game and they blew it. Even worse, goal-shy Tommy Rosicky was chosen to take the penalty kick that would have put the final nail in Sunderland's coffin. If we're being honest with ourselves, his miss was as predictable as it was frustrating. '

So, two points dropped then, and in as hideous a fashion as we have in recent memory. A win here - with no Fabregas after 20 minutes or so, a bullshit red card AND a missed penalty - would have gone a long way towards proving that this isn't the same old Arsenal. Until proven otherwise though...well...questions have to be asked, right? Champions win matches like this. We didn't.

Until next week...