Arsenal 3-1 Sunderland: Olivier Giroud scores at both ends
By Stephen Turner
Last Updated: 05/12/15 9:01pm
Olivier Giroud scored at both ends as Arsenal rode their luck to tough out a 3-1 victory over Sunderland and move on from their dismal November.
Giroud's unfortunate intervention on the stroke of half-time cancelled out Joel Campbell's opening goal (33), but the Frenchman restored the lead with a second-half header (63) before Aaron Ramsey added an injury-time third.
Arsenal sparkled only intermittently, and mostly when the ball was at the feet of the outstanding Mesut Ozil, but after three Premier League games without a win last month a positive result was the priority.
And Arsene Wenger's side got what they were after, despite a real examination from visitors chasing a third straight win, and a stuttering midfield rhythm in the wake of another round of damaging injuries.
Arsenal will now go to Olympiakos for Wednesday's Champions League eliminator within two points of top spot back at home, and with more minutes in the legs of the recently-returned Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott.
For long spells at the Emirates another outcome appeared more than possible as Sunderland's three centre-halves stood firm and Duncan Watmore's direct running gave the home defence a constant headache.
Fabio Borini shot tamely at Petr Cech when Watmore's early pass put him clean through, and the goalkeeper then reacted smartly to stop Mathieu Flamini prodding into his own net.
Flamini was paired with Ramsey in the absence of Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin, and Arsenal's new-look midfield took most of the first half to find a decent understanding.
Alexis Sanchez's replacement fared better, though, Campbell catching DeAndre Yedlin napping to give Ozil's perfect through ball the finish it deserved - first time, and between the legs of Costel Pantilimon.
But for a third league game running Arsenal threw away a lead with half-time approaching as Watmore drew a needless Koscielny nibble and Giroud deflected Yann M'Vila's free-kick high inside Cech's near post.
Another M'Vila delivery almost helped Sunderland into a second-half lead, Cech scrambling to stop Steven Fletcher's back-post prod, and minutes later a stooping Giroud buried Ramsey's inswinging cross.
Yedlin's goal-line clearance denied him a hat-trick of sorts as Ozil seized control of the game in the final quarter, but Sunderland still had the chance to grab a late draw, Patrick van Aanholt missing the target on his swinger of a right foot when Hector Bellerin went to sleep.
Ramsey squandered one opportunity to settle the argument in added time but took the next, bundling in substitute Calum Chambers' deflected shot, and Wenger's touchline jig of celebration betrayed his relief at the result.
Soccer Saturday verdict - Matt Le Tissier
It was the case of grinding out a result today. Sunderland were in this game right up until the last second when Ramsey got the third goal. Sunderland should have been up in this game, Borini had a fantastic chance, one-on-one early on. Petr Cech saved it. Sunderland were right in it up until the last few seconds. Watmore was busy, Fletcher had a chance where he slid into the post.
Walcott did get on as a substitute, didn't really get too many touches on the ball when he came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain but it was a big boost for everyone to see him back on the pitch.
Arsenal: Cech (8), Bellerin (5), Mertesacker (6), Koscielny (6), Monreal (7), Flamini (6), Ramsey (7), Ozil (8), Campbell (7), Oxlade-Chamberlain (5), Giroud (7).
Subs used: Walcott (6), Gibbs (5), Chambers (5).
Sunderland: Pantilimon (6), Yedlin (6), Coates (6), O'Shea (6), Kaboul (7), Van Aanholt (6) M'Vila (7), Toivonen (7),Borini (5), Fletcher (7), Watmore (7).
Subs used: Rodwell (5), Johnson (5), Lens (5)
Man of the match: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)