Arsenal 3-1 Sunderland: FA Cup holders leave it late to reach fourth-round
By Lewis Jones at the Emirates Stadium
Last Updated: 10/01/16 10:06am
Arsenal continued their love affair with the FA Cup as the holders came from behind to beat Sunderland 3-1 in the third round at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger's men - winners of the competition in 2014 and 2015 - left it late to beat relegation-threatened Sunderland with substitute Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud both scoring in the final 20 minutes.
With assist king Mesut Ozil rested, Arsenal needed someone to step into his boots and that man was Hector Bellerin, who created the final two goals from the right flank.
Jeremain Lens had given the visitors a shock lead before Joel Campbell hit back midway through the first half.
The Gunners have now not lost an FA Cup tie in 13 games, since Blackburn's 1-0 fifth round victory in February 2013.
Wenger spoke in his programme notes about "giving everything" to progress as far they can in the FA Cup this season and named a strong side that included Giroud, Laurent Koscienly and Petr Cech while 19-year-old Alex Iwobi was handed his first start as he replaced Ozil.
Young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was one of eight changes for Sunderland to the team that beat Aston Villa 3-1.
Pickford, who impressed during the first half of the season on loan at Preston, might have expected to be busy on his senior debut for Sam Allardyce's men but it was the visitors that possessed the early spark.
They took a surprise lead on 17 minutes when Lens robbed Koscielny of the ball on the edge of his own area and the Dutchman spanked an effort from 15 yards past Cech at his near post.
Arsenal were lacking inspiration in the final third with Iwobi struggling with his final ball, until Campbell struck on 25 minutes.
Walcott skipped clear down the left and his cut back was curled into the bottom corner by Campbell - his third goal of the season.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin posed a threat throughout the match with his direct running but it was a more cultured effort that brought to the Emirates to his feet on 56 minutes. He worked the ball onto his right foot and from 25 yards and whipped an effort at goal that cannoned back off the post.
With that piece of woodwork still shaking, Sunderland went up the other end and hammered Cech's crossbar. Steven Fletcher rose highest from eight yards and was so unlucky not to see his header from a DeAndre Yedlin cross hit the net.
Pickford then produced a brave save at the feet of Campbell before Fletcher again wasted another headed chance from close range after out-muscling Gabriel inside the area.
Wenger decided to throw on Ramsey with 35 minutes remaining - replacing Iwobi - and his impact was almost instant.
He started to dictate play in the midfield but it was his burst into the box on 72 minutes that turned the game on it's head as he netted Arsenal's second goal.
Bellerin created the chance with a wonderful burst of speed down the right flank and Ramsey showed his strikers instinct by turning home the cross.
The Spanish full-back was at it again minutes later as he produced a near carbon-copy run and cross that this time was forced home from close range by Giroud.
Two quick-fire punches thrown by the holders, and Sunderland had nothing more to give.