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Sucker-punched

All square was how the match ended. Going into the game, Arsenal were the more favourite side and were in form after scoring 10 goals in the last 2 games. Yet, this match ended with us having less of the ball possession and were on the back foot throughout the game. Fairplay to Sunderland who just did not give up and it shows that sometimes, you’re bound to be rewarded should you choose never to give up.

Arsenal went into half time holding to a freakish goal. Titus Bramble Anton Ferdinand took forever to clear the ball and allowed Cesc Fabregas time and space to close him down. They were positioned midway in Sunderland’s half and the clearance rebounded off Fabregas’ shin and straight into the home side’s goal. Fortuitous at best but a goal all the same. Our captain did his hamstring as well and had to leave the pitch after contributing as much to get his team into the lead.

From then on and for big parts of the second half, we were hanging on to the lead with our dear lives. Alex Song made matters worse and made all the defending a little harder to do by getting sent off for 2 yellow cards. The first was for petulance and that is just disappointing. Song is a great professional with the potential to be one of the best in the defensive midfield position but he let the team down in that instance. The way Sunderland were playing and the fact that we had to much of the defending, Song knew he’s just another one or two fouls away from getting sent off. Unfortunately, he did just that.

In spite of all that, the team defended gallantly. Laurent Koscielny was just superb. He was everything there is to be won; headers and tackles. For someone who only had 1 season of top flight football, he was immense. To a certain extend, the same could also be said of his defensive partner, Sebastien Squillaci. Manuel Almunia can also look back at his performance tonight with some smile. Together, they repel everything that Sunderland threw at them.

Arsenal even had a chance to increase the lead. Not least via the penalty spot. Samir Nasri was clipped inside the box and the referee signalled for the spot. I’m not sure whether we still practice that unwritten rule that Thierry Henry used to apply at the club. That whenever he won the penalty, he would not be the one to take it.

In any case, Nasri was not the one who took it and instead it was Tomas Rosicky who stepped up. Rosicky subsequently blasted the ensuing spotkick right out of the stadium. For someone of his experience and talent, I will never understand why he chose to hit the ball with so much power. Surely, placing the ball and choosing the right spot is a much better option. That was really as poor a penalty as I’ve ever seen.

Even at the end, Denilson was running away with the ball right into Sunderland’s half and chose to take a shot. With time running out, why can’t he he go towards the corner flag and try to waste a few more seconds. Where is the maturity that Arsene Wenger praised so much of? Yes, he had an opportunity to score but the team should come first. The effort was not far too wide off the mark but as important as scoring, we need to learn how to close out games.

We conceded almost with the final kick of the game. Sunderland’s corner was cleared but far too many of Arsenal’s players were expecting the final whistle rather than concentrating where the opposition players were. As it turns out, another ball was swung inside our penalty box. 2 Sunderland players found themselves behind of our last defenders but Squillaci was quick to react and managed to block the ball.

Gael Clichy had a torrid game all night against Sunderland’s right winger and it was his scuffed clearance from Squillaci’s block that hit Koscielny and landed into the path of Darren Bent. The England striker accepted the gift and duly smashed the ball home for the equaliser. It was right at the death and it left us no chance to strike back. The left back and Andrey Arshavin are looking lethargic and a spell on the sidelines could do them a world of wonders.

Looking at the overall picture, we knew that this was a tough place to come away with a result and a draw is ultimately not a bad result. We are second in the league and still undefeated. However, it was the nature of the last minute goal which makes it look like a defeat rather than a point gain. There will be a lot for Wenger to think off over the next week, with most those who played today not expecting to feature against Sp*rs in midweek.

Till tomorrow.

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